Two competitors clad in white jacket-like attire walk into the fighting space. In the standing position, they bow to each other. Within a time limit of three minutes, a few throws and brisk movements with the hand, neck, legs and thigh, one of them hits the floor.
This is a scene that has played out multiple times in 17-year-old Akshita’s life over the past five years. Akshita G Rao is a class XII student of Bhavan’s Adarsha Vidyalaya, Kakkanad here. Judo or ‘gentle touch’, the martial art form from Japan is what this young girl is synonymous with among her peer circle. She recently won the gold medal at the CBSE south zone judo championship.
Laurels in the game is not new to this young judoka (one who practices judo). She has won numerous accolades in inter-school and state level judo tournaments.
It is not just judo that this young girl has mastered. She has won the state and nationals in karate and visited Japan in class VIII to receive her recognition from the grand master. She has been awarded a first dan black belt which qualifies her as a ‘sambai’, which gives her the eligibility to coach others in karate anywhere. This young girl currently takes karate classes for youngsters. “Self defense training is important for girls these days. So I encourage girls to break the general stigma towards it and take up training sessions.”
“Kubh-inage is my favourite move,” Akshita says with a naughty smile as she reminisces about those times when this move has brought along the winning moment. “It is a neck throw in which the opponent is thrown to the floor using the hold on his neck and wrist.”
Next on her list is uchimata which is a specialised hip throw. “Being a left-hander often gives me an added advantage in judo moves,” she adds.
This 12th grader’s passion for sports as a whole is something that doesn’t miss one’s attention. She has proven her talents in Kayaking and canoeing, volleyball, javelin, basketball and track events. A leading cadet of the Sea Cadet Corps (SCC) in the naval base at Kochi, Akshita has also won the first place in the .22 rifle firing tournament hosted by the SCC in May, 2011.
She self- trains for judo, though she also looks upto her coaches Jason and Siju Padmarajan. Weekends are no holidaying time for Akshita who trains hard in judo and also diligently attends the sessions at the SCC.
Being the senior sports captain of her school, Akshita’s presence is inevitable in the sports activities of her school, says Manoj Kumar, the physical education teacher, Bhavan’s Adarsha Vidyalalya, and adds, “I have never met a student with such sportsmanship during my teaching career and I wonder if I’d meet someone again. She is full of energy and ever ready to help. A peculiar character about her is that unlike other students her age, she knows what to do in different situations. We do not have to keep pushing.”
Manoj Kumar and the physical education department of the school strongly believe that Akshita will make it big someday in judo. “She is an asset to our school,” says vice principal Parvathy E. Academics is something she equally takes interest in and there’s something else she’s crazy about besides judo: Mathematics. The excitement in her voice can’t be concealed as she says, “I could go on and on solving Math problems.” Engineering is her career dream which she aims to catch after school. This young girl has dreams of making it into the Indian defence too.
“Sports is often not appreciated like it should be, in our education system. It always takes second place to academics,” says Jayalaksmi Rao, Akshita’s mother who is also her greatest inspiration and support. Amidst practice sessions and match tours, Akshita falls back on her friends who always help her cope up to classes that she has missed. “She always aims for perfection,” says her classteacher Latha Jayaram.
This petite girl who has been competing under the 52 kg category in Judo, looks nothing like someone who can beat you to the ground. When asked about her diet routine, she says she is strictly vegetarian. Says Akshita, “There is no need for extra supplements, veggies keep me fit to play.”
The young judoka is gearing up to head to Dehradun for the CBSE Judo Nationals in November. Although she has been to it before, she couldn’t make it to the winning spot. “It is really cold there and often muscles go numb. In this situation, counterparts from the north have an upper hand over south Indian competitors,” she says. This being the 12th grader’s last chance to compete at school level, she’s determined to put in her best to win a medal ‘the gentle way’.