What better way to destress and discharge all your anger management issues than to have the crap beaten out of you thrice a week by a group of trusted strangers? The fight club cult might have retired but the newest breeds of fitness hounds have made exotic martial arts an essential item in your sex appeal repertoire.
We aren't talking about jaded Judo and Karate that preschoolers signed up for. From Japanese samurai warrior moves to the rhythmic choreography of Brazilian Capoeira, 'fighting fit' today quite literally means, they can beat you down.
From corporate junkies to kitty party regulars, martial arts are attracting anyone tired of the gym, yoga, Pilates routine.
Martial arts were about survival techniques developed for tribal combat and defense against animals. Warriors were trained for years under strict discipline and the master-pupil code. Considering we don’t need tribal warfare, how does one explain the burgeoning popularity of martial arts training in our metropolis?
But then again, in a city starved of space and time, the need for aggression-friendly release is not so unfathomable. In trigger-happy times, where rage is an asset, fight techniques interpreted for civilian use pose an interesting trend.
What you'll find in your local gym class, however, is a severely neutralized version. With fitness being the agenda, trainers try to blend basic philosophies with basic technique. Principally, however, they still adhere to their founding philosophy of harmony, fulfillment and discipline.
The word 'Jutsu' essentially denotes the 'battlefield'. So any form with this suffix can be used to harm, hurt or maim the opponent.
All forms ending with 'do', meaning 'way of life', focus on improving the quality and form of one's life through meditation, exercise and a heightened sense of one's strengths, weaknesses and surroundings. They don't aim to kill or maim but simply control and subdue the opponent.
So depending on whether you want to vent a lot of pent up rage or just get a mind and body fit for the daily battle of living in Mumbai, take your pick.
Country of origin
Angola and Nigeria but is popularly known as a Brazilian art
While its roots can be found in Africa, Capoeira made its way into Brazil through African slaves and integrated with Brazilian music and rhythm. It's known to date back over 500 years.
|Pics: Rana Chakraborty
Stroll along Bandra's Carter road and you might stumble upon a sing-song choreographed exercise regimen-cum- performance at play. That's the friendly neighbourhood boys practising Capoeira. Its music and dance approach (for better mind control and coordination) entices you, and also the grace and rhythm with which it's conducted.
The spirited instructor Reza Messah talks about his joy and passion for the art form which he describes has the grace of a ballerina, endurance of a marathon runner, and stamina and built of an athlete.
"This is one of the only martial art forms in the world that is based on a philosophy of non-violence. The agenda is to escape without hurting yourself or others," explains Messah. The graceful art involves slow but controlled moves that heighten the body's sense of self-awareness and control.
Stretches and bends are practiced in slow motion with partners without any physical contact. Team this with groovy bongo beats, tribal musical instruments and Spanish songs and you have a workout that has as much to do with fitness as it does to cheer you up.
A hugely popular art form, Messah has about 200 kids and 50 adults under his traineeship at any given time.
In times of need, the stamina, flexibility and strength of the body is more than sufficient to topple your opponent off their feet and inflict severe damage. Toned legs, toughened torso and a flexible back are highly lethal in a street fight.
Country of origin: Japan
Derived from the main Aikijujutsu martial art form, headmaster Morihei Ueshiba is attributed the credit of branching out and developing a calmer fighting form towards the end of the second world war. A cursory look at a session in practice as you'll find trainees simply fall and roll at the slightest touch.
According to martial arts trainer and security expert DB Rai, the philosophy is to harbour a gentle, harmonious life energy and use it in all facets of life. One primary lesson taught is how to fall correctly while inflicting the least amount of damage to the body.
Rai explains, "Once you learn to take a fall on the mat, you learn to take falls better in life. You learn to rise from your mistakes more gracefully." The main technique is defensive and uses the opponents' strength against them, while following the motion of their attack but twisting and locking joints so as to incapacitate them.
"It looks gentle since we practice at about 40 percent of capacity. If we were to attack each other at full force, we'd kill each other on the mat," he explains. With pressure point training and joint attacks, paralysis and maiming come easy.
The trick is to strengthen the Hara or the abdomen, at a point two inches below the naval, touted to have the maximum energy in the body. Like most intense, ancient martial arts, the training goes on for years and perfecting it takes dedication.
Used accurately, a swift jerk of the chin and the vertebrae can be snapped instantly, sending your opponent into a lifetime of paralysis. This however, isn't the purpose. Like Rai explains, "Learning martial arts in life teaches you to be a more centered, aware and Zen.
It teaches you the extent of your strength, and with it comes an innate sense of responsibility and control. These are life lessons that go way beyond the realm of fighting and self-defense." With over 20 adults in each batch, a large portion of Rai's students are also children from ages six and above.
Once adequately trained, you can pull funky Jackie Chan moves and kill or paralyze your opponent in seconds. While in a real-life fight, that's a useful skill to have, sometimes all it takes to win a battle is to show your attacker how capable you are of inflicting damage without actually doing so.
Country of origin: Japan
This original Samurai art turns your weaknesses into strengths and renders your body weapon-like. You may also get that temper under control.
Mehul Vora, 6th degree black belt and trainer, explains, "The idea is to be defensive. Follow the motion of the attacker and use his movement against him by abruptly locking joints and pressurising sensitive zones without expending much of your own energy.
Arms, shins and feet are the first line of defense and pressure point attacks are used to subdue a much bigger person. Meditation or Zazen is also an essential part of the training. Becasue of its relatively gentler approach it is a hit with women.
A pesky suitor needs a hint? A few swift moves and a sharp kick at the right points will tell him not to mess with you. If samurais trained for years, you'll need at least a few months.
Country of origin: Japan
A derivative of Karate and the Japanese version of Mixed martial arts (MMA), it's also known as Daido Juko and came into being about 15 years ago under the leadership of Grand Master Azuma Takashi.
An amateur mixed martial art form, it's a hybrid version that incorporates Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, boxing, Jujutsu, submission wrestling and fine tuning them to the Daidojuko style.
If SFL, UFL and Bellator-style brutal animalistic wrestling and fighting is what gives you a kick in life, consider this slightly more cautious alternative. Unlike MMA, where the rules are more cautionary and fighters oppose each other in cages akin to caged animals, Kudo aims to be a versatile and realistic fighting style without compromising safety.
It incorporates various offensive as well as defensive techniques which include punches to the head, elbow strikes, head butts, Judo throws, jujitsu joint locks and other ground fighting techniques.
Armour such as head guards, gloves and mats are provided but it's little respite given that the moves are geared to kill not just hit.
This combat will ensure you are strong enough to take down anyone messing with you. Self-defense and an occasional offensive move will come easy. The idea is to not go looking for a fight.
Country of origin: Israel
The youngest martial art, this brutal action-style came into being in the 1960s as an outcome of the six-day war and is attributed to Imi Lichenfeld. For those with a serious fight club complex and anger management issues, this promises to fulfill your thirst for blood.
The only objective in a Krav Maga class is to hurt your opponent in the worst way possible. This lethal war method was designed specifically for the army.
Developed by Israeli scientists, it studied human reflexes and counter them with maximum force.
Leniency and coy deflectiong aren't their mainstay. It goes for the kill and isn't afraid to make you bleed in your training sessions.
Mehul Vora, who also takes Krav Maga lessons, talks about the criticism the fighting form has earned. "It was never intended for the civilians.
Their philosophy is - take your battle to the opponent - which coming from their historical background, made sense. But when introduced to civilians, it came with no codes of conduct. It's all offense, aggression and aims to bring any argument to its final and ultimate end - death or permanent damage," he says.
The targets are face, neck, joints, knees, groin and back and fists, palms, the instep, forehead and shin become your weapons.
It takes a few lessons to learn the techniques and doesn't really demand perfection. It also teaches defence against a gun, knife, stick and, ultimately, a suicide bomber. Works for terror-prone Mumbai? Students below 18 are not admitted.
Once you learn to break bones in a Krav Maga class, you know some fairly dangerous moves. But without adequate training and sustained practice, it's unlikely that you'll be able to put it to good use. If you're regular however, you'll have no trouble drawing blood.
Country of origin: Thailand
After lemon grass, Muay Thai is Thailand's most popular gift to the world. If heavy weights and intense workouts are your thing, this might be more up your speed.
With a heavy dose of freestyle kicking, boxing, punching and calorie-busting moves, Muay Thai has many takers. Expert Biki Bora says it is aimed at severely damaging and distracting the opponent.
The art strengthens the body and uses joints and bones as weapons. Elbows, head forehead and face are used to break the nose, twist the joints and for lethal kicks and punches.
The footwork is perfected to maintain balance while hands save the face. In the sweaty training room, you are given a helmet, gloves and suitable body-part guards. Meditation is factored in.
It's perfect for street combat and subduing an attacker. While it can inflict severe damage, don’t use it to its full potential. Simply flex your muscles and watch them scram.
• Aikijujutsu, Kodu and Krav Maga
Nippon Budo Sogo Intl India, Ville Parle West. Call 9820055730 Rs 1000
Aikido of Mumbai, BKC. Call 09870701140. Rs 1000
Centre for Capoeira India, Khar. Call 9869055371/ 652726738. Rs 2500
• Muay Thai
Biki Bora, Bandra West. 9819708804. Rs 2500