NDA Summer Term begins in Jul. The first sports competition is Boxing. The smell of sweat fills the squadrons during this time.
In our time at NDA academic ability was hardly respected. The macho guys were good cross-country runners or Boxers or both. The Boxers felt like the historic Greek Gladiators.
A seriously flawed but popular belief, which a lot of ex-NDAs will carry to their grave is that a cadet who weighs say 55 kg and reduces to below 49 kg (Light Fly Weight), then he has the strength of a 55 kg guy but weighs only 49 kg. This gives him a great advantage vis-à-vis the potential opponents. This all-pervasive irrational belief is the most significant aspect of NDA Boxing. Cadets are forced to starve and run and exercise wearing 3 jerseys and once they are dead tired, they rest also wearing the 3 jerseys wrapped in a blanket. There are a few sacrificial lambs in each squadron who have to display the squadron spirit and make the weight categories in this manner. I never saw any of these famished and dehydrated guys winning the title in their respective weight categories. After their defeat they could at least get back to eating normally. 10-15 percent of the guys failed to make the weight category. They got special unpleasant treatment from the Boxing Captain and CSM. I will not go into the details of the ingenious methods of punishment. I liked Boxing and also the Gladiator feeling. I had not bought the illogical weight reduction plan and thus opted for Middle Weight (71-75 kg) which was slightly above my normal weight those days: 72-73 kg. I always presented myself on the weight scale with complete clothes and shoes on.
OLQ Type Boxers
Display of Officer Like Qualities (OLQs) is a humorous thing in the entire services. Boxing is supposed to be an arena where a cadet perceives that he can display high OLQ (squadron spirit, courage and so on). Those aspiring for high appointments in NDA often volunteered to Box for this reason. The pure OLQ building Boxers rarely boxed in the final term because the purpose of Boxing had been achieved by then and most of them did not have the spirit displayed in the movie, “Fight Club”. The Academy Cadet Adjutant (ACA) of my course did not box in his final term at NDA but again boxed in his IMA second term because OLQ had to be re-displayed. When I was an instructor at NDA one of the ACAs, I saw was knocked out in the first round in his fifth term. Generally being good athletes, some of these guys did well at Boxing.
NDA has a “Rape Hill” in the cross-country route and a Boxers’ Hill. As the name indicates this tough climb is used by Boxers to build their endurance.
The indoor gym in the Science Block is the venue for the Boxing competition. Bouts are conducted simultaneously in more than one ring. The nature of the game and the squadron spirit is such that the gym is filled with very loud cheering, which can be heard till about a km away.
The guys from Lima Squadron are called “Lions” and those from Kilo Squadron are called “Killers”. Sometimes you may see during the course of a bout a “Lion” running away from the opponent or a “Killer” trying to hide and the respective Squadron guys shouting, “Come on Lion/Killer!”
“Throwing the Towel”
If assessed by the seconds supporting a Boxer, that the player is likely to lose and receive undesired punishment from the opponent there is a provision of “throwing the towel” to acknowledge surrender to the referee. This measure is rarely, if ever, adopted at NDA because it is considered unmanly and the same spirit prevails in the entire Services (fear of low OLQ rating?). As a second of a Boxer, during my post commissioned service, I did “throw the towel” to save my Boxer from undue punishment and invariably got rebuked by some senior officer for having done so. Of course, I never took any cognizance of such rebukes because in my perception I had shouldered my responsibility towards the Boxer well and lived up to the faith he had reposed in me.
Memories for a Lifetime
I still vividly remember my bouts from NDA Boxing days. It takes an experience of one or two competitive bouts to have the mind functioning during the bout. In the initial fights the mind is dazed and the body gets too tight to function optimally. It is a great training for war and hence very appropriately all cadets have to Box at least once in “Novices” Boxing. My “Novices” Boxing opponent in 1979 told my son in 2018, “Your dad was my Novices Boxing opponent”. When we NDA guys meet after ages the Boxing bouts are remembered. NDA Boxing is great for building team spirit and giving memories for a lifetime.
–BY COL M M NEHRU