What’s Gatka?

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Gatka is a martial art practiced by Sikh followers, focusing on physical, mental, and spiritual training. It was taught to Sikh warriors and passed down through generations. Gatka has two forms, ritualistic and sport, and supports a variety of weapons. Its principles include ease of learning, diversity of weapons, and fighting multiple opponents. Gatka is trained in groups and often in a religious atmosphere.

Gatka is a form of martial arts practiced primarily by followers of the Sikh religion. It focuses on physical, mental and spiritual training. The word Gatka literally translates from Punjabi as “one whose freedom belongs to grace”. It is also the name given to the practice stick used in martial art. The practice is no longer used in combat, but like many other martial arts, it has become a form of competition.

According to Sikhism, Gatka was given to Guru Nanak Dev by a divine spirit in the 15th century. This divine martial art was taught to an army of Sikh warriors, and even Gurus of the religion were trained in Gatka, believing in an ideal of a holy warrior. The art was passed down from generation to generation until the 15th when the Shaster Vidiya began training a more ritualistic version for the British Indian Army. Later, the fusion of British and Indian cultures caused the implementation of European fencing rules in Gatka. This led to the formation of two basic forms of art, ritualistic, or rasmi, and sport, or khel.

There are three basic principles of Gatka. These are ease of learning, diversity of weapons and the ability to fight multiple opponents. A primary martial art teaching is the movement of the whole body in unison as a complete weapon and the response without any hesitation. All methods of attack and defense are determined by the current position of feet, hands and weapons. Rasmi Gatka is usually performed in time with a three-beat drum cycle, to help coordinate movement and promote concentration.

The use of weapons involving both the right and left hand is favoured. This practice is believed to encourage the body to work together and show no weaknesses. Masters of the art are often ambidextrous, meaning they can use both their right and left hands with equal skill. Gatka is trained in groups and usually in a religious atmosphere. Institutes exclusively teaching Gatka and sometimes Pehlwani, an Indian style of wrestling, are commonplace in India.

Gatka supports a large variety of weapons, including swords called tulwar, bamboo canes called lathi, and whips, chains, and throwing weapons called chakrams. Because movement patterns, weapon choices, and individual style all play a part in practice, many people who have received the same training have developed their own fighting styles. The sword and shield, and the lathi, are the two most common weapon choices. In battle, Gatka warriors were known for their unmatched fighting skills and great courage.

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