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“Sports fosters concentration among individuals, imbibes them with health and discipline and opens up avenues for a positive lifestyle,” says Praveen.
V Praveen Kumar with his students.
V Praveen Kumar with his students.

VELLORE:: When an enterprising youngster from Vellore saw a group of school students wander around aimlessly during the Covid-induced lockdown in 2021, he decided to ‘wield the stick’, albeit for a very positive reason.

V Praveen Kumar, a 28-year-old mason, decided to teach the students Silambam, a traditional Tamil martial art. “Sports fosters concentration among individuals, imbibes them with health and discipline and opens up avenues for a positive lifestyle,” says Praveen.

Praveen’s fascination for Silambam began as he watched others perform it during temple festivals. At the age of 12, Praveen decided to learn Silambam; however, he soon discontinued as the learning environment was not conducive. When Praveen and his friends stumbled upon a suitable master who offered to teach them the form, provided they kept his identity a secret, the group jumped at the opportunity. They went on to learn Silambam for three years before their master passed away.

Subsequently, Praveen shifted his focus to Kabaddi, exhibiting his skills at national-level tournaments. Praveen discontinued his studies after Class 10 due to financial difficulties and took up his father’s profession as a mason in 2014.

“Even though I discontinued my studies, I never stopped practising Silambam. I always find myself instinctively twirling sticks whenever I get the opportunity. Sharing these skills with the next generation fills me with joy,” says Praveen. Today, Praveen teaches Silambam to nearly 450 students, aged between 6 and 14, at the EV Silambam Academy he founded in June 2021. Being a national-level Kabaddi player, Praveen also teaches the sport to nearly 55 students, apart from athletics.

A majority of Praveen’s students hail from underprivileged backgrounds. “I simply wish for these students to gain knowledge about sports and achieve great success in life,” says Praveen, who runs the academy solely on his salary. Not letting down their master, Praveen’s students have secured multiple awards and have entered various record books, including the Nobel World Record, the Cholan Book of Records and the Asian Book of Records. They have also earned a world record for continuously performing Silambam as a group for five hours.

The students are also trained to perform Silambam while engaging in brain yoga and even playing the piano while performing martial arts. Praveen’s students have performed at various state and national-level events, with 14 participants bagging the first prize across many categories during a recent national-level event in Delhi.

Recalling an incident where his students pulled off a near-impossible feat, a beaming Praveen narrated how his team, which was placed at the 18th position during the halfway mark, placed third by the end of the event. “That was a special victory for us. We managed to defeat the powerhouse team from Coimbatore. It was only possible due to the extraordinary effort of my students,” beamed Praveen. “Many Silambam associations prioritise financial gains over improving students’ skills. A change is needed since it is not about money but preserving the martial art and passing on its legacy.”

“Praveen is a great teacher. I was initially sceptical about free classes; however, they have turned out to be very effective, with my daughter excelling in many competitions,” says Maheshwari, mother of Class 8 student Pranitha. “Praveen has never asked us for fees. We only pay for the match fees and travel expenses. If a student is unable to pay, Praveen covers the cost by himself. I believe these classes have helped the students develop into more confident and mature individuals,” she added.

(Edited by Srijith R)

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