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Stunning for most, Indian Pencak Silat team in Asiad cause for celebration in J&K

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

For most, it was a bolt from the blue, quite a few even scoffed at it but for one man in the troubled state of and Kashmir, Pencak Silat's inclusion in the Indian contingent was the perfect culmination of a lone journey he started eight years ago in

Srinagar-based is India's national for the Indonesian Martial Art sport, about which very little is known in the country's sporting fraternity.

But the 38-year-old isn't bothered by the surprise that has greeted Pencak Silat's Asiad inclusion.

"My children (national campers) are so happy, they are receiving calls from everywhere. They asked me if this is negative or positive. I told them it's good. People will know about our sport now," a jubilant Iqbal told in an interview.

"The ministry monitored our results and gave us a chance to participate in We don't want to break their trust we want to perform and win medals for India, so people know about us and remember the players got medals in the sport," he added.

is a full-body fighting sport, which includes grappling and throwing, in addition to the use of weaponry. The sport is indigenous to Indonesia, the host of next month's

But interestingly, had finished ahead of the South East Asians in the regional Championships in 2016 with two silver and five bronze medals.

And perhaps it was on the basis of such results that the went against the popular mood for to give the little-known sport a chance at the Games.

Iqbal has been among the founders of the Indian Federation which is based in and As for how he got there, Iqbal's affair with martial arts started when he was 9, "forced" by the bullying kids in his neighbourhood.

"The first day I saw people stretching in class I ran away fearing I would break my legs. But my father was persistent he said 'If you know this no one will hit you'," he recalled.

After stints in and Taekwondo, Iqbal took up Thant-ta, a Manipuri martial art form, which also includes the use of swords. He enjoyed Thank-ta and soon martial arts became an obsession. However, his life changed when he went to in 2010 for an annual martial arts festival.

"It was there that I saw Pencak Silat for the first time. I saw the moves and weapons and got very excited. I decided I should give it a go. And once I started practicing it the officials asked me to start promoting the game in India," he said.

In 2012, Iqbal along with a few others started the Indian Pencak Silat Federation in

Since then, it has been an arduous journey to popularise the sport starting from hiring foreign coaches at personal expense, forcing local newspapers to publish press notes to sponsoring children who cannot afford the expense of the sport. The Ministry gave recognition to the sport last year.

"We introduced Silat at the division level here. We taught the children the game. They got interested because there is no face contact in this sport. We used to call people from outside to give demonstrations.

Iqbal's inspiration to develop the sport in came from the struggles and hardships he himself had to face as a

"I have no interest in being an office-bearer; I just want to train the kids. I share my experience and provide motivation to the children because I have seen a lot of hardships in my life," said the coach, who also runs a hotel.

He recalled how, during a state championship in Jammu, he and his wards had to sleep on the roof of a bus as snakes had invaded their dormitory.

"In another state championships, we had spent an entire night swatting mosquitoes," he said.

But that is all in the past, for now, the is basking in the glory of having started another chapter in the growth of the sport.

"Right now we have around 10,000 kids with us in the Valley alone. There is a lot of craze around this sport in the far-flung border areas of Kupwara and the villages," Iqbal said.

"has been in turmoil for so many years...is one medium that can prepare kids for everything and children from and Kashmir give preference to Martial arts.

"We can't compare with but martial arts is more popular than in the state," he added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, July 08 2018. 12:35 IST
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