We had the afternoon clear to explore Delhi on our own and Tim suggested that we check out the most famous wrestling school in India, the Hanuman Akhara. The school teaches both traditional the Indian wrestling style, Pehlwani, and the Greco-Roman wrestling that you see in the Olympics. This school is famous because it has produced the largest number of champions in both disciplines.
I should note that it’s not like we attended for a re-arranged tour of the school, and they don’t actually offer any. We just showed up, which makes their hospitality all the more impressive. In fact, we suspect that we showed up on their day off and that the ustad (coach) got the guys to do a practice session for our benefit.
Some shots of the school:
They’ve won so many trophies that they have a room dedicated to their various awards, and they just pile them up on the ground:
Their training sessions start with the wrestlers climbing up ropes attached to high tree limbs using only their arms. The bigger wrestlers use the lower tree limb, the lankier fellows can handle the taller one:
Tim wanted to give it a go and he did remarkably well. The wrestlers actually got a little concerned about how high he got and they asked him to stop and climb down:
The next stage of their training involves the wrestlers preparing the wrestling surface. Indian wrestling is done on a surface of dryish mud. The idea is that the surface be soft enough to prevent injuries, but hard enough so that the movements of the wrestlers are not impeded too much.
The wrestlers begin the preparation of the surface by using a hoe to soften up the ground. They then use heavy concrete slabs to flaten the surface. They add a little bit of water and repeat the process three or so times. The work is so strenuous that it is actually a part of their training and all of the wrestlers take a turn:
Finally, they proceed onto the actual wrestling. The coach’s English wasn’t the best so we had a limited explanation of the scoring system but I learned about the rules after-the-fact. The wrestlers wear two sets of heavy shorts and as in Judo, wrestlers are permitted to yank their opponents by the clothing. A wrestler wins a match by pinning the opponent’s shoulders and hips simultaneously to the ground. Strangely enough, although there is a pre-defined arena, the wrestlers are permitted to step outside of it during a match without incurring a penalty. Most matches last 10-15 minutes.
Some shots of the practice sparring:
The coach, giving some hands-on instruction:
A picture of us with the wrestlers:
During the practice, the fellow on the left dropped by. His name is Sushil Kumar and he won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in a category of Greco-Roman wrestling and a silver medal in London.
A few shots of our night out on the town in Delhi:
Continue on to the fourth and final part. As an explanation, I had to divide the post into four parts because my poor wifi connection kept timing out. That being said a single 70+ picture post was a tad ambitious.