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Fr Jacob John -Master, in service of God

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Fr Jacob John was often confused about what to tell his students when they addressed him as ‘Master.’ His wards too were in a bit of a dilemma about what to call their teacher – ‘Master’ or ‘Father.’ This dilemma has persisted for the past 15 or more years, ever since Fr Jacob started teaching Karate to the public.

Fr Jacob, an Orthodox priest with the St Mary’s Church, Edamon, near Punalur, has been teaching various martial arts – Karate, Kungfu and Kick Boxing – at many centres in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. When City Express caught up with him at his dojo opposite the AKG Centre, the priest was busy teaching ‘horse stance’ to his students.

Amazed at the sight of a priest teaching Karate, we could not hold back from asking whether teaching martial arts suited a clergy man. He evaded the question as deftly as he would evade a face punch. Later, sensing the connotations of the question, he returned to it with a graceful smile, one that suits a priest more than the martial artist. “If you can cultivate tranquility and spiritual guidance through martial arts, why hesitate?” he says, bringing a more serious look on his face.

Jacob John was inducted to a martial arts school run by his cousin as a young boy. “Only after getting trained in the martial arts did I join the seminary,” he remembers. Earning a black belt under Renshi R Gopakumar, he created his own martial arts school ‘Dragon Karate and Kobudo Academy.’

The man doesn’t shy away from conducting Karate classes dressed in cassocks, his clerical attire. And he has no remorse for taking Karate so close to his heart, although at times he receives criticism from some sections of his community who say he was embarrassing them by teaching martial arts.
Fr Jacob has a different take on the issue.

“My tryst with spirituality began after practising Karate,” he says. According to him, this indifference to martial arises out of ignorance.

“Whether as a priest or a master, my duty is the same, to guide people. A true spiritual mentor should make use of all the available options he has. I don’t hesitate to introduce my students to new vistas of learning by providing them basic knowledge of Reiki, Pranic Healing and Yoga,” he says.

For this purpose, he started the Chaithanya Healing and Training Centre at Kottarakkara.

He had also conducted a month-long yoga camp for the public in Punalur during the month of Karkidakom. The revered season is suitable for treatment and physical maintenance, he says. Apart from that, all official functions of his academy begin by lighting the lamp, which is a thoroughly Indian tradition. Fr Jacob is adept in blending the local culture with his Christian beliefs in the same manner he incorporated Kalaripayattu to his syllabus.

Source: The New Indian Express dtd Saturday 27 Aug. 2011

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