There's no denying that in a cricket-centric society where Indians worship Sachin and Dhoni it's difficult for any alternative sport to grab attention. The past year, combat sports have left their mark in India, with the sport set to see an increase in participation and interest in the years to come.

Kick-boxing and Krav Maga expert Sameer Bakshi says “There are many centres in most states across the country, which thus allow many more to access into it’s awareness and ability. It’s still miles away from popularity in comparison to cricket but due to it’s practicality in street situations as well as fitness it’s gaining popularity.”

India even has it’s own The Super Fight League for boxing which is the second largest league in the world. It was founded by actor Sanjay Dutt and businessman Raj Kundra. Similarly Krav Maga was introduced in India by Mr. Vikram Kapoor by establishing Krav Maga India Team.

Another major contributor to the recent rise can be credited to a trend of Bollywood films that promote these sports like Dangal, Sultan, Saala Khadoos and Brothers. The success of these movies generates a platform for discussion of these sports.

When one hears of the achievements of Sakshi Malik in wrestling or Vijender Singh in boxing it fills one with a sense of pride and along with that generates a sense of curiosity and interest in the sport as well. The medal does not only bring honor with itself but a boost to these sports as well.

The growth of combat sports in India is also questioning the tag of "masculinity" attached to it by society. Initially these sports have been male-dominated as they have historically and systematically excluded women but the situation is changing for the better. The stigma attached to sports like boxing, weight lifting, judo etc is taking a back seat. Boxing, in particular is widely known and participation of women in this is huge, thanks to legends like Mary Kom, L.Sarita Devi, Lekha K.C.

National level boxing champion Shivani Dahiya explains "Indian boxing has a great future provided the women boxers at the international stage are given equal status (owing to only three and six seats at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games respectively). Where men on the contrary enjoy full 10 seats!"

The increased presence of basic centers and publicized seminars all across the country on a regular basis is one way of promoting these combat sports. Multiple alternate fitness centres have come up in competition to traditional treadmill and weightlifting gyms that inculcate elements of kick-boxing, muay-thai, and karate in their routine workouts.

As the name suggests, combat sports is a competitive fighting sport . Determining the winner depends on the particular contest’s rules. Combat sports were first recorded in the Olympic Games of 648 BC with pankration. Pankration required competitors to use punching, striking, choking and grappling techniques. A winner was decided by submission, death or unconsciousness of an opponent.

The Combat sports events and championships are held on a global stage but in their evolution, a lot of rules have been implemented to make them less dangerous. Modified modern combat sports in the 21st century include Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Boxing, Kick-boxing, Karate, Judo and Muay Thai. A combination of these skills together forms Mixed Martial Arts.

MMA features a multi-discipline format. Combat sports face an exclusive set of challenges to their popularity as people tend to perceive it as "aggressive" and "violent" due to the contact culture and sparring involved in it. However in the past couple of years combat sports have enjoyed growing popularity in India as one realizes the advantages it provides. Combat sports teach skills of conflict resolution, discipline, self defence and thinking on your feet. It also increases physical activity and enhance one's fitness. This is crucial in the era of people being glued to their TVs and phone screens.

The specialty of Combat Sports is that unlike other sports it emphasizes the connection between mind and body. It improves physical as well as mental health as one learns to listen to their body and significantly improve their reflex actions. The benefits include improved stamina, strength, endurance as well as flexibility. The punching, kicking and grappling the opponent gives one a sense of self confidence and results in increased self esteem as people gain faith in their capabilities to defend themselves if need be. They develop a sense of patience and determination under high-pressure situations as well as improve their core strength. It helps achieve a stronger body and an active mind that performs as per demand.

These sports real life applicability, their focus on uplifting both mind and body , and the rising end of both societal and sexist stigma towards them all point to one thing in conclusion : combat sports are the next big thing in fitness , and you'd better get on the train while you can.