Learning From The Best

We talk to Ramalingam Kaliaperumal, athletics coach at GEMS Modern Academy, about why children should learn karate and how he is playing his part to promote it.

Ramalingam Kaliaperumal has been an athletics coach at GEMS Modern Academy (GMA) for 14 years and is a passionate and committed teacher. Being somewhat of a hard task master doesn’t stop students from signing up to be under his mentorship, and even spurs them on to reach their potential.

His drive and discipline can be put down to his dedication to training in karate since the 1970s. He competed in his first International Competition in Tokyo in 1993 and has been actively involved in the international circuit ever since. In 2016, he won two bronze medals in kata and kumite in the 8th World Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Championship in Mexico, and in 2018, he refereed the 15th Asian Pacific Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Federation Championship in Jakarta.

He feels strongly about learning karate from a young age. ”Self-defense is very important, and karate helps students maintain their health and fitness. They can also face life head-on, without fear,“ he said.

To date, his regimented practice sessions last four to five hours a day even if it means practicing after work until 9pm. He is currently a black belt sixth Dan, and this year he refereed the ninth Shito-Ryu Karate-Do International Championships, held in Tokyo from 15-17 March. Men and women from around 50 countries participated in this prestigious event.

Ramalingam is currently the Head of Shito-Ryu Karate-Do in the UAE and is authorised to develop and promote the branch of karate throughout the country. This mandate falls under the Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Federation, with permission from the Minister of Youth and Sports. He grew awareness of the sport by offering training sessions at GMA with the support of the principal before expanding to other schools in the UAE.

GMA recently took part in a karate championship held in partnership with ESM, with Ramalingam’s students winning eight out of the 12 trophies across the competition’s four categories, though it is unlikely all the students will pursue the sport to its top level.

Ramalingam extended his teaching to include self-defense classes for girls at the school, run twice a week. The number of attendees from Grades 9 to 12 varies, however, as students attend self-defense classes if they do not have other after-school activities. He said similar benefits of karate apply to his self-defense lessons; girls will improve their health and fitness and increase their confidence.