This October 19, the Akshay Kumar Karate Tournament will be organised for desi kids for the third year in a row in Mumbai. And actor Akshay Kumar has decided to fund the event on his own this time, shelling out approximately Rs 2 crore, significantly more than what he’s previously invested in the event.
Mehul Vora, tournament director and martial arts trainer to several Bollywood celebrities, says, "Akshay has agreed to sponsor the tournament this year on his own, and the expenditure is close to Rs 2 crore. He did this even for the first tournament that we had three years ago. The following year, we managed to get some kind of sponsorship, alongside his financial and emotional assistance, which is not the case this year."
The reason the event is held every year between October and November is that the period coincides with school Diwali vacations. "We want more kids to take up karate because not only is it a good way to exercise and keep the body fit, but it also comes in handy as a self-defence mechanism," reasons Mehul, who’s expecting over 5,000 participants for the tournament’s various competitions this year.
"The tournament is our way of reaching out to parents, so they let their kids train in karate. I’ve seen a rise in the numbers, but I’m sure we can do better."
Considering that Akshay is the brand ambassador for Canada Tourism, does the duo plan to organise a competition for NRI kids too? "We can do something of that sort in India itself. But it’s too early for us to take the tournament abroad," Mehul says.
“As of now, we’re happy that a bunch of kids who’ve participated here have also represented the country internationally.” Registration for the tournament is expected to start between August and September this year. Mehul, who’s also associated with Star Movies’ karate film festival, Kung Fu Fighting, met Akshay through an assignment a decade ago.
He was choreographing a couple of karate sequences for a TV capsule featuring the action hero. They hit it off and now Mehul also trains the actor’s nine-year-old son Aarav, who is currently at home, nursing an injury he sustained while training. The star’s son has a Green Belt, technically halfway through to getting the Black Belt his father has. “Akshay is a 6th-degree Black Belt. His son will have to first get a Black Belt, which is tough enough, and then work his way towards achieving the 10th degree,” explains Mehul.
“I’m not trying to boast, but Aarav has his father’s genes. He’s as focused and hardworking as Akshay. He always comes having practiced, is very particular about attendance and lives up to his father’s name.”
Below the belt
Belts in karate are technically called Dan.
Beginners wear white belts, moving on to yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, golden brown and black.
Black has 10 degrees, with rising levels of difficulty.