Actor-producer-martial artist Cheetah Yajnesh Shetty has been training film actors in martial arts for decades. Shetty advocates that martial art is not only a fighting sport, but also a science that creates self-realisation. Excerpts…
Martial art turns actors into superstars. How did your journey into it start?
Cheetah Shetty: When I came to Mumbai about 30 years ago, I was working as a waiter in a hotel. I used to be busy the whole day, so practising martial arts was not possible. I would practise at midnight on the hotel terrace. One day, the hotel manager’s sons saw me practise. They requested that I should teach them martial arts. I told them not to mention it to anyone as I was worried about losing my job. One day, I was directly appointed as ‘Health Club Manager’. Bollywood actors used to visit our club. I got to know them and that’s how this journey started.
Who have you worked with in Bollywood? What has martial art given you?
I have worked with five generations of actors in Bollywood. I have trained Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Sanjay Dutt, Akshay Kumar, Mithun Chakraborty, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, etc. It is a matter of pride for me that I have worked in more than 150 films so far including ‘Gandhi’ and also worked with Jackie Chan. This work makes me feel positive. Martial art is not only a fighting sport; it is also a tool for self-defence and self-realisation. It is an ancient art that originated in our country but people from other countries have gained a lot of fame by mastering it. I work to preserve and spread this ancient art all over the world.
What do you think about martial arts and Indian knowledge tradition?
There is an ancient science of war in Kerala called Kalaripayattu. Buddhist monk Bodhidharma picked up this art and taught it to the Han Dynasty in China. Later, the same dynasty spread Kalaripayattu or martial art in China. This art maintains the balance between the body and mind. Practising it for a certain period makes a person adopt a positive lifestyle with good habits. Martial art is not the science of war or killing; it is an art that establishes peace and harmony.
What exactly is the self-defence training for girls project that you have undertaken?
I have provided self-defence training to more than 1 million girls and women. I have training centres in about 20 states and 12 countries. Till now, we used to seek endorsements from other countries to get ranking. Now those people are getting endorsements from our organisation. We give recognition to martial arts institutes from the US, Germany, Hong Kong, China, Sri Lanka, etc. Some royal families are also connected with us. The Royal family of Thailand has appreciated our work. We have received the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame award instituted by the International Martial Arts Council of America and the STIMA Award from Sri Lanka. This is the encouragement we have received for the work we are doing for humanity. We wish to do rescue work in emergencies too.
Could you elaborate on your event being held in Pune?
Pune is a city of knowledge and intellectuals. I am quite excited to come to Pune. In our hectic daily lives, we hardly think about health. Everyone ought to spend half an hour to one hour daily on exercise and yoga for good health. In Pune, I will introduce some fitness experiments and self-defence programmes for you. Considering the atmosphere of negativity around, today, men too need to learn self-defence along with women. Martial art is not only useful for self-defence but also for building self-confidence and self-realisation. You will get its demonstration and detailed information through my event.
– Samrat Kadam