CHENNAI: You either get whacked or learn on how to not get whacked. This is the Budokai karate expert, Yohanan John’s motto. He has been slammed, thrashed and jeered at by military trainers but by the end, he was thrashing the ones who crossed the line and also trained NCC cadets and army forces. His objective is to teach self-defence to Chennaiites.
Though he wanted to enter the forces himself he couldn’t because his mother was not very happy about it despite his father’s support. Or let’s put in his words here, “I was my mama’s boy.” Yohanan was raised in a family that believed in raising a boy in rough-and-tough environment. His first memory of training camps came from his uncle, who was enrolled in the Officer Training Academy. “He would come home on weekends for my mother’s food. He would share stories from his training camps, and I found them very exciting. My uncle was a hunter too!” he narrates.
His father was a rifle shooter and was supposed to represent Kerala in a national competition for shooting but he couldn’t due to his mother’s health reasons. “So, inspirations were like vibrations around me. My interest towards the army and fitness began right at home,” adds Yohanan, as we sit across him in his Oval Crew Academy, Neelangarai.
Something happened during his final days in school. His father suffered a heart attack and told Yohanan ‘What happened to me shouldn’t happen to you’. After which, Yohanan’s life took the path of fitness. He joined the Budokai Martial Arts Association. “Classes were intense! Sometimes, I would faint and the next thing I remember was two army guys throwing water on my face. The instructor would say, ‘Why are you still on the floor? Get up!’ But it never put me down!” smiles Yohanan.
Years later, Yohanan chose his mission. Calling himself a teacher, he decided to make people fit and strong. “No one here has understood what actual combat scenario is. Having a six-pack or just flexing your muscles will not do,” he says.
Yohanan began training with his first student Sudhir Rao at Besant Nagar. At the time, they had no equipment. They would sprint, run, do push-ups and squats. His wife motivated him to take it to the next level and soon enough in 2014, Oval Crew was constructed, offering cross fitness and army training for self-defence.
Yohanan shared his students’ experiences with us when they bled, puked, dealt with a lot of pain but they would never give up. For people who think gyms and a black belt with a certificate is safe enough, here is what Yohanan has got to say to you. “Can you climb five flights of stairs with a gas cylinder and not pant? Or in case you are hit by a psycho on the street, would you have the perseverance to bear the pain and counter attack? The first training I’d give you is to run! That’s the safest piece of self-defence in case you get yourself in trouble,” he laughs.
Yohanan works out at least five times a week. “The only thing that matters is what you can do now. It’s all a process. I’m still learning and I hope to make it to Germany someday to learn from the gurus of fitness there! I have bled, but I can say that I will never have to depend on anyone,” he adds and walked on to teach a few students who had gathered in the arena.
Visit www.ovalcrew.in for details.