“Human beings are emotional. There is so much that they are unable to cope up with, especially during their adolescence. I was like that, you know, unable to express and understand what was happening to me, my mind, and my body.”
Umesh Rohit, a black belt and international gold medalist in Taekwondo, is a humble man for his stature. “I was always drawn towards Martial Arts,” he explains simply. “I knew it would somehow help me fight my emotions, channelize my energy. So I ran away from my little town to Lucknow and started practicing Tae Kwon Do.” While the decision wasn’t one that his parents could wrap their heads around – “they were very upset” – his brothers were supportive. Yet, it was one he stuck to despite the difficulties. “I remember my class would start at 4.30 PM every day. I had hardly any money to take a bus, so I would run 6 kilometres in the scorching heat to get to training. I worked extremely hard and won many accolades, but then it was time to give back. I came back to my town and started teaching a handful of children, and was the first one to introduce the Korean Martial Art in the little town of Saharanpur. My world has changed ever since.”
These days, he dons a white kurta pyjama and a spiritual calmness that seems attainable only after years of dedicated practice. He is also the creator of an all-new Martial art called OZYMA that currently trains 500 students of all age groups in 7 centres and 16 schools. He has produced world class martial artists in a matter of few years who have gone on to compete at an international level. I have known him for almost 14 years now, and have been a Taekwondist training under him, however, it is the first time I sit down to listen to his story.
Like all philosophical stories, he starts his tale by addressing the doing away of expectations, to lead to this metamorphosis. From him it began when he realized that everything had become about winning. About putting labels and tags on people that said ‘Oh I am a black belt’ or ‘Oh, I am a national level Gold Medalist.’ “It was never about the betterment and the strength of the mind and body but just about aggressiveness and arrogance,” he says, and “this was the emotion the federation boards were capitalizing on and making money, playing dirty politics. The spirit of martial arts was gone and that irritated me.” His eyes give away the helplessness of those times but they sparkle once again as he talks about OZYMA.
OZYMA, the abbreviation of ‘Oshi Zen Yoga Martial Art’ is a unique and very comprehensive form of martial arts. Rohit is deeply inspired by Osho’s teachings and Buddhist philosophy. He also studied Lao Tzu’s Art of War, and practiced Maharishi Patanjali’s yoga, and saw a positive change in his life. He knew he had found his inspiration and started formulating his own martial art that combined the philosophy and practice of all the above as well as fighting techniques drawn from Taekwondo. It was in 2012 that he opened his own gym in town. This was at a time when he had hundreds of students under him training in Taekwondo, competing nationally and internationally. Many of them left after he announced that he would be breaking away from federations and their ways and would now be teaching OZYMA, an art designed to make students stronger human beings rather than just a pawns hoping to win medals.
“It was not easy to start all over again. Students left, sponsors left. I was ridiculed too. But a few who believed in me, stayed with me, working hard every single day. Meditating, reading, doing yoga, practicing fighting techniques, putting an effort into understanding their feelings and emotions–and they changed for the better!” he says.
It’s all best explained with an understanding of its origin. Many people have the wrong notion about martial arts, assuming they are about fighting. However, in truth it is quite the opposite–there’s more to be said for staying calm in the most difficult of situations, channelizing your energy in the right direction, and fighting not only to defend oneself but also to get physically and mentally stronger. “The tournaments that we hold or send our students to are merely testing grounds for their skills and strength. We do not pressurise them into winning. In fact, it hardly matters to us. What we care about is they get better each and every day,” he says assertively.
Today, OZYMA centers are well-established in Saharanpur wherein students not only practice their fighting techniques but also work on bettering themselves through work-outs, meditation, inspirational guest lectures, workshops and self-defense techniques. Each student’s behaviour is profiled and the change is recorded when they start training. They train in disciplines like Gymnastics, Tae Kwon Do, Wrestling, Yoga, Dance and Lathi. The base of all of it is meditation. There are 7 belts of 7 levels before a student gets his black belt. Though not associated with any federation, students have the freedom to participate independently in any tournament they wish to. Soon, an OZYMA centre is set to open in Dehradun as well.
Having spoken so passionately about OZYMA, Mr. Rohit takes me around the same gym where I had practiced as a young Tae Kwon Dist. Yet everything looks different now. I see his struggle turning worthwhile atop of Korean fighting Mats that cover the floor. I see his story unfold on the walls adorned with inspirational quotes and posters. I see a little bit of him in the restless teenager who seems to be working some kind of internal angst out in his relentless kicking of the kicking pad on a bright, sunny afternoon.
“So, what is next?” I ask him, although I should have known better.
“Next? Nothing’s next. It is all now, in the present. We believe in being answerable to the present, tackling situations as they come. If I tell you what’s next, it will be an expectation and that is what we are doing away with,” he smiles.
As I pack my stuff and bit adieu to him; thinking about the various philosophies that make up the comprehensive and yet complex Martial Art of Ozyma; my eyes fall upon a poster with a hindi quote. Suddenly it all seems very simple. It reads, “Aasman Toh Choona hai, Par ye nahi Bhoolna ki Asli Sukun Zameen Par Aake hi Milega.”
(We need to touch the sky, without forgetting peace in its true sense can only be achieved with feet on the ground.)
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