This fitness enthusiast is bringing back the ‘OG Indian workout’ using gadas, mudgars, and other traditional equipment

Bengaluru-based Rishabh Malhotra’s brand, Tagda Raho, has training dugouts that are blending modern workouts with traditional equipment.

ByAnagha Maareesha

Published Jul 28, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdatedJul 28, 2023 | 10:00 AM

Rishabh Malhotra's Tagda Raho has dugout and training areas in Bengaluru, and also retails their signature, specially-crafted wooden mudgars. (Supplied)

Bengaluru-based Rishabh Malhotra was an ultra-endurance cyclist when a debilitating nerve condition threw a spanner in the works of his fitness journey. But that didn’t hold back this 36-year-old, who dug deep into the roots of Indian fitness regimens and picked up a mudgar (an Indian wooden club).

As he discovered the wonders of this equipment, it sparked an idea to start his fitness brand Tagda Raho.

Tagda Raho blends traditional equipment, such as the mudgar, with more Western approaches to strength training and weight lifting. The brand today has dugout and training areas in Bengaluru, and also retails their signature, specially-crafted wooden mudgars.

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Over a Saturday morning training session in Ulsoor, South First caught up with Rishabh. Excerpts from the conversation:

Q. What was the inspiration in using traditional equipment?

Rishabh was an ultra endurance cyclist when a debilitating nerve condition threw a spanner in the works of his fitness journey.

Rishabh was an ultra-endurance cyclist. (Supplied)

A. I’m a firm believer that India has a lot to offer to the world of fitness. Yoga has obviously been one of our greatest exports.

But when it comes to strenght training, India is not spoken of. Our history and legacy in strength training is phenomenal and this particular equipment has a major role to play in it.

Before the Western world decided to actually launch it and call it their own, I thought I should probably do that first so that it stays within its Indian legacy.

Q. How did you first use a mudgar?

A. The inspiration to use a mudgar and to start this entire fitness format actually began because of an injury. I was diagnosed with a condition called Brachial Neuritis — a rare condition which resulted in 70 percent paralysis of my left arm.

For me, who was always into ultra-endurance events, this was a big setback. I tried multiple things including physiotherapy, underwater therapy, but nothing really worked.

As I began studying strength and conditioning, my mind constantly wandered toward traditional Indian equipment because of the way the weight is distributed.

Rishabh’s team ensures that they start with weights that are shorter. (Supplied)

My gut feeling kept telling me that this can help me. The effort required to lift and swing an equipment like this, where all the weight is stacked on one side, is different from the kind of equipment that I was being exposed to.

And that’s when I started looking for one, even though it wasn’t the easiest to source. As I practised those movements, in three months, I was able to recover the loss of strength in my arm, my motor function, and sensation loss.

That is when I knew that the equipment was capable of a lot more. I had to create my own movements given the knowledge I had with strength and conditioning.

Soon, I created over 50 different movements and put it under the programme that I had designed.

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Q. While designing this programme, what are the safety regulations and protocols that you looked into?

A. When I was designing the programme, the first thing I had to ensure is that people need to understand that the weights in the traditional Indian equipment like the mace, the gada, and the mudgar cannot be compared to the weights they are used to.

As I said earlier, the weight is all stacked on one side. So, the regular 4-5 kg equipment will end up feeling more like 8-10 kg when you start swinging it because of the added torque.

In the programme, we ensure that we start with weights that are shorter, which means that the weight distribution and the torque is easier to manage. The weights don’t go above 2 kg for the first few sessions.

After that, based on individual history and movement analysis, we move them up to higher weights. It’s not a one size fits all sort of scenario.

Rishabh with cricketer Robin Uthappa.

Rishabh with cricketer Robin Uthappa. (Supplied)

Q. What were the challenges, if any, in blending this traditional Indian equipment with modern applications?

A. I didn’t find the blending of this traditional Indian equipment with modern applications challenging.

The task is bigger when it comes to mindsets. Because this equipment is associated with a certain kind of sport, which is usually wrestling or kushti. There is a certain stereotype that comes with it.

The moment you see this equipment, the first reaction is, “oh is this an akhada.” And of course, I want to give all the credit to the akhadas — they have kept this tradition alive. Thanks to them, we are still able to access the equipment. But people need to realise that the application of this equipment goes far beyond just the akhada.

It is a bigger challenge to break that mindset.

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Q. How has the journey been so far? You have had some high profile clients.

Milind Soman training with Tagda Raho mudgars

Milind Soman training with Tagda Raho mudgars. (Supplied)

A. There have been many professional athletes and sporting teams that have validated our movements. We were lucky that when Rahul Dravid was heading the National Cricket Academy, he saw what we were doing. He invited us over to the NCA for a demo and he liked what he saw.

He got us to coach the strength and conditioning staff at the NCA because he felt that the movements that we created had direct application to the game. This was a big achievement.

Apart from that, we have had the privilege of training the staff at Lucknow Super Giants, the IPL team. We also had the opportunity to work with Jonty Rhodes and Andy Flower. It helps us go one step further to help achieve our dream that everyone should be using equipment like this.

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