Chapter 4 - The Mumbai Express

Just after winning the state level competition, the opportunity to appear in the Nationals came on my way. The Nationals is open Karate tournament whereas the state tournament I won was the tournament inside our style. This tournament is surely a litmus test for me from the inside but outside it is an honor to play in the Nationals within 2 year and not even crossing the Blue belt category. The standards they expected at the nationals was unknown to me, for me I am going for another match and I don’t want to be called as one hit wonder not people pity for my loss. I hate being called as above. The next big thing I heard was the nationals is going to be conducted in Mumbai. So this is my first outing for a professional match as the state level match held in Madurai itself.

The problem I had was I was not able to get over the problem of developing my own technique for the fighting and I haven’t mastered any major Katas too, still I am going to participate in the Nationals. Just when I thought I can take a breath from the rigorous training I underwent, another came up claiming, “Dude, Not yet”. Yet again the training for the fighting session started and to be frankly I was the hit bag for all my seniors. I was told that my weight problems won’t be a problem in nationals as the people out there will be easy to tackle with my power and my level of performance. Although I felt convinced for a while on hearing those words, the real worry is about my speed and techniques as nothing worked well while I am in a bout.

As the days were nearing the fear increased and practice became tiresome. I was totally exhausted by the practice and I convinced myself that I cannot practice anymore. And just by days the journey to the Mumbai started. Till that my notion towards the sport was different and it is the journey which made me realize the art. The two or one and half day journey was full of fun and we even practiced in the train as we occupied nearly two coaches in the train. It was full of karate kids. I should also mention that this journey brought me another big change in me, which later defined or defining my life. The journey especially from Pune to Mumbai was the real journey as the passage was through the hills and mountains, lots and lots of crossing in between where the train stayed for a while. Till then every crossing irritated me, and that is the place where we enjoyed the delay in the train journey. It was a wonderful journey and at last we reached Kalyan station which was told as Mumbai station to us and explained that this station is analogous to Chennai Tambaram station. We need to go to a place called Mulund by Electric train or Metro rail, and that is where I learnt the real meaning of speed and alert. Somehow we managed to reach the station safely and some from other groups lost the track of the station and landed in the next station, we have to wait for them without choice as they had the address to the local place where we need to stay.

The place we stayed there is Priyadarshini Sports complex named after a politician once called as Indira Priyadarshini later with some surname which I don’t want to mention. And the place is called as Kalidas and we were informed that the place is the birthplace of poet Kalidas. At that time I was unaware of the Kalidas, mulund, Mumbai or even Mc D. we enjoyed the Mumbai food to the core and it was first time I had Vada pav and there I met a person who was supplying dosa at a roadside restaurant. One of my friend as a part of showing off tried his hard to explain the server boy to place an order of 5 dosa and a masal dosa. He went and told him, “paanch dosa aur uske saath ek masal dosa pack karna, yahaan kaane ke liye nahi”( five dosa and a masala dosa to take away not to eat here). The boy shouted, “Master 5 dosai, 1 masaal dosai parcel”. That was the biggest bulb for the trip and I personally enjoyed the bulb he got. At that time I am not aware that the masala in the dosa is far less than the masala to be in the match next day.

On the day of the match our sensei called us for an early warm up in the ground and we were all in our white uniforms and Tide could’ve done their ad for free there, actually all our clothes were better than Tide portrays. We all standing in the ground and practicing the Kata of our style and by chance in the midst of the mist we watched that others are also practicing. That is the moment we got stunned and understood the fact that we came for Nationals not for grading. And in that consternation we all skipped our breakfast. In the meanwhile the inaugural function started and we were all standing in line to see the match beginning. After few speeches in so called Hindi and Marathi by some so called famous politician whom I am still not aware of, the match begun. And unfortunately the first category was mine and fortunate thing is mine is not the first bout. I was keen on winning this and prove that I can fight. I keenly observed the way of the fighting and the scoring techniques. At last my name was called, and I went to the bout with my green belt shining in the yellow focus light. First time I felt like I was playing in the middle of the professionals, and I can even state that this is my first professional fight. And for the first time I kicked the opponent in the face and the moment he fall down I was in the heaven. It was my first perfect kick. And the fight is over at the 30th second, yes I won the match. The first round cleared and I went over to fixtures to check how much round I am yet to play. It said me that still I have 4 more rounds to reach semis. That time I felt like oh shit, but I enjoyed the victory too.

So the second round started earlier than I thought and this time my opponent was wearing a brown belt which made me panic also his height. My upper punch is a middle punch for him. I tried my previous round slap kick technique which was in no way use to him. He blocked it at ease, to say it in perfect words he was not blocking but rather tapping the dust. I am exhausted in the process and at last I shifted to punching techniques, it was also of no help either. The only good thing was he was not either attacking, we both were in the defense mode. So at last in the third round of the match I took the risk or giving a slap kick in the face by a jump. If I missed it then I fall and it won’t be a small fall. So o took a leap of faith, actually jump of faith and it worked well, I scored 3 points. I won the second round too, now two more matches to reach the semis. The third bout is the most critical bout as I am unable to see any blue or below belts in the competitors.

The third bout started and my opponent was equal weight and height. I thought this will be an easy win. In the first round none of us scored, in the second round we both scored 1 each. Now it’s the third round which decides the victory. The starting of the third was tense to both of us. I don’t want to take the risk this time. But I needed some score and the third round went in tie. Now we had a tie breaker, the first scorer is the winner and we had 30 seconds to score. Now I felt I need to take the risk of a kick and while I was preparing for a tough kick which cannot be blocked or escaped from easily he scored with an easy punch and thus I am busted. Once again it is proved that the kid can’t fight (I was a kid at that time, believe me).

The next day it was Kata and I won the competition like a cake walk, which I didn’t expect at all. I haven’t mastered many of the Katas but the point I won the match was simple I perfected in what I did. The mistake did by others was same as the people who did in the state tournament. They tried to impress the judges with their seniority and wanted to show off but ultimately a simple kata performed perfectly won the match against all the master katas performed a basic kata with perfection won. Even I am unable to believe the result, and even I am not satisfied with the victory rather I worried about the tag “This kid can’t fight”. At that time it became a nightmare to me. In the return journey all that ran in my mind was nothing but how to fight.

Even in between these worries and nightmares I do enjoyed visiting Elephanta caves and Gateway of India and my first Burger in Mc D (I came to know the name of the dish very recently).