“A person who goes to the gym and gets biceps, he doesn’t get to use it at 100% efficiency, that strength is really superficial,”
For the past year, Prashanth Kota has been teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and facilitating muay Thai and krav maga sessions at Four Pillars Fight Academy in Alwarpet – classes which he describes as “real-life video games”. His partner and fellow trainer, Prabu, teaches classes in parkour, having joined in due to his love of exploring movement.
Prashanth’s classes start at 7:30 pm in the evening, and continue until 11 pm at night. If you were to walk into one of the classes, you would see sparring matches, lightning-quick mental strategy accompanying physical moves, and looks of intense concentration on his students’ faces as they experience thorough physical and mental stimulation.
When asked where his own martial arts journey began, he declared that it all started when he joined the gym. The self-confessed “scrawny guy”’s motivation was just to bulk up and get muscular, having been going to the gym regularly for almost six years – running, swimming and lifting weights. However, he very quickly realized that despite all of the strength he now possessed, he had absolutely no use for it.
For over seven years, Prashanth has been practicing jiu jitsu. Having joined the gym thinking that smaller people got bullied a lot, Prashanth thought that if he was bigger, he wouldn’t get bullied. Attending a kickboxing class showed him that wasn’t the case. “Once I joined kickboxing classes in addition, I began to realize just how inflexible I was and how I couldn’t move in more than one angle, as my muscles were very stiff,” he says.
’”They say that when you’re in your mid-twenties, you are at your fitness peak, all the way up until you turn thirty. In my class, there was an older guy, and he challenged me to a sparring match, and he defeated me. I realized then all of my strength meant nothing in front of this man, who was over ten or twelve years older than me. This match got to me, and I asked my opponent to teach me jiu jitsu. I started moving away from the gym, which is fairly monotonous. You’re not really engaging your mind, and you’re not getting much. I saw a better way of getting fit.”
According to Prashanth, the main reason for his love of jiu jitsu is because everyone has an advantage here – a smaller person has his speed, and a bigger person has his strength. His students love it because it gives them both physical and mental engagement.
“I READ A STUDY THAT SAYS THAT HUMAN BEINGS ARE INHERENTLY PROBLEM-SOLVERS. IN JIU JITSU, YOUR PROBLEMS KEEP CHANGING – IT LITERALLY KEEPS YOU ON YOUR TOES. IT STRENGTHENS YOUR REFLEXES. PLUS, IT’S A LOT OF FUN. IT’S BASICALLY A REAL-LIFE VIDEO GAME. WE SIMULATE THESE SITUATIONS WHERE WE’RE TRUSTING OUR TRAINING PARTNERS COMPLETELY . WHEN YOU’RE SPARRING AND YOU ARE IN PAIN, YOU TAP WITH YOUR HAND OR FEET . YOU ARE LET GO AND WE COME BACK TO A NEUTRAL POSITION. THEN WE START OVER AND NEXT TIME YOU PUT ME IN A POSITION LIKE THIS. WHO KNOWS WHAT COULD HAPPEN?”
Prashanth also declares that Jiu jitsu helps use body strength in a more effective way, involving a lot of strategy, which happens in microseconds. Thus, it proves to be a mental stimulant where your movements have to be as quick as lightning – thinking time is traded in for moving time. Aside from the health benefits, Prashanth declares numerous other benefits – such as a newfound unity between mind and body.
He is confident that learning jiu jitsu is not just the perfect self-defense tool for women, but also a confidence-booster. “What I’ve found is that women who practice jiu jitsu for years tend to be more confident than those who don’t. You get used to sharing physical space and being in close quarters with guys you are sparring with. It helps you overcome mental stigma or any boundary issues you have. It even extends to scenarios outside the ring, such as in the workplace. Suppose you’re dealing with someone who’s not very nice, you will realize you’ve already faced worse in the ring and come out on top.”
“IT DEFINITELY KEEPS YOUR EGO IN CHECK, AS WELL. IF YOU’RE A BIG, STRAPPING PERSON AND YOU LOSE TO SOMEONE MUCH SMALLER THAN YOU, THEN YOU REALIZE THAT IT’S ANYONE’S GAME. IT’S LIKE CHESS IF YOU HAD LESS THAN A SECOND TO MAKE A MOVE. EXPERTS CALL THIS CHESS WITH A HUMAN BODY.“
Aside from his regular classes, Prashanth has also competed in several national and international martial arts tournaments across the country, and even now, his students are training for an upcoming tournament in Delhi. Prashanth’s mission is to take martial arts to the masses at large, through building a community and engaging in community outreach programs that are supported by organizations in the USA called the International Jiu Jitsu Educational Fund.
Along with Prabu, he teaches self-defense classes in a government school in Kotturpuram twice a week to 200 students. Every Monday and Friday after school, they set up mats for the students to learn. Their mission for the upcoming year and beyond is to design a line of self-defense workshops. Having noticed that current self-defense workshops do not get a chance to focus on particular techniques but just skim through a quick series of moves, he knew he wanted to create his own.
“One of the things people have asked us is how to defend themselves while having a bag on your shoulder or a phone in your hand. We want to have seven-day or ten-days programs which include drills and a comprehensive understanding of all these situations and how to get out of them. We’re looking at having our first full-fledged workshop in a month from now,” he says.