Grunts of children fill the lawns of Baba Gang Nath temple in Munirka on an average day. Teenagers in white uniforms line up for their judo session at five each evening. With drops of hard work dripping, they practice till late for their championship next month.
Roughly 400 square yards of the ground has been levelled by the temple authorities so that the kids from nearby villages like Kishangarh, Katwaria Sarai, Neb Sarai, Mahipalpur, Rangpuri etc can practice here. Baba Gang Nath Judo Academy has churned out most number of judo players in the country. These champs bagged more than 80 medals last year in national and international judo championships. They also achieved great accomplishments at Children Asian Games held in Tokyo in September 2013.
“There are so many places in Punjab which are famous for judo training and after them, this is the only place dedicated to the sport. Kids start early here which is why this place is called a nursery of judo players. The players are not only trained, but also advised on their diets,” said Pradip Malik, a trainer.
Established in 2010, over 200 students train each year at the academy. For some kids these classes are confidence boosters, others see them as part of the journey towards medals.
“Boys often joke with me that they should stay away from me as I am a trained judo player. I feel more confident after four years of training at the temple. It is good that women are learning it for self-defense. I want to represent my country in global championships and hear our national anthem play in different countries,” said Cincky Balhara, 18, who recently won medals in Thailand and Hong Kong.
Many students of the academy have broken their own records and credit the efforts of Samunder Tokas, the founding member of the academy, for their success. A judo enthusiast since childhood, he is presently a head constable with Border Security Force and training hundreds of kids free of cost. This training centre welcomes kids from the nearby villages who want to learn the art despite all odds.
“I got busy with my job and couldn’t pursue judo professionally, but I want these kids to learn and excel in it. We train them in 96 different techniques for their overall development. The academy is popular with learners because it’s a non-commercial place where both boys and girls are trained naturally, no steroids or synthetic performance boosters, to enhance their endurance levels,” said Tokas, who accepts students between the ages of 6 to 18.
The academy also holds competitions from time to time in which prize money or scholarships (between Rs 31,000 and 51,000) are given to the winners. Both trainers and students believe that the temple is blessed by Baba Gang Nath, who came to the village from Ayodhya around 500 years ago.
“My students believe in Baba’s blessings and pray to him before entering the playfield. Such dedication is bound to bring results. We feel proud to have produced many brilliant judo players,” said Tokas.