Club-bing his way to fitness | Health - Hindustan Times

Club-bing his way to fitness

Jul 29, 2021 04:15 PM IST

This young man has successfully modernised mudgar, the traditional Indian club used for centuries by Indian wrestlers

Innovation comes out of great human ingenuity and personal passions. Rishabh Malhotra, a restaurateur and a film producer from Bengaluru is a vociferous supporter of all things Indian. His fitness start-up, Tagda Raho has reminded India and the world of age-old techniques used to pursue fitness.

Rishabh Malhotra teaches over 30 different movements with the mudgar
Rishabh Malhotra teaches over 30 different movements with the mudgar

Belonging to a Fauji background, Malhotra always admired ‘Tagda Raho’, the unique salutation used in the Assam Regiment of the Indian army. He popularized the salutation to inspire people to stay fit and active. “Instead of greeting with Good Morning or How are you?, the soldiers greet each other with ‘Tagda Raho’. The entire country should adopt it, it’s so simple and yet so effective. It is a simple sentence that means “Stay Strong”,” says the 34-year-old.

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Malhotra has also revived and wholeheartedly embraced mudgar, a fitness equipment used for centuries by Indian wrestlers. For most of us, mudgar, also called Indian club, is perceived to be used only by wrestlers practicing in akhadas. For the uninitiated, a mudgar is a type of ‘gada’ mace from India, and it is generally made of wood, but can also be made of iron.

“This equipment is at least about two to three thousands years old. But unfortunately, it faded away and lost out to western forms of fitness when the Britishers came in. Growing up in India, I would only see this either being used in some akhada or probably seen it in a film, again being used in a very similar setting,” says Malhotra.

The mudgar is very effective in training the muscles and building grip while improving shoulder strength. The weighted clubs also help increase the range of motion in the joints. It is known to be extremely helpful for athletes and those who play combat sports. With fitness being a top priority for many, Malhotra wondered why this heavy mace wasn’t being given its proper due and thus Tagda Raho was born. “We began our journey by reintroducing the traditional Indian training club, the mudgar but with a modern twist. The traditional version comes as a single piece which makes it next to impossible to adjust weight and also made it cumbersome to carry around,” he says.

The mudgar is an essential part of model Milind Soman’s fitness regime
The mudgar is an essential part of model Milind Soman’s fitness regime

To suit modern lifestyles, Malhotra altered the design a bit ,allowing people to adjust the weight of the club for different exercises and also makes it a breeze to carry around in a backpack.

Tracing his journey with our very own mudgar, he says, “I have always been an outdoor and an adventurous person. I just wanted to try out this native Indian equipment and so I got my hands on one and at the same time I was studying for a certification course, so it gave me time to understand the intricacies.”

He adds, “Everyday when I would train with it, I would be able to check what the movement was doing and what I realised was that everybody in India and in the world had only seen one movement with the mudgar which is one behind the shoulder swing, that too learnt from the akharas, wrestlers would do this. But there are so many highly effective moves that you can do with the mudgar,” he says. Today, Malhotra is teaching over 30 different movements with the equipment. He knew this would be adopted by the world as it was going beyond one movement and technique.

Within a year, the equipment had found its way to the national cricket academy, thanks to a chance meeting with Rahul Dravid. “ Dravid spotted it and asked me to bring it over and give a demo to their training staff, as to how it can be applied to the sport of cricket and how it can help nurture under 16 and under 19 players.” Apart from that even actor Milind Soman got excited at the prospect of using mudgars for his training and ordered a customized pair of clubs for his training.

A part of our rich cultural heritage, mudgar has stood the test of time, “All the credit goes to akhadas, otherwise it would have faded away in oblivion,” says Malhotra.

Rock climber Gowri Varanashi trying out mudgar
Rock climber Gowri Varanashi trying out mudgar

Mudgar for women

“My goal is to get more and more Indians to pick this up, try it out and see how beneficial it is. Also, I wanted more and more women to try this because I understand it was restricted to akharas and women were mostly kept out of it. So they were not really exposed to what this could do for them as well and that is what I wanted to change. This is where the design again came into prominence. If anyone is buying one club, you can reduce the weight, if a woman wants to start lighter she can.”

Luckily for him, a lot of women have taken to it, including Bengaluru based rock climber Gowri Varanasi, who has been using it for her forearms and grip strength. Her endorsement of the club has inspired other women to take it up.

Malhotra wants to make mudgar the largest export to the larger world. “With just some alteration and evolution, it has the potential to be the biggest strength training equipment and India’s largest export,” he signs off.

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