Jaydeep Kadam has been teaching taekwondo to underprivileged kids for free at a municipal school in Chembur, Mumbai, since 2013; over 70 children attend his classes now, and he aims to open his own martial arts school soon.Roshni Balaji
In the world we live in, even children should be able to defend themselves from harm. And martial arts are a very popular and effective form of self-defence, especially when learnt at a young age. However, many kids are not exposed to martial arts because of financial constraints or lack of awareness. Jaydeep Kadam, 31, is trying to change this by providing free classes in taekwondo, a Korean martial art form, to underprivileged children.
Raised in a Mumbai slum himself, Jaydeep knows how lack of opportunities can deter children. Sure that he did not want other children to go through the kind of distress and difficulty he did during his childhood, he made teaching kids self-defence his life’s mission.
Since 2013, Jaydeep has been teaching taekwondo at Thakkar Bapa BMC school in Chembur. He trains children in combat, breath control, concentration, and balancing techniques.
“Over 70 children attend my session every evening; of them, 9 to 10 have won the State Sports Officers Championships. Learning this art form has helped them build confidence, inculcate self-discipline, and develop physical strength and conditioning. It has also ensured that they don’t fall prey to any unhealthy or bad habits. Even if I can be a small positive influence in their lives, I am happy,” Jaydeep Kadam told YourStory.
Jaydeep started learning taekwondo in 1996 when he was in Class 4 in Sri Sanadhan Janam Vidyalaya where daily sessions were organised. Though he was keen to join the classes, his father could not afford to pay the fee.
“My father was a postman and my mother was a homemaker. We didn’t have much left at the end of the month. So, I had decided to drop the idea. But, with some encouragement and initial financial support from my trainers, Robin Menezeus and Mohan Reddy, I started learning. And there was no looking back,” he recollects.
He enjoyed taekwondo so much that he continued practising it for years. He went on to complete a bachelor's of commerce course, followed by a degree in physical training.
Jaydeep received his black belt in taekwondo in 2013, and decided to start teaching underprivileged children in and around the city. One of his biggest challenges was to find an appropriate location to host these sessions. “I approached quite a few schools and pitched the idea of holding martial art classes in their campus, but was turned down by the administration or the local corporation. Later, a BMC school agreed and let me use this campus to teach at 6 pm every day,” he says.
By then, Jaydeep had joined St Xavier’s High School as a Physical Trainer. He put in most of his salary to buy safety equipment for taekwondo, including arm gear, headgear, and jackets. However, this was not enough for 70 children. Since equipment is vital while practising taekwondo, Jaydeep decided to put in extra efforts to earn more.
“I began playing the dhol at several occasions around the city and got a couple of thousands from it. But I needed a lot more money since each equipment kit costs Rs 5,000 and each jacket is priced at Rs 600. Besides, many private martial arts competitions come with an entry free. I have now put up a pitch on Milaap, a crowdsourcing platform, to gather funds.”
Jaydeep Kadam has not only taught these children to defend themselves, but has also helped them open up to challenges and surmount hurdles.
Rohini Gode, 17, has been Jaydeep’s student for four years now. She says these classes have given her a new lease of life as she went on win a bronze medal at the State Sports Officers Championship.
“After learning martial arts, I have forgotten what ‘fear’ feels like. It has helped me become mentally tough. Jaydeep sir did not charge me even a penny for his training sessions. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I would got this kind of exposure due to my humble background. My father works as a security guard and we barely manage to meet our daily expenses,” Rohini explains.
Rahul Kulkarni, who lives in Chembur, has been learning taekwondo since 2013, and is now a trainer himself. “Taekwondo made my life. Jaydeep supported me throughout and honed my skills along the way, and made me who I am today. Now, I teach this at the Jawahar Vidya Bhavan,” says the 19-year-old.
Jaydeep Kadam has empowered these children in several ways by teaching them for free.
“Martial arts, especially taekwondo, can boost energy levels and build self-esteem. These traits are very significant for children who grow up in slums since they are shackled by both people and resources. This is why I started teaching them for free. My dream is to open my own martial arts school and teach a lot more kids for free,” Jaydeep says.