Lessons From Dangal: What A Wrestling Movie Can Teach Us For Our New Year Fitness Goals

Determined to be fitter or learn a new sport this year? These lessons from Dangal are so neat! We suggest you take a little time to think through them.

Determined to be fitter or in better health this year? These lessons from Dangal are so neat! We suggest you take a little time to think through them.

Disclaimer: Spoilers Ahead. If you haven’t watched Dangal, the new Amir Khan starrer, and you plan on watching and hate spoilers, then read no further. If you don’t mind spoilers or don’t plan on watching, then I insist you read!

There are a couple of things that did jar in Dangal, and made me wonder on the message it did not deliver. The movie had a great opportunity and it did not utilize it to its best. The question of vicarious dreams and whether the girls wanted to fight and wanted to be wrestlers themselves or not wasn’t addressed completely and maybe it was beyond the scope of the movie – so I’ll leave it at that.

However, I tend to see things in gray than in black and white, because there is always something one can take away if you look hard enough, and Dangal offers some pretty neat takeaways. This was a sports movie. So, there was plenty that I could relate to with respect to health and fitness and drawing a parallel seemed like the natural thing to do.

Once Mahavir (the dad/coach character played by Aamir Khan) realized he had great potential on his hands, he went about charting a plan with great precision and method. Nothing was left to random. Each was built on the earlier step.

He saw opportunity where there was talent

Mahavir initially thought he had lost his vicarious dream of making his son a world class wrestler, but when he saw his daughters capable of a good fight in them, he adapted and broke through the prison of thought where he once thought only a son could deliver; this, against a village, town, and a society that believed that only men could wrestle.

Lesson: Follow your dream and gut. Stand up against all odds and do not be afraid to challenge the status quo.

He had a timeframe in mind 

When his wife expresses concern as to why he would put the girls through this training to selfishly fulfill his dream, he understands her point of view and agrees. He asks for a year to allow him his way; one year to train them and see if they had the potential to develop into wrestlers.

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Lesson: Always work with a timeframe. Open-ended projects do not have the urgency or commitment that is warranted to fulfill it. Deadlines deliver.

He was methodical about fitness

He didn’t jump right into wrestling moves or weight training. He made them run. They got their stamina levels up to a place where their muscles could handle the training and then the wrestling moves were introduced.

Lesson: Work slow and steady. Build on each step. Learn to be sure of one level before climbing on to the next.

He was a tyrant who restricted distractions

He didn’t allow the girls to dress up, cut their hair short to avoid time spent or the pull of wanting to dress up or look pretty. He refused for them to watch TV, attend weddings and hang out with other girls. None of these are bad or wrong in the grand scheme of things, but they do take away time and mind space, and one cannot afford to lose any focus or energy on anything but the goal while training.

Lesson: Reign the distractions in. There will always be a time when you can catch up. Nothing in the world is so immediate that needs your attention right then and there. Let it wait.

He watched what they ate

He cut their junk food out, no spices, more vegetables, and when he realized they were weak, he added in chicken despite strong opposition at home and not knowing how to cook it. It was good for the body, so he stepped over family values and traditions. No more attachment to that dish except that it provided much-needed nutrition.

Lesson: It’s so important to feed your body right for it to perform at its peak. You will have to conquer certain inhibitions, likes, and dislikes so that your body gets the best quality fuel that it needs. Removing the emotional factor to food goes a long way in eating for the body and muscles and bones and not eating for the tongue.

He trained the girls hard in both mind and body

He trained them in the body, but he always taught them (as we see in bits and pieces of the dialogue) how to portray themselves in the ring. To be quick on their feet, to not give room, to trick, to never give up, to not settle. In the final match, Geeta wins (in a dramatic move) the last round, even as she feels dejected and the burden of her earlier losses weigh upon her, only because she brought in her inner trained strength and knew that self-reliance is the only support she could rely on. (Her dad tells her he can only teach, but she has to fight and survive).

Lesson: The mind, body, and spirit are a bond. Each can perform on their own, but together, they are an indomitable force to reckon with. Strengthen yourself differently, staying positive and focusing on the bigger picture.

He worked around his adversity

Throughout the movie, you see him face hardships; opposition in thought, finances, opportunities denied, being ridiculed, sexism and plenty more. From when he was not given any funds, to how he was barred from meeting his daughter to prep her, he didn’t go on a war or rage or scream for justice. He remained dogged, like a goat, staying focused and letting things bounce off him, being reliant on his own strength and determination and finding ways to work around his obstacles.

Lesson: You will face obstacles. The path to success is almost always paved with them. Losing your time and energy is not prudent. By not allowing it to shake your faith and give up is how we remain steady on our path. It requires mental grit and stamina to hold on, which is a learned skill.

dangal-lessons rads kowthas tunneling thru

No matter what your goal or resolution is, staying true to your desire, goal and work, help maintain the quality of work that you put in. Not every lesson could be applied to your vision, and neither does the above cover all that you need, but it’s a start and a framework within which we can use our instincts, trust our gut, equip ourselves with the combined knowledge and go forth.

Simplifying it down, it really boils down to wearing blinkers, being disciplined and putting in your hard work! When we enjoy the journey, it really doesn’t matter if the goal is achieved or morphed or has evolved into a different meaning altogether, because the journey has done its job.

It’s taken the unready, unprepared you, and made you a thing of beauty. Strong, unflinching, ready and unapologetic for becoming who you are.




About the Author


Rads lives in the suburbs of Washington DC along with her husband, three kids and dog. Profiled on Her Story, she is an optometrist and a data analyst in previous years, and is now playing read more...

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