Introduction to Gatka
The dance of the Sword
Gatka (Punjabi: ਗਤਕਾ Urdu: گٹکا gatkā) is the name of an Indian martial art associated with the Sikhs of the Punjab region. It is a style of stick fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords. The Punjabi name gatka properly refers to the wooden stick used. The word originates as a diminutive of Sanskrit gada “mace”.
The style originated in later 19th century, out of sword practice in the British Indian Army, divided in two sub-style, called rasmi (ritualistic) and khel (sport) from the 1880s. There has been a revival during the later 20th century, with an International Gatka Federation was founded in 1982 and formalized in 1987, and gatka is now being popularized as a sport of sikh martial art and is often shown during Sikh festivals. Since this revival, the term gatka has sometimes come to be extended to “Sikh martial arts” more generally, including the use of various weapons, more properly called Shastar Vidiya (Punjabi ਸ਼ਸਤਰ ਵਿਦਿਆ shastar vidiyā, from Sanskrit śastra-vidyā “martial arts”). The term in this sense, especially as used by Niddar Singh since 2002, denotes historical martial arts reconstruction of 16th to 18th century Sikh fighting styles, even though the term may also be used of Indian martial arts in general
Gatka can be practiced either as a sport (khel) or ritual (rasmi). The sport form is played by two opponents wielding wooden staves called gatka. These sticks may be paired with a shield. Points are scored for making contact with the stick. The other weapons are not used for full-contact sparring, but their techniques are taught through forms training. The ritual form is demonstrated and is performed to music during spiritual ceremonies, or as part of a theatrical performance. A practitioner of gatka is called a gatkabaj while a teacher is addressed as Guru or Gurudev.
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