When entering the Taekwondo Academy during class, I was amazed to see two little girls practicing with incredible perfection at such a young age.
This piqued my curiosity about their master, Manoj Shivhare, 48, the man behind the Martial Arts Academy in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh.
When he told me his story, I found him to be a very special person.
Lowest salary, greatest passion
Manoj teaches at a minimum-wage school because the fees for his courses are low. But he said it was satisfying for his family, even though it wasn’t in my opinion.
Development graduate student Shashvi Thakur was inspired by Manoj Shivhare’s passion for training toddlers in Taekwondo (Photo by Shashvi Thakur)
A black belt in Taekwondo, he has traveled the world, as evidenced by the medals and certificates adorning the walls of his office.
He has a progressive and scientific attitude towards his wife, children and students. He supports innovative teaching methods over orthodox teaching methods, believing that the full responsibility for understanding and learning content does not lie with the child alone, but with himself.
A progressive approach to living and teaching
Manoj seems to be active, unlearning, relearning and redesigning his teaching methods based on feedback from children.
The pedagogy used by Manoj is similar to the strategies followed by more well-known organizations. That made his efforts all the more shocking, given that he had no formal training, let alone that he came from a conservative community.
Everything he has learned comes from pure experience.
break down social barriers
The academy is a boon for the villagers, especially for girls from the Bedia community who would otherwise be the object of patriarchy.
Manoj unlearns, relearns and redesigns his teaching methods based on feedback from children (Photo by Shashvi Thakur)
They will be left in a vicious cycle of marriage or prostitution, or in some cases, both.
Manoj’s teaching not only guides these young girls to learn a new skill – at its core, focus, discipline and self-defense – but also by opening up their options.
He even trained his wife in this “life-saving” martial art.
I can see the morals and values he upholds reflected in the actions of his children.
Committed to changing his community
Manoj and his family often face backlash from others in the community who see his work as a threat to their culture.
But even as his family faced social security challenges, Manoj chose to stay within the community — bringing change from within. Even with the opportunity to work outside of Morena, where his skills would be better paid, Manoy chose to stay put.
Manoj and his family faced backlash from the local community, who saw his work as a threat to their culture (Photo by Shashvi Thakur)
He attributes his strength to his wife, who stands by his side. This is especially true during the pandemic, when she has to manage the house without food rations for several days.
There were many times when the community let him down or didn’t support him, but he never took it out on their children and continued to do his selfless work.
Unfortunately, the community did not recognize his efforts to teach and help students.
It feels as if Manoj’s students are the only ones who realize the difference his efforts have made in their lives and the unimaginable possibilities he has helped open up.
This article was first published in Villagesquare.in.