NewsX was recently joined by Mr Arpan Dixit, Global Head, CatFit, and Captain Yashika H. Tyagi for a special series on ‘Mental Toughness & Performance Enhancement’ presented by CatFit. This series provided a holistic conversation around mental health, mental toughness and training one’s mind. This series gains special importance because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect it has had on individuals, as well as their mental and physical well-being.

This is where CatFit steps in, as their team joined NewsX to talk about various aspects of an individual’s health and how CatFit, as an organization works to provide people with military and Special Forces style training of mind and body and how this can be applied to our daily lives.

Talking about CatFit and the MAST technique, Arpan said, “MAST is an acronym for Military Application and Special Forces Tactics. It’s a four-fold approach where first and foremost, we go to schools, colleges, universities, sporting houses and teams as well as corporate business houses. What we do is, we try and identify the current state of mental health, emotional health, psychological health and physical health. These four are interrelated and we use them in sync and can confuse mental health with psychological health and psychological health with the entire physical fitness but all four are different. Our psychologists from the defense forces intelligence work with top corporate houses across the world. There are a series of questionnaires prepared to evaluate different aspects and once these are identified, we counsel them. This is the first part of our mass training”.

Arpan then went on to talk about mental training, what it is and how it’s done. He said, “After identifying issues like depression, fewer levels of resilience or lesser abilities to cope with adversity, we take them through a series of exercises which are mental, physical and psychological. We do these at our camps, in-house and even on the premises of the corporate house concerned. These are physical and mental exercises. We can train the mind to do what we want it to do. The mind is what invented the computer and it is the brain behind artificial intelligence, so there’s no reason why the brain can’t supersede everything else around”.

Joining in the conversation, Captain Yashika shared how she got involved in the concept of leadership training at CatFit. She said, “I’m a lady officer from very initial batches of the Indian army and joined in 1994. I did difficult postings in high altitude areas and extremely cold climates. I was the first lady officer from logistics to be in the battle zone in Operation Vijay, Battle of Kargil. After I hung my boots, I did a lot of work with private and public organizations but I wanted to do more than that. Something where I can add my mindset, my service experience into something productive. In 2017, I was working with an international university in Pune and at this time I connected with Col. Krishnan. Col. Krishnan and I trained together in Chennai and he invited me to speak on the forum of CatFit, it had just begun! I gave it a shot and my first workshop in a college in Chandigarh made me realize that this is my calling and this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

“It is so wonderful, this girl in Chandigarh was listening very closely and intently during the workshop. I could see that she was actually touched by what I was saying. Soon after there was wonderful news when the girls ended up topping CDS but also got All India Ranking 1. This real-life impact shook me and changed me”, said Captain Yashika.

Throwing some light on CatFit’s goals, Mr Dixit said, “The idea of CatFit is performance enhancement, it is the reason for the existence of CatFit. I could say that it is the very essence of our existence as far as an organization is concerned. When we started in 2017, we started with primarily training sports teams, international and national athletes. Once we saw what the members of Special Forces and others do in the training, we imparted this to international cricketers and members who are currently a part of the Indian team. We saw the results, received feedback and then we realized that this is something which shouldn’t be limited to sports, it can be passed onto students. Even in corporates, we take senior management and train them in workshops. The feedback that we got from them about this being practically applicable”.

There is a difference between training students versus sportsmen and even those belonging to corporate organizations, elaborating this, Captain Yashika said, “We work with the philosophy of MAST. We firmly believe in two things- the mind is trainable, it is the basis of all the success and progress of a person. The second thing is that the army has set the gold standard for performance, for handling stress and performing under different kinds of challenging environments. So, we have clubbed different kinds of learning from the army and taken MAST forward. When we deal with military applications and Special Forces and impressionable minds together, it gives us a magic formula. When the army into a different environment, they have training and army teaches us that training is a bedrock. The more you swear in peace, the less you bleed in war. When we go to students and provide them with the training of handling different kinds of stress environments, adversity, depression, the stress of life, college life and corporate life, we merge it together for the best kind of results”.

Once the tests are done, the results provide a person’s status in all areas. Talking about the structure of the program of individual and team training, Captain Yashika said, “ We customize the program as per the requirement of the participants. For example, when we go to schools, we have the widest and best array of psychologists, the person to be helped is the student. If we find a student which requires more therapy or a group which will benefit from a team effort, our psychologists and leaders like me shift from individual students to class level to school. We are trying to build a warrior mindset. A mindset that is full of resilience, it can bounce back and a mindset which can fight the unforeseen circumstances. We want to build a mindset of courage, of discipline and purpose. These three things can make you survive anything from all walks of life”.

Talking about how to approach CatFit, whether they do special camps, webinars and how it works, Arpan said, “It is two-fold. Firstly, we have a marketing team which approaches corporate houses, sports teams, schools, colleges and universities. Second if an individual or a small group wishes, we’re just a call away and can be reached by mail. The program can also be tailor-made according to the requirement. We have many individuals from sports backgrounds who are training for the Olympics or World Cups or national games. We train them individually but we also do group training and those who wish to connect with us can log into the website, social media and drop a message”.

Our generation has not gone through any war hardships like our ancestors but we have faced a global difficulty during Covid and different kinds of stress related to it. Speaking about what CatFit brings to society to cover this collective experience of Covid, Arpan said, “As far as Covid-19 is concerned, four psychologists who work with us went on to conduct a study for the Government of India and the Education Ministry, this was done to identify the impact of Covid-19 on people with six sectors being identified. Now that we have the results with us, and what we have been doing for the last four years has come together. We are now in a better position to reach out to people. The Indian government has also taken out books after these results, these are guide books and posterity as well. These six books act as a basis of reference and see the data and reactions of the past and what could’ve been done in the past”.

Talking about what CatFit provides, and people being more receptive of this and interested in this, Arpan said, “When we started out, there were few people who understood what we were doing. A problem with calling it ‘mental health’ in India is that the analogy that people have here is, mental means mad. Mental health is different from someone being mad and what we do is to identify how people are feeling at time, why they’re feeling that way and what can be done to make them feel better and make them tougher, so that they don’t fall back into it again”.

Arpan further explained, “The courses are stretched across the year and we keep going back to them. The channels are always open for those who we’ve worked with. They can always call us back, the exact person back and give their feedback to them. They will have the results at hand and will probably put you through the testing again to see what has gone wrong. It’s an evolving process, not a one-time event”.

CatFit is also involved with Central government’s ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’ initiative. Talking about their involvement and what it means, Captain Yashika said, “This is some interesting work that we did. We went to the hinterlands of Uttarakhand and conducted the program under that banner. Uttarakhand falls under the seismic zone and there had been a huge earthquake in Uttarkashi. Taking a cue from that, we decided to give the girls first aid, CPR along with mental toughness training. This would empower them in case there is any requirement of first responders. After the first day, the girls were enthusiastic and were volunteering, they were ready to go to different villages and share their knowledge. These girls may come from small places but they have a level of confidence, we need to be the wind beneath their wings. They are ready to take on the world with a push and some guidance. As partners in Corporate Social Responsibility, we would like to take various facets of how to empower the girl child of our country”.

We think we understand the concept of military self-defense, but a lot of such workshops already take place. Talking about how CatFit and its techniques are different from the others, Arpan said, “First, the self-defense primary formats we’ve heard of, these formats are now, sports. When anybody is taught martial arts and sports, they are taught the rules and regulations and laws of the sport. In such cases, there are more cant’s than do’s. Whereas, when we look at military self-defense, it means that no matter what it takes and how it takes to get out of a particular situation. Military self-defense is basically taking the best from all martial arts, putting it together in a realistic format. Understanding the real problems which can be faced by women and children, the real threat scenarios. People who have faced such scenarios in their lives, come and teach it, the training level is different, as the mental level of confidence is different as compared to any martial arts sports”.

Watch the show telecast here: