MEET Mr. India J. Muniappan
If you ask me what a person needs the most to become a bodybuilder, this is what I will say:
“He should train just for the sake of finding out how much further he can develop his body and what heights he can scale in physique development.”
There have always been some champions who trained just for their love for the sport and such persons can be seen onstage or offstage even today.
Members of Team Masters were taken aback by the simplicity of one such former national champion and current national judge, J. Muniappan, who stays involved in the sport without clamouring for publicity.
Muniappan: I was born in Salem. My father worked as a clerk in Central Prison, Chennai. I came to Chennai when I was six months old.
Team Masters: When did you start training?
M: I was always into sports right from my school days. I was very good at 100 m dash. As a student of Standard VIII, I started exercising after seeing legendary actor M.G. Ramachandran in the movie ‘Adimaippen.’ My friends encouraged me to exercise and look good. I joined Masters Gym (now defunct) in Ice House at the age of 13. A former champion by the name of Ajmal Khan was instructor there.
TM: Which was your first competition?
M: I first competed as a Standard XII student at the age of 16 in the selection trails for Sub-Junior Nationals. I did not qualify. I could not study further. Being the eldest son in the family and having three younger sisters, I knew it was time I got myself a job. I still wanted to train and develop my body to its full potential. So, I needed a job that would give me freedom to train as well. As I had a good physique and school education, I tried my hand at a recruitment camp in Army at the age of 17 and got selected under general quota.
TM: Where were you posted? What kind of a job was it?
M: It was in 1985 and I worked at Madras Engineering Group, Bangalore, as ‘Havaldar.’ I had to undergo two years of rigorous training at the camp.
TM: Who was your coach in bodybuilding?
M: Major Sardar Khan was the one who encouraged me a lot. My department was very supportive and allowed me to train without my job interfering in any manner. I did not have any ‘coach’ per se. I learnt things observing senior bodybuilders. However, M.E.G.’s gymnastics coach, Nagamalleswara Rao, holds a special place in my heart for helping me a lot.
TM: When did you compete again?
M: I competed in Mr. Karnataka (‘Udaya’) as I was working in Bangalore. It was in 1986 and I placed third in the ‘Tall Men’ category at a bodyweight of 70kg. There is a headquarters in Services for southern region comprising Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa (ATK&G). The physique competitions they conduct are the first events those in Services should participate. I entered that as well and placed fourth against tough competition.
TM: Not bad at all, huh?
M: I was driven to be the best. I trained like a maniac and won Mr. Karnataka in 1987 (Tall Men). I also entered the below-19 Nationals the same year and placed second. Then I won first place in the ATK&G show in 70 kg category and entered the next level of competition for Services personnel, which is known as ‘Southern Command’ and placed first even in that.
(Muniappan continued to enlist his achievements giving us little time to catch our breath – Team Masters)
I competed in Mr. Services in 1988 (70kg) and placed fifth, which was considered a very good placing. I won Mr. Services in 65 kg category in 1989, 90,91,92,93 and 94. I placed second in 95,96 and 97.
In the meanwhile I placed first in Nationals in 1988. I won in ‘Tall Men’ category and the overall as well! I then won first place in Junior Nationals (70 kg) in 1989, which was held in Chennai.
I started experimenting with my bodyweight and competed in various categories. In 1988, I placed third in Senior Nationals in 60 kg category! In 1990, I placed fourth in Senior Nationals in 65 kg class. In 1991, I placed second in 65 kg category once again. In 1992, I placed first in 70 kg category. I also won the prestigious ‘Most Muscular Man of Services’ title in 1992 against very tough competition. I was the first Tamilian to win it.
Meanwhile, I also competed in the selection trails (at Indore, Madhya Pradesh) for World Championship in 1990. Though I was first in 65 kg category, I could not afford for a trip abroad.
(What an irony – Team Masters)
In 1991, I won third prize in the ‘Best Poser of India’ competition in a field of about 400 competitors. (Wow!!!! – Team Masters)
In 1992, I got selected to participate in Mr. Asia that was held in Indonesia. There was lot of confusion about the trip. I was playing cricket on this particular day when I was summoned and told that my visa and tickets were ready! I had only three weeks to get ready and was not prepared at all. Had I been given at least six to eight weeks, I would have placed in top three for sure. I ended up in seventh place.
TM: When did you retire?
M: Much later. I placed second in Senior Nationals in 1993 in 75 kg category and third in 1994.
In 1994, as a challenge, I competed in Mr. Services in 80 kg category and beat B.D. Roy, a very senior champion and kind of superstar among Services bodybuilders! That was a very big challenge and I won that, coming in very muscular, not fat or bloated.
I won the ‘Most Muscular Man of Services’ again in 1996 and placed third in Nationals the same year. In 1997, I was fourth in Nationals. I knew that my body needed a break. I did not compete in 98, 99 and 2000. I opted out of Services, came to Chennai in 2001 and started a gym called Soldiers Gym.
I entered Mr. South India in 2002 in 75 kg category and won. I placed third in Federation Cup the same year and also in 2003 Nationals. I conducted a few city-level and State-level meets on a grand scale to popularise the sport.
I met film star Sarath Kumar in 2004 and he made me his trainer. I then retired from competition and started working with him. We have done five films together.
Now, I train businessmen, policemen, champions and up-and-coming film stars.
TM: Oh my god!!! Three pages of our writing pad are full, jotting down your competition history. How is it that you are not seen much in the media despite all these accomplishments?
M: Honestly, this is my second interview ever. I don’t crave for publicity. I did what I loved and I am content….and…I also intend competing in the masters division sometime…maybe next year…let’s see.
TM: How did you train while you were competing?
M: I used to train on a double-split routine. I worked out three days and took a day’s break (3-on, 1-off schedule).
I used to ride a bicycle to buy provisions for the Army, which was part of my duty. That was cardio in one way. Besides, I also used to sprint at least twice a week and go for swimming. I never got fat in the off-season, only a bit smooth. I could get ready for a show in 45 days. During contest time, I used to sprint, swim and also go trekking every day.
TM: How was your diet?
M: I used to eat about 10 to 15 egg whites, some meat, vegetables, fruits and bread. I had to send major part of my salary to my family and manage my food bill only with a portion of it. But, every time I won an event, my department and Services used to give me grant. They were very generous and that helped me get all my siblings married and discharge my duty as the eldest son of the family. Now, my father is no more. I got married in 1998 and have a daughter who is in Standard IV. I am happily settled.
TM: What advice do you offer the present day competitors?
M: I don’t see many of them doing much cardio. Some of them believe in taking risks using ‘shortcuts’ to achieve water loss and peak muscularity. This will dangerously dehydrate them and take them closer to death. Besides, what is the use if a person looks super-dry but is cramping and unable to pose onstage? I never needed that kind of ‘stuff’ as I could lose all unwanted water or fat through brutal cardio and tanning. I will say some of these fellows should think twice before abusing their bodies. Trust me; all you need are just good supplements like quality protein, amino acids, fat burners, proper diet plans and hard training. And one more thing…..don’t ever complain that you had to spend a lot on quality food and supplements…the sport of bodybuilding does not force anybody to enter its zone. It was your choice and you have to give your body good nutrition. It’s all well spent. The good health, vitality and accomplishment you derive from the sport is worth a lot more.
TM: Can you name some of the champs whom you trained?
M: There have been so many of them…but here are a few names…M. Kamaraj (Mr. India), Ilayaraja (Mr. India), Satish Kumar (Jr. Mr. India, Mr. Tamil Nadu, Federation Cup runner-up), Murthy (Mr. Tamil Nadu , Mr. South India), Ranjith Kumar (Mr. Tamil Nadu, Mr. South India), T. Saravanan (Mr. Tamil Nadu), Karunakaran, Velmurugan, Srinivasan, Kalai and Karthik (all Mr. Tamil Nadu).
TM: We are thrilled to have spoken to a person like you, an accomplished person yet down to earth, honest and simple. We are proud to call ourselves friends of yours.
_C. Lakshmi Kumar