Sensei Paritos Kar, who trains Congress VP Rahul Gandhi in Aikido, in which the latter holds a black belt, talks about his “perfect student”.
It was a casual joke from star boxer Vijender Singh that opened up a new side of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the world. At a function in New Delhi last week, Vijender “teased” the 47-year old Gandhi as to why politicians were not into sport, to which the famous Gandhi son came up with a response that surprised everyone. Gandhi said he was a black belt holder in Japanese martial art, Aikido, and started learning it in 2008.
It is not too often that politicians are seen foraying into the world of sport — other than the occasional flag-off for events or exhibition matches — but Gandhi’s revelation threw open a chapter of his life far removed from the realms of politics. “I do exercise — running, swimming. I am a black belt in Aikido. I am into sports but I do not talk about it publicly. But in my life, sports has been, is, and will be, very necessary,” Gandhi was quoted as saying.
Aikido, founded during the 1920s, is a martial art form that focuses on self-development. It is known to enhance the physical, mental and spiritual well-being, thus enabling a person’s overall growth. Sensei Paritos Kar, a 5th Dan black belt and chief instructor at the Aikido Dojo training school in Delhi, who trained Gandhi, describes him as “a perfect student”. “Rahul is a very honest and hard-working person and we developed a harmonious relationship all these years,” says Kar.
“In my view, people underestimate him but it doesn’t matter to him. I believe he will show his mettle to the world one day.
“I have seen him closely in the last eight or nine years and even though I am not a supporter of any political party, I can see that he has a lot of honesty in him. Whatever he says or does comes from the heart, and not the mouth,” says Kar, who moved to India in 2004 after learning and practising Aikido in Japan for close to 15 years.
It was in 2008 that Gandhi first approached Kar for Aikido lessons. Discipline and dedication were Kar’s demands and he found an able student in the Congress vice-president. “We have classes five times a week for one hour each. He is a fast learner and is very unassuming. Usually, people are argumentative or lose interest quickly since they believe Aikido is a fast-paced method to lose weight or make some quick gains.
“Aikido is a way of life and a life-long learning process and Rahul understood it. He was very focused and excelled.
“People around him make him feel like he is the boss but the moment he is learning, he becomes a student. One day, he told me I am the boss and he is just a learner. That is the kind of discipline a teacher wants,” Kar recalls, adding that Rahul followed strict diet plans.
At present, Gandhi is a level 1 black belt holder and can showcase 130 moves in the martial art. He even visited Japan for further training and was awarded the black belt in 2013.
The 47-year-old took private classes along with a few friends, and was sometimes even watched by mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka.
“At times, the classes extended to talk sessions and we would discuss a lot of things but never politics. Rahul only wanted to become better in every sphere of life,” he says.
Kar also adds that one can practice this form of martial art at any age. “Aikido is not a sport, it is a unifying life energy. One can learn it at any age as it leads to overall development.
“We saw cricketer Ashish Nehra retire three days back and he is only 38. Yes, I say only 38 because a human body can do much more. Aikido can be learnt at the age of even 50 and it will uplift your mind, soul and body,” says Kar, pointing out that he has only had a total of 630 students in the last 13 years. “It requires discipline and not everyone can do it. Rahul is special.”