“But I had made up my mind."
An Indian man has won gold at the 4th Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) nationals in his first attempt, using YouTube videos as his method of coaching.
Tashi Wangchu was fascinated with fitness when he was a boy, inspired by the Rocky film franchise.
He would usually run in the jungles near his hometown in Arunachal Pradesh.
But as he became a teenager, his interest dwindled.
Tashi said: “I had no support, source of inspiration or the right facilities to follow my interest.”
Tashi moved to Itanagar to pursue higher studies where he took up smoking.
“With such a habit, my dream of fitness was over.”
He moved to Delhi in 2012 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science. There, he learned about MMA.
The 24-year-old told The Better India:
“I also found training centres and gyms that offer courses for the sport.
“But I had no money to take coaching. My father is a labourer and works odd jobs to make a living.
“He expected me to complete my education and bag a stable government job. He did not encourage me to pursue the sport.”
But despite the odds and just using YouTube videos as coaching, Tashi won the 4th Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) India National competition.
Tashi pursued a career in sports despite the lack of motivation from his parents or support from friends.
“But I had made up my mind. I quit smoking and stopped hanging out with friends who discouraged me.
“There was no awareness about the sport in my village, and finding a coach was a far-fetched idea.
“So I logged on to YouTube and started basic training. I found coaches across the world who conducted online tutorials, and took part in them.”
When he began training, friends and family members mocked him.
The Indian man would wake up at 4 am to begin his training.
To build endurance, he found different ways to modify the exercises.
“I carried a sack full of stones and ran for 4-5 km. At times, I lifted stones and rocks as deadweights.
“Sometimes it would be snowing, or I suffered a muscle ache, but I never missed a single day.”
His workout would finish at 8 am and Tashi would rest before training on boxing and wrestling between 6 pm and 9 pm.
“I followed all the tutorials to understand the basics and learn the nitty-gritty.
“I could manage boxing, but there was no one to wrestle with. I did not have a friend to dedicate time for me or help me for training.”
When it comes to challenges, Tashi said he struggled with diet.
“I was slim and had to gain weight. I referred to different experts on YouTube, but diet is very personal as it requires an understanding of your own body.
“I ate a banana, eggs, dry fruits, meat and consumed milk.
“The heavy intake of meat affected my stamina. Hence, I reduced meat and increased green vegetables.”
— Tashi Wangchu (@TashiWangchu9) May 22, 2021
Tashi trained for five years until he decided to take part in the national competition.
“Even after the physical transformation, my parents and friends doubted I would succeed.
“They told me working on the body alone would not help as I had not undergone formal training.”
Tashi added that he received the same response when he reached Delhi at the MMA training centre for trials.
“I stayed there for 15 days for trials and selection, where the participants laughed or felt amazed that I had signed up without any formal coaching.
“Moreover, I trained in isolation without posting any bits of the process on social media.
“For some, it became all the more difficult to believe that I had no training whatsoever with the body I had built. Others underestimated me.”
However, he understood the basics of the competition.
“I had absorbed all the online sessions, and completed the three rounds in the game in 25 minutes.
“I used to set a timer and follow boxing, rope climbing, speed weight, running, spring and jumping.”
Tashi qualified and won gold at the Nationals, held on February 19, 2021, in Uttar Pradesh.
Winning built Tashi’s confidence and also changed his parent’s perspective.
He said: “My father used to doubt me, and mother offered minimal support.
“But now they are proud of my achievements as it has also earned me popularity in the village.”
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu recognised Tashi’s achievement and offered assistance.
In addition, Dream Sports Foundation has also extended its help for further training. The organisation is the philanthropic arm of Dream Sports, which supports grassroots athletes and the Indian sports ecosystem.
A representative from the company said:
“Tashi’s achievements are commendable and he has the potential to reach heights.
“We are working to provide him with a coach and take care of his diet.
“The team will also work on training aspects including strength conditioning as well as refining his boxing and wrestling.”
Plans are now underway to send the Indian man to Singapore and Kazakhstan for training.
While Tashi is not getting carried away, he believes that with the right support, he can become a professional MMA fighter.
“I am an amateur and only know the basics. My dedicated efforts for five years have reaped expected results.
“Hard work is the key to success. I understand that this is just the beginning and that I have a long road ahead. I dream of winning a gold for India.”