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Anurag Jha

Anurag Jha playing table tennis.
Indore, India
Master's in Fire Protection and Administration
Class of 2017


Indore, India


Infrastructure and Environmental Systems

You never know who might be working out in Belk Gym at UNC Charlotte.  It could be a three-time world record holder, like Anurag Jha.

Growing up in Indore, a city in west-central India, Anurag was enthralled with watching Jackie Chan, Kung Fu and action movies. The stunts and athleticism eventually motivated him to put his own strength and abilities to the test.

Anurag Jha

“I wanted to be Jackie Chan. Whatever I saw him do, I used to do. He would walk on his hands, so I tried walking on my hands. He used to break bricks, so I would break bricks. One time, I saw a video of Bruce Lee doing push-ups on his thumbs and index fingers, so I tried to do it.”

These famous stunt men inspired Anurag to enter the business of breaking world records in unconventional activities -- such as push-ups performed solely with his thumb and index finger.  

Anurag Jha doing a headstand on a beach.

Anurag started doing these push ups almost daily since 2004, when he was in 7th grade. He trained his thumbs to allow for micro-tears in his joint tendons so that they would heal back stronger each time they tore. This made his thumb joints more resistant to breaking, increasing his ability to perform the challenging feat.

Anurag Jha standing with another man in a gym.

In 2010, curious to know the current record for the amount of these push-ups performed, he Googled the answer. After more practice, he contacted the Golden Book of World Records, sending them videos of himself performing the push-ups. Officials from company visited Anurag in-person to witness his talent.

Anurag went on to set three world records. In 2012, he performed the most sit-ups, totaling 7,044 sit-ups in five straight hours. Then he beat the record for most number of thumb push-ups in one minute, performing 15 in :42 seconds. Finally, in 2013, he completed a record-breaking 2,300 squats in one hour.

He is saddened to say that his push-up record has been broken since he set it, but that doesn’t stop him from pushing himself to try again.

Currently, Anurag is trying to break another unusual record: popping the most amount of aluminum cans with his index finger. This time, his aim is to be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

A Multitude of Interests

An accomplished athlete in his homeland of India, Anurag was also a national badminton champion and has four half-marathons and one full marathon under his belt in addition to his three Golden Book of World Record titles for physical feats.

In fall 2015, Anurag came to UNC Charlotte to pursue a master’s degree in fire protection and administration. Anurag hoped to maintain his active lifestyle when he arrived on campus, but he had no idea what opportunities awaited him.

When Anurag went to his first RecFest — University Recreation’s (UREC) annual semester kickoff event showcasing all of their clubs and programs — Anurag was fascinated by the number of opportunities presented and the prospect of being able to join as many clubs as possible.   

“I still feel like I should have been in every club, but there were just too many. Back at my college in India, there were only two to three sports, and I was in all of them. But here at UNC Charlotte, there are too many for me to make time for all of them,” Anurag says with wide eyes and a smile.

Still, he was able to participate in an impressive number of UREC’s club sport and intramural activities.

Anurag was the president of the badminton club as well as a member of club swim, table tennis, Kung Fu, Mixed Martial Arts, Tai Kwon Do and running teams.

Anurag made time to participate in these clubs while maintaining a busy schedule. He balanced these sports and academics while working 24-hour shifts every three days as a firefighter for the Concord Fire Department, working with the National Fire Protection Association to publish important research he conducted while pursuing his master’s.  

“I used to switch every semester, doing two clubs at a time. I loved it. I still feel like I should have been in every club. I knew everyone in Belk Gym and the SAC,” Anurag says.  

Anurag also found himself pleasantly surprised by the fine condition of UNC Charlotte’s courts, fields and equipment. After living in such a reserved and private culture in his home in India, Anurag was grateful for how easy it was to make friends through the sports he participated in with UREC.

“Back in India, our courts didn’t have air conditioning. Here I can play for hours and I don’t sweat. Here, the wooden courts are laminated and I don’t slip. Here, the court is reserved for us and no one can take it away while we play.  Here, the courts are never too crowded. You would be amazed at the difference in the upkeep of courts here versus in India,” Anurag marvels.

A True Passion

Television not only motivated Anurag to break interesting world records. It also motivated him to study fire safety after watching Goofy drive a firetruck in an old Mickey Mouse cartoon.

“Whenever I see something on tv,” Anurag says, “I say ‘I want to do that.’”  

And do that he did. He earned a bachelor’s degree in fire safety in India and knew that he wanted to continue his studies in the United States. UNC Charlotte is one of only six schools in the U.S. that offers the fire protection and administration master’s degree he was seeking. The courses here appealed the most to Anurag’s tailored interest.

Upon his arrival at UNC Charlotte, Anurag also had to learn English while studying for his degree. Again, he called upon his love of television. Watching American shows helped him learn the language. It also helped that his professors were accommodating while he was learning English.  

Group of firefighters standing between two fire trucks.

“All the professors gave us personal attention,“  Anurag says. “They always helped me understand the material. When I first arrived here, my English was really bad, so they allowed me extra time to slowly talk through the material. They scheduled time with me during their office hours to go over any questions, or take more time on my assignments.”

Anurag’s master’s degree required practical experience, so in 2017, he became a firefighter with the Concord Fire Department. Again, he says, his professors were very understanding and flexible, allowing him to take classes online while working his long shifts at the fire department.

Anurag earned his master’s degree in 2017 and began working on his doctorate in Infrastructure and Environmental Systems at UNC Charlotte. However, he developed a close relationship with his advisor who helped him succeed throughout his master’s program, and this past semester his advisor transferred to NC A&T State University in Greensboro, taking Anurag with him.  

But that hasn’t stopped Anurag from being an active Niner.  In fact, Anurag might be setting a new record, making the two-hour I-85 drive back to Charlotte multiple times per week.

Coordinating overnight stays with his friends who are still students at UNC Charlotte, Anurag takes advantage of his alumni status and UREC’s guest policies to play badminton, utilize UREC facilities, and attend University activities. He remains a familiar face to many of the Belk Gym and SAC staff and members.  

“Friends joke with me sometimes and say, ‘Why weren’t you here yesterday?’” he laughs. “While I’m in Greensboro, my friends back here always text me about what’s going on around campus.

I’m lucky to have been able to be here at UNC Charlotte.”  

With that, Anurag heads off to another workout at Belk Gym.


Watch Anurag in action

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