Being the second-most populous country on the planet, you might be surprised to learn that jiu-jitsu has only recently started to take off in India and just recently produced its first black belt. Arun Sharma founder and head instructor at Jeet Kune Do Athletic Club India, and founder of BJJ India, recently earned his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt from Rodrigo Teixeria after training for the past 13 years. During this time, Sharma has taught over 150 free seminars in many rural areas across the country. He has a vision of making 1000 instructors across India to show that jiu-jitsu, and teaching jiu-jitsu, is a viable career path for someone looking to make a better life for themselves.
Sharma’s journey started when he was 12 years old and witnessed two of his friends brutally murdered in front of him. This experience filled him with fear and motivated him to learn more about different martial arts. When he started this journey in 2004, the internet was in its infancy in India and not readily available, but Sharma would use his father’s work computer to watch videos and any books he could his hands on to learn all that he could about jiu-jitsu.
During his early stages of training, Sharma and his training partners were primarily focusing on no-gi, and without supervision, safety was the furthest thing from their minds when sparring. Sharma admits that, in the beginning, all their sparring matches were all-out, but after they had injured each other a few too many times, they learned the importance of keeping your training partner safe. However, without a black belt to guide them, they felt like they could only learn so much.
That changed when Rodrigo Teixeria started visiting India from Brazil. Teixeria would come to India annually to training anywhere from 3-6 weeks at a time to give the young athletes guidance, teach them proper technique, and even gifted Sharma with his first gi.
Through martial arts, Sharma has created and participated in various empowerment programs that teach people martial arts throughout India. Arun helps with “The Damini Project” the goal of which is “to change the current climate and culture of rape and violent sexual crimes that plague the global community.” This project teaches victims of sexual assault various self-defense techniques to “discover their inner strength and teach them to express it verbally, mentally, emotionally and physically” in an effort to “help victims of previous abuse break the cycle of abuse by instilling genuine self-confidence”. Sharma teaches these students rape prevention techniques through jiu-jitsu and other martial arts of which he is a student.
Another project is called “BJJ for a Cause,” which sponsors women and children in Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), slums, orphanages, government schools, and special schools to train at his dojo for free. This program currently boasts 18 students who have been training with them for the past four years. Sharma’s favorite part about this is seeing how much jiu-jitsu builds their confidence after their first session, and the confidence it builds in his students when they feel confident they can defend themselves if needed.
On top of all these community projects, Arun also takes time to help train the Indian military and other law enforcement agencies he has been teaching them martial arts since 2009 teaching Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali when he was a jiu-jitsu white belt and eventually added in jiu-jitsu to the curriculum as he progressed. He is currently the only instructor in India certified to teach the official Military & Law Enforcement Curriculum of BJJ under Professor Rodrigo Teixeira. The curriculum is based on the Gracie Combatives courses and revolves around the notion that 90 percent of fights end up on the ground and knowing jiu-jitsu will better protect the officials when engaging with an assailant.
Through the efforts of people like Arun Sharma, jiu-jitsu in India is starting to take root and grow. Recently, the Asian Championships were held in Delhi, India’s capital territory, where a handful of the students Sharma teaches took gold. Arun Sharma is India’s first jiu-jitsu black belt, but if the sport keeps up its trajectory, he most certainly won’t be its last.