How religion gave Arm Wrestling champion Sunil Kumar the strength to never give up

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The first ranking tournament of the Pro Panja League that took place a few months back was a massive success. Arm Wrestlers from 15 states took part in this tournament. One of the major highlights of the tournament was the 100kg champion, Sunil Kumar who was invincible in the tournament.

He’s the current number one rank 100kg arm wrestler in Pro Panja league. The former nine-time national champion looked formidable inside in the PPL stage.

During his recent interview with Pro Panja League, he talked about his game, his life, and mainly about his religious beliefs that gave him all the success in his life.

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Sunil Kumar

Sunil was asked about his current lifestyle and how he is training in the pandemic by Sports India Show.

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The practice is going well. I’m training at home at my terrace, just little body warmup exercises, push-ups, and some light workout with dumbbells. I’m not trying to drain myself doing some heavy workout, I’m mainly concentrating on my grip and proper techniques of Panja. All I’m doing is practising and working hard at improving my tactics the success is all in the hands of God… my spiritual guru. My baba Ji has given me everything in life and if I keep working hard his blessing will always be with me.” he told Sports India Show in a recent interview.

Sunil talked about how he developed an interest in Panja.

I was around 15yrs old when I started workout at home. I was quite young to join a proper gym so I used to work out at home using some weights and other types of equipment. The first Panja that I ever fought with was I guess…during 2009 when a guy in my town challenged me defeated me quite easily. He made fun of me was taunting me and I felt like I made a fool of myself by arm wrestling with him.  I then shifted my focus in making myself better at this game.

“I practised hard and just a few months later I fought the same guy and beat him twice in a competition. From here I just shifted all my focus to arm wrestling. All that I’m today is because of my Baba Ji’s blessing and my hard work. Without my Baba Ji, I’m nothing… it’s his guidance, his love, and his blessing and constantly making sure that I’m following my dream made me who I am today.”

Sunil kept telling about the importance of his spiritual guru in his life and how some incidents changed him and his life forever.

“Life gives you several opportunities you just have to keep working hard and when it’s your time you to grab it work more hard to make the best out of your chance that life will give you. Pro Panja league was one such opportunity that I got and which I could not lose at any cost. It’s all because of my Baba Ji. He was there with me when no one else was. He helped me guided me a lot. He’s more like a mentor..…a life mentor for me. There was a time in my life where I was considering myself as a loser.

I had no self-confidence and I was on the verge of committing suicide. I couldn’t look past that time in my life, I thought this was it. I had stopped going to the gym, I was losing my grip in arm wrestling. I had to deal with lots of financial losses during that time as in many of my investments and business I had to face loss. That time I met my guru. I have total faith in him, in what he says and had so many incidences in my life that made me believe that it’s because of him that I am enjoying success in arm wrestling and my life.”

I was once going to my Baba Ji’s worship place and I drove there with my bike. When I reached the spot I realized I have forgotten my wallet and I wanted to but some Prashad (Holy offering) and wanted to give some offering, I felt so bad at that moment that I couldn’t give him anything in my heart I just thought of him and said sorry I can’t offer you anything. I was just putting my bike on the stand and I saw a ₹50 note on the ground.

That day I was thankful and surprised that how all this happened. I went inside thanked him and told him everything I was gonna put some money in the charity work but instead, he handed me the money and told me that I should join the gym and make a career in arm wrestling… Baba Ji showed such a belief in me… from that day I never looked back. I worked hard every day. Every time I wasn’t sure in my life my guru showed me the right path told me to continue to work hard toward my goal. Because of his belive, I could achieve all this. I am nothing I’m just a follower it’s his blessing that has made me successful in life.”

He recounted his memory of the 2015 finals of the national arm wrestling competition. He said, “After baba Ji told me to continue pursuing my goal in arm wrestling I worked hard and by Baba Ji’s blessing, I kept winning. I guess during one of the national finals I was going to face Mehndi Paaji. I wasn’t aware of how famous and a well-rounded player was he. I just went in remembered my God, my Baba Ji, and defeated Mehndi Paaji quickly. From there onwards, there was no stopping me I went on to become national champion several more times.”

Sunil Kumar’s journey while being highly inspiring isn’t unique. Many professional athletes take to religion to find inspiration in what they do. The best example being Mixed Martial Arts. The sport has the reputation of being the most violent and dangerous in the world and rightfully so as in any given moment two fighters are trying to knock each other out with whatever shot they try and hit each other with.

Religion to many is an extremely sensitive topic in most part of the world. In most parts of the world, religion determines what a person does in his day to day life. This is true even for sports.

Top UFC welterweight contender Diego Sanchez told in an interview to Bloody Elbow“I think that God intervenes in everything. I think that God gives people a supernatural strength at times.”

Sunil Kumar was also asked about the level of competition he gets in the Pro Panja League and what kind of special preparation he does to keep competing at the highest level.

I believe in my God, Baba Ji and I know all I have to do is practice, and rest all is in their hands. I have surrendered my self to them and let them guide me in life. I got the chance of participating in such a big event as Pro Panja because of the blessing of my baba Ji who forced me and motivated me to keep practising and not give up on my self. Also thanks to Parvin sir Ji who brought this stage and a big platform for us small people to participate. I don’t think about the competition or the other players I just work hard on my behalf and let the god decide what he wants the results to be. If my God wants me to lose I’ll lose but whatever happens in my life is because of them. All these wins at nationals during 2014 and 2015 made me believe strongly that all this is happening because of my Baba Ji and not because of me. I’ll again say it that it’s all because of him, not me.

He also talked about a competition where he had a stomach infection and was accused by other competitors of taking supplements.

There was this one tournament where I had a stomach infection. I had to face a lot during that competition I couldn’t eat couldn’t walk properly still somehow I competed. All the time during the competition I was remembering my Baba Ji. Many people in that tournament were spreading rumours that I was suffering because I took supplements that I could never take and couldn’t think of consuming I didn’t even have money to eat some healthy nutritious food so buying supplements was way beyond my financial limits. While going home I couldn’t even ride my vehicle, I stopped by near one place lay down for a few minutes and thought of my baba Ji and asked him to give me some power so that I can reach home properly and suddenly I felt better and drove back to home. The next day I went to Baba Ji took the medicines he gave and was in total relief after that. The remedies that he gave are always so helpful to me.”

I want to thank Preeti ma’am and Parvin sir that they created such a big platform for us to showcase our talent. People like and many other athletes come from a very small background and such opportunities mean a lot to us. As people you know say that it only takes a goldsmith to scratch gold from the darkest mines. Pro Panja league has given us so much fame that all the wrestlers participating here now have forgotten everything else and adjust focus on performing here. Many other people organize tournaments and think of the arrangements that they will do in the competition but all they do is think and they don’t deliver as promised because of which the arm wrestlers participating in the tournament have to suffer because of it. So instead of thinking that I will do this and that people should just keep doing their job and show the outcome of their work instead of making a show about these things.”

Pro Panja league is one of it’s kind. There was no competition like this and there will not be ever a competition like this. All of this is because the way Parvin sir Ji has managed everything. I have participated in many other big tournaments I don’t want to name those but just want to share an incidence where I won two golds and was promised to get ₹15,000 for 1st rank in my category and ₹25,000 for becoming champion of champions. When I won both the titles all I got was a trophy and no money.

So such kind of incidents has taken place in my life. I don’t want to name any of those tournaments but all I want to say is the facility we get at Pro Panja league is on another level. It gives us all international level stuff. This is a huge opportunity for all arm wrestlers has the league is just in the beginning phase of its journey. I consider myself very much lucky that I get to be part of such a huge event and also by the support of my family, my hard work and most importantly the blessings of my God and my Baba Ji I become the champion the number 1 ranked 100kg in the very beginning of this wonderful journey.”

This competition is the highest form of arm wrestling level I have ever competed at. I am looking forward to competing again and prove my level. I won be competing in any other tournament apart form this because I feel that this is where I belong this is my place this is my proving ground. I can’t go down from this level. The level of talent and potential in this league has set a  bar for me. Due to my Baba Ji, I have got such an amazing platform to prove myself I can’t leave this opportunity at any cost. I want to say this to all young up and comers that whenever you’ll get a big chance to grab it by both your hand and never let it go.”

Sunil Kumar also gave a message to all his fans who support the league and the game and love what he does.

To all the arm wrestlers who want to make to big-league, I just want to tell them to work hard, believe in themselves. And never say that I want to become like this player or that player just work hard and one day you’ll be known by your name. you can not become the next Sunil Kumar but you can definitely become the first you and make your name and yours’s family name famous around the world. Just remember that God does everything for reason and God is behind everyone everything. So never doubt the plan of God and keep working hard. Just like my Baba Ji always say that just keep doing your thing and the rest will happen. Submit yourself in the hands of the god and he’ll guide you to your destiny. I always thank my Baba Ji and y parents for their blessings.”

In the end, Sunil Kumar said, “I just want to say that I never think of the future. Nobody knew that one day we’ll have to face such a pandemic situation where we’ll have to sit at home and do nothing. This is also a perfect opportunity to improve yourself at whatever you do not just by the physical aspect of the game but also by the mental aspect the spiritual way of your body to improve your mental health, I had dealt with lots of issues that disturbed me but when I came across my Baba Ji I become mentally strong. I feel like now nothing can stop me as Baba Ji is looking after me. All I have to do is follow his path practice every day. This situation has given us the chance to connect with our soul at a spiritual level. After seeing so much in my life now since my guru is with me all I do is have faith in the process. In the end, I just want to thank the entire team of Pro Panja League for working hard on and off the scene and making this sport what it is.”