Essay on Physical Training:
By common consent, education is three-fold: mental, physical, and moral. Education is intended to develop not only a scholar’s mind but also his body and his soul. A merely literary education that shatters the health and kills the soul is not much good. Mahatama Gandhi’s views on this subject are crystal clear. He says, “I hold that true education of the intellect can come only through a proper exercise and training of the bodily organs, for example, hands, feet, eyes, nose, etc. In other words, intelligent use of the bodily organs in a child provides the best and quickest way of developing his intellect. But unless the development of the mind and body goes hand in hand with a corresponding awakening of the soul, the former alone would prove to be a poor, lop-sided affair.” The physical, intellectual, and moral sides of education constitute one indivisible whole. The proper development of all three- intellect, body, and heart- is needed to make a full man.
|A sound mind in a sound body was the ideal of the Greeks.|
But in India, the present system of education, designed as it was by Macaulay to produce English-knowing clerks on a mass scale, concerned itself only with intellectual education. Body-building was thrown into the background while as for the education of the heart and the soul, it had no place in our schools and colleges. The result was a purely bookish education, in which the student filled their brain with bits of knowledge and became physical wrecks. This did not worry our English masters, for an emasculated nation is easier to govern, and educated young men with broken health and bent backs are more willing slaves. The result is that our colleges are crowded with young-old men, with lustreless faces, pale cheeks, and sunken eyes, burning the midnight oil to pass the examination. The physical stalwarts are superior to such half-alive scholars.
|Can the mind be healthy, if the body is sick;|
Can the mind live, if the body dies?
Kalidas, the greatest Sanskrit poet, says that the body is the first means to do religious deeds. Great religious leaders and prophets have been physical giants. Lord Krishna was the greatest warrior in the War of Mahabharata and could win battles single-handedly. Where Lord Krishna was, victory was sure to come. Shri Ram Chandra was the hero of the battle against Ravan. The physical strength of these heroes was a miracle in itself.
Free India has to be a nation of strong and sturdy people. As Pandit Nehru says, “Every child of India shall have to be a soldier of freedom.” No country can afford to keep a sufficiently large standing army. In the two world wars, millions of bright boys joined the army. It was not the professional soldiers who won the war but the young men from the universities and the professions who responded to the call of the country and won laurels in the war. Only full-blooded young men, who are bubbling with bravery and patriotism, can fight for their country’s freedom. Of what use are the sickly men, half alive and half dead, who are a nuisance to themselves and a curse for their country?
Physical training was a part of education in ancient India. Ten thousand students studied at Nalanda University and took exercise in the open air of jungle life. When the gurus taught under the shade of the trees and the students studied far away from their parental homes, and hundreds of cows were kept for the establishment, surely health and physical culture were not neglected.
In our colleges, physical training is not possible for such large numbers. All students pay the game’s subscription, and only a few members of the first eleven get a chance to play. Thus all pay, while a few play. Colleges have hundreds or even thousands of students on their rolls. No colleges can have such extensive grounds for providing games facilities for all of them. A professor can lecture in a crowded class, but no gymnasium or sports club can accommodate hundreds of boys. Tennis is too costly a game for a poor country, yet only four boys can play at a time on a tennis court. The result is that when a few play, hundreds watch the game and clap their hands and shout their loudest. They seem to get more fun out of the match than the actual actors in the play.
The University tournaments are meant to encourage physical training. Colleges train teams of cricket, hockey, football, or volleyball players. Tournaments keep alive the spirit of competition and healthy rivalry. There are tennis tournaments and wrestling and kabaddi matches. In addition, there are athletic meets and there are dozens of items like hundred yards race, half a mile or mile race, shot put, javelin throw, hammer throw, and other track and field events.
Due importance is attached to proficiency in games in the matter of higher posts and appointments. A hockey captain or a football captain is given preference in army jobs. In admission or in recruitment, sports qualifications are given great weight. Even teachers or professors who are sportsmen get better jobs on the sports ticket. They can organize games and run the sports club and hence their usefulness and price are greater than those of mere bookworms. In all competitions like the I.A.S. or P.C.S., they have a viva voce examination. In the interview, the personality and the physical build of a boy get more marks. A tall, handsome youth, having a broad chest and radiant health, is sure to make a better impression than a sickly scholar, who has an owlish look and who never handled a hockey stick for fear of being hurt or who never played football or took exercise lest time should be wasted which he could more usefully employ in cramming some book.
Games provide a welcome change from the dull monotonous life of studies. The basic scheme of education envisages education through physical work or basic craft. For instance, a boy studies through the medium of hand-spinning or hand-weaving. The boy would weave the cloth. His counting and his questions of addition and multiplication will be about the cloth that he is making. He will solve questions on profit and loss and also in terms of the cloth woven by him. This scheme is literary education and physical training combined into one.
The Greeks had the highest civilization in ancient times. They started the Olympiads or Olympic games. Even today World Olympics are held after every four years. The idea of the Olympic Games is borrowed from the Greeks by modern people. In the World Olympics, the Indian Hockey Team has been the world champion since 1928. They have never been beaten. India again won the world championship in hockey at Melbourne in 1956.
Games promote better understanding between nations. The Cricket Matches between the nations have brought the two countries closer. Sports serve as a link to bind all the peoples of the world.
Specimens of art sing praises of physical culture. The Greek paintings and Greek sculptures show the “body beautiful”. The great painter, Raphael, made paintings of the Madonnas-Virgin Mary with baby Christ in her arms. A healthy mother with a healthy baby is the greatest beauty. The stone busts show such beautiful human bodies. This is the ideal set before us by art.
Matthew Arnold defined culture as the harmonious development of all the faculties. Culture means the development of the body, the mind, and of the soul. What is the use of scholarship without physical fitness? Imagine a fat man whose belly is like a drum, and who can hardly walk. This is not an image of a cultured person. Nor is a wrestler, who develops his body at the expense of other faculties a cultured person.
Health is beauty. Physical culture lends grace and beauty even to a woman’s body. Sports teach us discipline and teamwork; they raise our morale, and they teach us to put on a smiling face even in our defeat.
Students have limitless energy. They can move heaven and earth. Students in their thousands are taking part in Community Projects and Shram Dan. The N.C.C. cadets have dug canals and drains. Students have made village roads and canals; they dig manure pits and deepen the village ponds. They are building a new India and getting physical exercise into the bargain.
Physical training is the pride of the common man, it is a necessity for a student, and it is the life breath of a soldier. If soldiers are weaklings, victory is far off:
|“Give me no light, great heaven, but such as turns|
To energy of human fellowship:
No powers beyond the growing heritage
That makes complete manhood.” ………………….George Eliot