If you show 67-year-old karate teacher and martial arts practitioner Bruce Robson a wooden brick, he can break it to pieces using just his fingers. The Anglo-Indian is one of the earliest karate instructors in Coimbatore, who believes that this form of martial art not only teaches physical strength but also mental strength.
“To put it simply, you should learn the art to defend yourselves from the mind first, which is a monkey that resides in you and misdirects you. Upon doing this, you can feel how karate helps you build confidence and strength,” said Robson, who has completed five degrees of black belt. He explained that there are no instructors in India to grade him further than this degree, and claims that he is mentally and physically qualified for the seventh and eighth black belt degrees.
“However, if I want to academically qualify above the fifth degree, I must go to Japan. I have plans of going and learning there sometime in the future, so that I can help my juniors come up in their lives,” said Robson, who has been teaching karate in Coimbatore for around 48 years. He began learning karate under famed master ‘Karate’ RVT Mani, in Chennai in 1969.
“Though I was passionate about karate when I was a student, my teacher advised me to complete my schooling first. When I was studying at his Karate school Budokai, which means ‘the school of spirit’, I had the opportunity of meeting various Karate instructors from Japan, including my teacher’s guru Gogen Yamaguchi, the most well-known Japanese karate master, who was called ‘the cat’ for his grace and agility,” said Robson, who has specialised in Ninjutsu, a style in Japanese martial arts, which is rarely taught in India.
“When I began teaching karate in Coimbatore in 1976, the town was calm, with less traffic. Those days, I could walk even in the middle of Variety Hall Road, Oppanakara Street and Big Bazaar Street without worry,” said Robson, who starts his day at 4 am and practices Vipasana meditation for an hour.
For Robson, karate is almost like the art of cooking. "Women make mouth-watering dishes by instinct. I teach karate, which is almost like cooking, but consciously. In my opinion, women, who are considered the weaker sex in the society, should come out of their myths about the martial art and learn it to defend themselves in situations like burglary and chain snatching. Whenever women hear a knock on their house doors, let them open the door having a spoon in their hand. I advise my girl students so, because, the possible burglar, at the sight of the spoon, would just think that the woman was busy cooking in the kitchen. He would not understand that it is no more a spoon, but a weapon!" says Robson.
Born as the eldest of eight children, Robson says that Karate has taught him a lot. And the most important lesson he has learned from the martial art is to be a good human being. Robson says that people are caught in the myth that karate is just a martial art used to defend oneself and knock others.
"The goal of learning karate is not about how many bricks you are going to break. While building a house, a traditional mason knows where to hit on a brick to break that into two pieces. And so does a karate champion. Karate teaches you to calm down when you are angry with someone. If you are angry with a person and you want to hit him, better hit a bag instead, and your anger is over now. Karate is not just a martial art, which is used to knock the person, whom you are angry with, but it is an art, which controls your anger and provides you a tranquil state of mind" explains Robson.