Fountain Ink
Mud Sweat and Fears the Dangal Jungle Image Credit: Fountain Ink
Mud Sweat and Fears the Dangal Jungle Image Credit: Fountain Ink

Mud, Sweat, and Fears: the Dangal Jungle

How the ancient sport of wrestling declined, revived and remade itself to fit the Olympic arena.

Rudraneil Sengupta

Behind the revival of wrestling wrought by Sushil kumar stands his coach, Satpal Singh. a contemporary of dadu Chaugule, Satpal Singh has worked miracles with his wrestlers.

At the 2008 olympics, the seven-member men’s wrestling team from India featured five wrestlers from Satpal’s akhada at Chhatrasal; it was the same in 2012. he taught both the wrestlers who won medals at these games—Sushil and yogeshwar—since they were children. of the five Indian medalists at the wrestling world championships since 2000, three are Satpal’s students. at the national championships, it is common occurrence that both finalists in almost all weight classes and age groups come from Chhatrasal.

The extraordinary role this akhada has played in India’s recent international wrestling record is founded on three simple things: shifting the training focus to olympic mats; access to a number of high-quality mats; and giving a free hand to athletes like Sushil and yogeshwar to set modern training protocols.

If the techniques of kushti and international wrestling are the same, why is the difference between fighting on mats and in pits so important?

It is because earthen surfaces offer far more friction and traction, allowing wrestlers to be stable on their feet, and slowing down the speed of the fight. on the slippery surface of the mat, keeping yourself grounded is an altogether different matter, and fights are furiously pacey.

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