Indian martial arts !

Influence of India’s Vedic culture, Buddhism & Martial Arts :

* Martial Arts originated in India but later became prominent in China. The Indian origin of Martial Arts is verified by the fact that some of Kung Fu’s fighting position terminologies – still used by some masters today – are original 5,000-year-old Sanskrit names.

* Buddhism originated in India around 3,500 years ago. Shortly after the original Buddhists from India took Vedic culture to China, the Chinese Taoist tradition integrated this science into their culture

* India’s 5,000-year-old Ayurveda medicine cures diseases by treating the body’s life-force centre known as
prana, and the more recent Chinese medicine similarly corrects health problems by treating the ‘chi’, the body’s life-force centre.

* Feng Shui, one of the ways to correct a disturbed chi in the house is to regularly chant nine times the mantra: Om Ma Knee Pad Me Olm. Reciting a mantra preceded by the syllable ‘om’, which invokes transcendence, comes from nowhere else but the Vedas.

* In Chinese and Indian medicines we find similar parallels. 

* The Art of Meditation and Yoga originated from India

* The World's first University was established in Takshila, India, in 700BC. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects. The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century BC was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.

India is a peninsula from south Asia with a very generous nature and an exuberant fauna. This country is full of legends, and one of these tell us that a prince in 5000 BC was dedicated to the study of animal behavior, analyzing their defense systems and interpreting their movements. From these studies derived different techniques that could be used by man, but their development costed the human sacrifice of many slaves, to discover and localize vital points of the human being and to experiment the efficiency of their combat methods. According to the books of the "Vedas", the first inhabitants of India were the MELANIOS, these were a set of four books that were wrote in Sanskrit, and where "Veda" means knowledge. it was wrote in the 10th century BC.

India's KASTRIYA class (that could be compared with the Japanese samurais or with the knights from Europe), contributed in a very important way to the cultural development of India.  This class, like all warriors practiced a combat method, that in this case was called VAJMAMUS, that means "closed fist is hard". The investigations say that this art had a great similarity with karate and it even had different styles, these were:

The practitioners wetted their hands with milk and then striked fragments of marble with their fists, this act of wetting the hands with milk was a way of purification, because milk was considered sacred.

The first documented testimonies that prove the existence of fighting systems are in a text written in a Buddhist language with an Indian origin called "The Sutra of Loto". It’s author is anonymous and in Japanese it is known as HOKKE-KYO. This document speaks of another fighting art called "NATA" that means virile character, possibly practiced by a class before the KASTRIYAS, the TCATRIAS. All of the studies done over this art have lead to the same conclusion, that their techniques are very similar to karate and Chuanfa. It is also known that the monks from Tibet about 500 AD practiced a fighting art called NONANORAKU and one of these monks should have taught it to BODHIDARMA who developed. It is also thought that BODHIDARMA wrote the ICHIN

[Kalari or KalariPayatu & Marma Shastra, Thang-Ta (Cheibi Gad-Ga), Silambam, Gatka, Thoda]

Indian Martial Arts Backdrop/History :

"It is in the poetic histories - the RAMAYANA and the MAHABHARATA, that we find the earliest reference to Indian arms. ".

Note :
Bodhidharma and Zen Buddhism. Attaining strength and power was also of interest to Bodhidharma (c. A.D. 5th-6th century), an Indian monk who is said to be the originator of the Shaolin boxing tradition and the father of the martial arts. Believed to have been a member of the warriors/rulers caste of India, Bodhidharma brought with him a brand of Buddhism known as Zen, which advocated mental control and meditation as means to enlightenment.

Taoism (with its emphasis on blending with the course of nature), religious Taoism (with its emphasis on using breath control and meditation to tap into and control chi), and Bodhidharma's Zen Buddhism (with its emphasis on mental control, meditation, and physical discipline) serve as the philosophical/ religious foundation for the various martial arts. 

Ancient India - Sports & Games :

Games like, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Playing Cards, Polo, the martial arts of Judo and Karate had originated in India and it was from here that these games were transmitted to foreign countries, where they were further developed. 

Kalaripayat from Kerala was transmitted to China by a sage named Boddhidharma in the 5th century The Chinese called him Po-ti-tama He taught this art in a temple This temple is today known as the Shaolin temple Thus Judo, Karate, Kung Fu and other similar marshal arts which are today identified with the far-east actually originated from India. 

At times the changes made in the original nature of the Indian sport-forms were so many and so fundamental that the game lost all similarity with its original form in India. 

Ancient India claims to have been the origin of Judo and Karate. 

Something similar to karate was called Kalaripayate. 

This art from seems to have travelled from India to the countries of the far-east alongwith the Buddhist religion. Buddhists monks who travelled barefoot and unarmed to spread the gospel of Buddha seem to have accepted this art with alterations suitable to the philosophy of nonviolence. Such a technique of defence would have been necessary for them as they travelled individually or in small groups in foreign lands during which they were exposed to dangers from bandits and fanatics from other religions. Buddhist monks seem to have tempered the originally violent character of this art. The violent and exterminative nature of Kalaripayate is evient from the daggers and knives that are used. Unlike Kalaripayate, Judo and Karate do not allow the use of lethal weapons. 

The aim of a Karate practitioner is mainly to disarm and disable his opponent without mortally wounding him. This can be looked upon as a reflection of the Buddhist attitude towards life. Further both Judo and Karate are deeply interwoven with meditation unlike other martial arts like boxing, wrestling, fencing, etc. The concentration aspect in Judo and Karate perhaps stems from this. Both Judo and Karate are sought to be kept as arts to be used for just purposes for pro tection of the weak, etc., 

The oath that every student of these disciplines has to take is evidence of this. A teacher of Judo or Karate traditionally commands deep respect of students and a lesson always starts with a bow of the students to the teacher. The teacher here is not looked upon only as a coach as in western martial arts like boxing and fencing. This relationship between a teacher and student in Judo and Karate could have its roots in the Guru-Shishya tradition of India. 

Thus it is quite possible that these martial art forms originated in southern India and were transmitted to China, Korea and Japan by Buddhist monks. But it has to be conceded that they were neglected in India where like Buddhism they atrophied and today the world considers them to be a legacy bequeated by the countries of the far-east. 

Hindu military science :  

Hindu military science recognizes two kinds of warfare - the dharmayuddha and the kutayuddha. Dharmayuddha is war carried on the principles of dharma, meaning here the Ksatradharma or the law of Kings and Warriors. In other words, it was a just and righteous war which had the approval of society. On the other hand, kuttayuddha was unrighteous war. It was a crafty fight carried on in secret. The Hindu science of warfare values both niti and saurya i.e. ethical principles and valor. It was therefore realized that the waging of war without regard to moral standards degraded the institution into mere animal ferocity. A monarch desirous of dharma vijaya should conform to the code of ethics enjoined upon warriors. The principles regulating the two kinds of warfare are elaborately described in the Dharmasutras and Dharmasastras, the epics (Ramayana and Mahabharata), the Arthasastra treatises of Kautalya, Kamandaka, and Sukra. Hindu India possessed the classical fourfold force of chariots, elephants, horsemen, and infantry, collectively known as the Caturangabala. Students also know that the old game of chess also goes by the name of Caturanga. From the references to this game in the Rg Veda and the Atharva Veda and in the Buddhists and Jaina books, it must have been very popular in ancient India. The Persian term Chatrang and the Arabic Shatrang are forms of the Sanskrit Caturanga. 

Kerala's Dying Art Form 'Kataripayattu'
Kalaripayatu - The Martial Art of Kerala

Kalari (a word in the Malayalam language spoken in Kerala, S.India) word, for a special kind of gymnasium, in which the martial art known as Kalari Payattu, is practiced. 


Uzhichil, or the massage with the Gingli oil, is used for imparting suppleness to the body, but only persons with a thorough knowledge of the nervous system, and the human body, conduct the 'uzhichil'.


Body exercises or Maippayattu includes the twists and turns of the body, leaps and jumps, and poses, designed to gain control over various parts of the human body. 

Sticks of Kolthari

This is the next stage where training in handling various staves of wood or canes of different lengths are imparted. The long stick is kettukari and the short one, kuruvadi.

Otta - a Weapon for the 'coup de grace'

The otta is an 'S' shaped staff, with a knob at one end, made of the toughest portions of the tamarind tree.These sticks, which are about 2 feet long, are specially suitable for attacks on the nervous system.

Metal weapons or Anga Thari

Weapons of various metals are used in training and combat sessions, like the sword, sword and shield, two types of knives, daggers, the spear and the 'urumi'. Various exercises are performed with these weapons. 

Puliyankam (Sword Fight)

Wielding the sword in an efficient manner, is considered to be the peak of perfection in Kalari Payattu. Various methods in the use of the sword, as a weapon of offence and defence, are being practiced today, but the most awe-inspiring of these, is the Puliyankam, where the combatants fight like tigers, propelled by powerful fuels - extraordinary elan and agility.

The Spear vs the Sword

In this combat, one contestant is armed with a sword and shield, and the other with a spear. Due to the length of the spear, the swordsman faces a disadvantage, but if he knows how to exploit all the weak points of the spear-man, and take advantage of all the opportunities, that come his way to get under his opponent's guard, he can easily triumph over his opponent.

Barehanded Fight or Verumkai

In unguarded moments, there are some special ways of getting out of a tight situation, by using one's hands or a piece of cloth or a rope. Locks and blows are in vogue. Attacks on the nervous system by the edge of one's palm, are enough to paralyse the opponent. Various types of blows with different effects are, therefore, practiced to perfection.

Character, fitness and sheer courage - these are the demands of Kalari Payattu, which has about it a distinct spiritual and mythical aura. To succeed in this martial art, one needs plenty of fire in the belly, energy, drive and fierce commitment

Bodhi Dharma a Buddhist monk spread Kalari payatt to China. This art reached its zenith in the 16 the century under different small kingdoms


The “Urimi” is the most extraordinary weapon of Kalari, unique in the world. This double-edged flexible sword which the old-time masters used to wrap around the waist to keep coiled in one hand, to suddenly whip at the opponent and inflict mortal blows, is hardly used today in trainings, for it is much too dangerous.

This indigenous martial arts, under the name of Kalari or Kalaripayit exists only in South India today. Kalarippayat is said to be the world's original martial art. Originating at least 1,300 years ago, India's Kalaripayit is the oldest martial art taught today. It is also the most potentially violent, because students advance from unarmed combat to the use of swords, sharpened flexible metal lashes, and peculiar three-bladed daggers. More than 2,000 years old, it was developed by warriors of the Cheras kingdom in Kerala. Training followed strict rituals and guidelines. The entrance to the 14 m-by-7 m arena, or kalari, faced east and had a bare earth floor. Fighters took Shiva and Shakti, the god and goddess of power, as their deities. From unarmed kicks and punches, kalarippayat warriors would graduate to sticks, swords, spears and daggers and study the marmas—the 107 vital spots on the human body where a blow can kill. Training was conducted in secret, the lethal warriors unleashed as a surprise weapon against the enemies of Cheras. 

Father and founder of Zen Buddhism (called C’han in China), Boddidharma, a Brahmin born in Kacheepuram in Tamil Nadu, in 522 A.D. arrived at the courts of the Chinese Emperor Liang Nuti, of the 6th dynasty. He taught the Chinese monks Kalaripayattu, a very ancient Indian martial art, so that they could defend themselves against the frequent attacks of bandits. In time, the monks became famous all over China as experts in bare-handed fighting, later known as the Shaolin boxing art. The Shaolin temple which has been handed back a few years ago by the communist Government to the C’han Buddhist monks, inheritors of Boddhidharma’s spiritual and martial teachings, by the present Chinese Government, is now open to visitors. On one of the walls, a fresco can be seen, showing Indian dark-skinned monks, teaching their lighter-skinned Chinese brothers the art of bare-handed fighting. On this painting are inscribed: “Tenjiku Naranokaku” which means: “the fighting techniques to train the body (which come) from India…”

Causes of its degradation : Kalari payatt was banned by British in 1793. Secrecy is maintained in regard to many things , because of selfishness due to narrow view point (involves own relatives ,castes, politics, religion etc.) Or because of the incompetency of man to pursue it properly.

Culmination: Psychic powers invoked by using certain mantras was also used to fight against the enemy, called choondu marma (Choondu means to index, they can even transfer subtle powers through their index finger pointing it to the major marmas, through which enemy can be made motionless) was mastered in the past is now totally ignored because of its tough practices. 

Presently Kalaripayatt is practised in many parts of Kerala. Different styles / methods of Payatts exists, among them Vadakkan style's Thulunadan is considered as the highest. 

Kalarippayat, southern Indian state Kerala's martial art form, aspires to spiritual transcendence, disciplining and stretching the combatant's mental and physical resources to ever-new limits. 

Combat situations demanded an extremely agile, strong and supple body, which would instantly obey the signals of an alert and sharp mind. For the ancient martial arts exponents, uzhichil orkalari massage was one way to prime the body and sharpen reflexes. 

Today, this form of massage is the focus of renewed interest as growing numbers of people are attracted to its healing and rejuvenating effects. There is a whole science behind the unique techniques employed by skilled masseurs trained in the art of kalari massage based in ayurveda. Ayurveda works at stimulating the self-healing mechanics of the body, using herbal medicines, medicated oils and massage. Kalari massage, which not only affects the body but also the mind, involves physical exercises, yoga therapy, pranayama and meditation. 

Kalari massage includes techniques of balancing the chakras or energy centers and saptha dhatu (seven tissues in the human body—plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow and semen), stimulation of nadisuthra points (ayurvedic acupressure), working with marma or vital points, and the awakening of prana. 

Regular kalari massage increases body flexibility and reduces fat. The veins and arteries become more elastic, the skin begins to glow and the body becomes more efficient. Massage improves blood circulation and clears the body of toxins. Organs like kidneys, rectum, and lungs are strengthened and work more, efficiently, as is the case with digestive organs like liver and small intestines. Bone, joint, muscle and nerve centers also work better after massage. 

The inability to handle stress can cause a breakdown in the body's defense system, leaving one prone to illness and disease, By reducing tension and calming the mind, kalari massage can improve mental alertness and attention span, and by helping body organs function efficiently, it can keep one disease free and in a state of positive health. 

"Marma Shastra" & Choondu Marmam :


Marma points are the specific places along the body surface where the application of pressure or insertion of needles (Bhedan Karma) will effect the flow of vital energy or Prana along a complex system of subtle channels called Nadis. There are about 350 therapeutic Marma points within our body and there are over 100 lethal Marma points in the body, the injury to some of these can lead to instant death.

Choondu Marmam :

Art of striking on the marmas with concentration

'Marmam' means pressure points attacks. It in itself has three divisions, according to their toughness, effect, and expertise, being Thodu Marmam (attacking by touching), Choondu Marmam (attacking by pointing)and Noku Marmam(attacking by looking). Psychic powers invoked by using certain mantras was used to fight against the enemy, which fall under the category of the Choondu marmam and the Noku Marmam,through which they could transfer subtle powers through their index finger and eyes pointing it to the major marmas, through which enemy can be made motionless, was mastered in the past is now totally ignored because of its tough practices.

This is quite controversial and dangerous..

It was considered as the ultimate in martial defence and was very very secretive !..

Very few know this and are very secretive about it..

So I suggest that you read about this master and realize of human potential !!. An example is more better and a thousand pages of theory !! LOL.. :
So please click here :

More on the art of
Kalari payatt and some secrets ! at :

Based on Susruta Samhita, a very ancient ayurvedic text, marma therapy is a system of treatment of the vital points of the body, which are mainly the junction points of blood vessels, ligaments and nerve centers. Marma adi, which involves striking vital points on the human body, is one of the most refined and sophisticated technique of Indian martial arts. The marmani, a person skilled in marma therapy, has a thorough knowledge of the human circulatory system, the nervous system and every aspect of the human anatomy. 

The marmani, using varying degrees of force to strike the body at different vital points, can produce astounding results. When used in warfare by a skilled combatant, these blows can cause instant death, slow death, paralysis or great pain. The results vary according to the power and velocity used by the combatant. 

A marmani also knows how to revive a seriously injured person. A timely touch, a slap, the use of specialized massage techniques or a gentle blow on another vital point can save a dying man. This technique is called marukai preyogam. It results in the stimulation of impulse, the magnetic power and the innate human dynamism, and helps in recovery from injury or in the cure of a disease. 

Ayurveda postulates that everything is constituted of the pancha mahabhutas or the five elements—ether, wind, fire, water and earth. A living being has an additional element: prana. This energy gives life and animation to the living organism. Through food, drink and breathing, prana circulates through the body. Then it moves through energy channels, where it might meet with blocks. Nadisuthra kriya, marma therapy and massage remove these blocks and aid the circulation of vital energy in the body. 

Connection between Âyurveda and the Martial Arts :

Ayurveda means literally the 'science (Veda) of longevity', It has a divine origin..  It was originally a Hindu medical system and had its beginnings more than two and half thousand years ago in the sixth century before the present era (or if you prefer BC.). Ayurveda soon developed outside of the strictly Hindu community and was taken up and adapted by Buddhists and other religious groups. It has survived until the present day and is in fact undergoing a renaissance both in India and throughout the western world, which sees it as a necessary compliment to the Clinical model. 

Ayurveda developed at about the same time as Buddhism and Hinduism and replaced earlier ideas on disease and Healing that were written down in religious texts such as the Atharva Veda. Until Ayurveda came on the scene, disease was usually explained in terms of possession by various demonic disease entities. This earlier 'system' was perhaps successful because disease was less frequent. But with the growth of cities and a more settled way of life, new diseases arose and as a response a new medical system was needed. 

The warrior god Indra has an earthly son called Arjuna. Arjuna is the archetypal martial artist and participated in the long and bloody war that according to Indian tradition marks the beginning of human history. His story is told in the epic poem the Mahabharata. In one very suggestive episode, Arjuna is forced to hide his identity and is able through his physical skill to hide his masculinity and assume the form of a eunuch. This episode has always reminded me of the supposed ability of some male martial artists to raise their testicles into their abdomen and thus protect them from injury. But be warned, although Arjuna eventually recovered his masculinity his was permanently barred from assuming the role of King. [As a Eunuch Arjuna taught dancing - another important link with Martial Arts] 

Another more obvious, connection between Âyurveda and the martial arts comes through its doctrine of vital points. It is perhaps more well known that Indian sexology describes a system of erogenous zones (candrakalas in Sanskrit) or points of arousal. These points are enumerated in texts such as the Kama Sutra and Ananga Ranga, erotic texts which take many of their source ideas from the medical tradition. However perhaps less well known is the counterpoint to the erogenous zones ; these are the points of vulnerability or marmas. Sushruta, who was an ancient surgeon who lived about 2000 years ago, identified about 140 marmas and some of these have been matched with corresponding pressure points in jujitsu and other martial arts. The following diagram, taken from a recent translation of Sushruta's medical textbook, shows some of the important marmas in the arms and legs. 

Martial arts tradition has it that Buddhist missionaries travelling from Indian in the first few centuries of our era took with them some early forms of martial arts, ideas that became the precursors of the Chinese and Far Eastern variations. There is therefore a direct link between the surgeon Sushruta, whose work was widely studied by Buddhists and the highly developed system of pressure points and meridians. The terms may have changed but the underlying concepts of Ayurveda and the fighting arts of Asia are surprisingly similar. 

Ayurveda is based on Hindu texts which prescribe proper breathing, nutrition, meditation and aromatherapy in a manner that involving the interrelationship of the mind, body and spirit. Disease occurs from uncorrected imbalances caused by stress, poor lifestyle choices and poor diet. 

Yoga is a sister science to Ayurveda and includes natural preventive measures to help ensure good health, happiness and longevity. The eight limbs of yogic practice include: regulation of the nervous system, discipline, cleansing, postures, concentration, contemplation, the awakening of awareness, and the state of perfect equilibrium. Yogic practice allows optimum energy flow that has preventive and curative value. 

Reiki is a ancient Tibetan Buddhist healing art using the "laying on of the hands" that claims incomparable simplicity and powerful results. Reiki (Japanese for "Universal Life-Force-Energy") was re-discovered and proselytized by Buddhist Mikao Usui in the 1800's. Reiki practitioners must receive the "attunements" directly from a teacher who has also received the "attunements" and training. A Reiki healer uses touch to convey warmth, serenity and healing through the flow of Chi (Prana) energy. According to Diane Stein, Reiki Master/Teacher, Reiki energy is holistic claiming to heal the body physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.


In India, the Two Best known Martial Art Traditions—Thang Ta of Manipur and Kalari-payattu of Kerala, have survived through centuries and both have a strong spiritual basis with strict moral and ethical codes. They are meant for protection and defense and are opposed to viciousness, cruelty and violence. 

The origin of Thang Ta is hoary and full of legends. In the beginning of time when there was absolute nothingness, the Supreme Creator, Atiya Guru Sidaba sitting levitated on his own breath, created Asiba his son, and asked him to fashion the universe. - [Guru is not an appropriate usage here; Guru means the master or teacher; but in this context the correct wording will be KURU = round hemisphere, for Atiya = the sky, Kuru = the round or circular, and Sidaba = never ending or without death, indicating the limitless hemisphere of the sky]. Perplexed as to how to fabricate anything out of a void, he inquired of his father how to go about it. At this, the Creator opened his mouth and asked his son to look inside, where he saw the whole cosmos lying dormant, yet to manifest. He was also instructed to devise a dance named Thengou using the same configuration of nerves and veins inside his father as the model for the pattern of his movements on the ground, on which the universe would rest when it was created. Thus the first act of 
cosmology was dance, and Thengou was the first dance, made up of a combination of martial art movements. 

Thengou, traditionally believed to have been originally performed by the Gods at the time of creation, forms a highly esoteric branch of Manipuri martial arts. These are sacrosanct dance compositions, performed usually by holding either a sword and shield or a spear and shield. There are many variations. The pattern on the ground is based on 
one of the various sacred coiled snake motifs worshipped in Manipur. There are various Thengous for bringing prosperity to the land or people, protecting the king, destroying the enemy, etc. They are performed on extremely rare occasions when a dire need concerning the well being of the country arises. The rituals involved are extremely 
elaborate. All the details including the auspicious moment, ceremonial offerings, purification rites, choice of place, kind of weapon, costume, movement, ground patterns and incantations, mentioned in the sacred texts are inviolable and thus scrupulously followed. It is believed that any mistake in its performance or its employment can bring untold misfortunes to the performer and his family, even to future generations. Thus only great masters with absolute proficiency, experience and pure minds perform Thengous. The gurus, very reluctant to part with this knowledge, choose only those few disciples with proven integrity and maturity. 

Thengou training is imparted in a secluded place, away from habitation or a sandy riverbank likely to be washed away in the next floods. For where Thengou is performed, the ground is imbued with such power that anyone desecrating it inadvertently may incur divine wrath. The training begins after sanctifying the land. 

The weapons are also considered to have divine origin with symbolic significance. When Til Sidaba (a powerful god) decided to give up his body, different ‘boxes' of his remains became various weapons. Swords, spears, etc., do take on varying forms resembling such boxes. Scholars have given elaborate interpretations on their significance and use. The weapon is not an ordinary object; it is energized and infused with a vital divine force and cannot be desecrated by employing it for any degrading pursuit. 

Thang Ta demands a great deal of self-discipline from its practitioners. It is feared that certain vices may even jeopardize those powers acquired through years of training, meditation and worship. Some types of food are also forbidden. One important ethical code mentioned in the scriptures is that even in the midst of war, one should not harm an enemy who is running away, who is hiding out of fear, who is crying out of fear and who has asked for protection. Violating any of this is considered a great sin. For a warrior, every moment of his life is guided by certain rules. Eating, sleeping and even breathing are well regulated. Martial arts training, initially, is more physical in nature, but as one advances, it is more spiritual. The secrets of yantra, mantra and tantra are gradually revealed to the student. The warrior's main and only concern ought to be the protection of the land, people, king and the weak. This sense of selflessness cannot be better symbolized than the costume which he wears to war. It includes a sacred cloth usually worn by the dead, thus preparing him for the supreme most sacrifice. In actual practice, however, all these branches are interrelated and one cannot be completely free of the other. 

The aesthetic or dance aspect of the martial arts of Manipur demand a great deal of balancing and body control. Dancing skills add exterity in wielding the weapons. In fact, this has greatly influenced the dance traditions of Manipur. In our times, many dancers incorporate the martial dances, enriching their repertoire with great effect. In the combat part, the training is extremely thorough and demanding. It makes a person physically and mentally so alert and well integrated that he becomes virtually impregnable. At the same time he is also packed with tremendous striking power. A trainee usually specializes in one weapon though he must learn the use of all the main ones. 

Thang-Ta is the term used to represent all of the Manipuri martial arts. Thang-Ta literally means "sword and spear" because these are the mains weapons used, however, other weapons are used as well, including shields, daggers, sticks, and axes. 

The Manipuri people have a long history of combat. Their methods involved specific elements of etiquette. For example, if an unarmed man was challenged to do battle, he was given time to obtain his weapon(s) before engaging in a fight. 

Another example involved combatants who used spears to do battle. These warriors would agree on a set distance between them. When this distance was reached, the two rivals would begin to throw spears at each other. Receiving even a small scratch was enough for a participant to lose this dual and the defeated man would bravely accept death as his fate. Many times before he would die, he would share a meal with the victor. By allowing himself to be executed, the vanquished warrior was actually following what he believed to be God's laws, the violation of which would be viciously avenged. 

The arts of Thang-Ta are serious forms of self-defense, even aggression, now choreographed into well-performed movements on stages. All performances of Thang-Ta often differ greatly from one another, yet they are executed with the utmost skill and precision. Anything less would result in the injury, or even death of one, or both of the participants. 

Thang - ta & Sarit - Sarak : The history of Thang - ta and Sarit - Thang - ta involves using a sword or spear against one or more opponents. Sarit - Sarak is the technique of fighting against armed or unarmed opponents, but on many occasions there is a combined approach to the training of these martial arts. These martial arts were used with great success by the Manipuri kings to fight against the British for a long time. With the British occupation of the region, martial arts were banned, but post - 1950s saw the resurgence of these arts.

Thang - ta is practiced in three different ways. The first way is absolutely ritual in nature, related to the tantric practices. The second way consists of a spectacular performance involving sword and spear dances. These dances can be converted into actual fighting practices. The third way is the actual fighting technique.

The Sarit - Sarak art of unarmed combat, is quite distinct from other martial art forms. It is simply flawless in its evasive and offensive action, as compared to any other existing martial art of the same school.

Legend has it that Lainingthou Pakhangba, the dragon god - king, ordained King Mungyamba, to kill the demon Moydana of Khagi with a spear and sword, which he presented to the king. According to another such legend, God made the spear and sword with creation of the world. This amazing wealth of Manipuri martial arts has been well preserved, since the days of god king Nongda Lairel Pakhangba. The fascinating Manipuri dance also traces its origin from these martial arts

The proper name for Thang-Ta is HUYEN LALLONG ("method of safe-guarding"). As the name implies, Huyen Lallong is more than just the training of fighting skills. It is an elaborate system of physical culture that involves breathing methods, meditations, and rituals. Some of the sword and spear forms are entirely ritualistic, although they are composed of material techniques. They are to be performed only at special occasions or under special circumstances. For example, there is a spear form that is performed at funerals. Perhaps the most famous form is the ritual spear dance done by King Bhagyachandra (ruled 1759-1798) on a mountain top during his exile due to the Burmese invasion in 1762. The Manipuris believe that the ritual was instrumental in driving the Burmese out of Manipur. 

The heart of Thang-Ta is the "sword". There are literally hundreds of different sword drills for training the basic strokes and stepping patterns. Many are two person sets, but others may be practiced solo, at least initially. The Thang-Ta spear forms are more complicated and must be seen to be appreciated. "Many are the warnings given by the old 
teachers to their students who, they say, may seriously injure their limbs by incorrect stepping according to the design - PAKHANGBA, a coiled serpent motif", wrote Louis Light foot (1958) in "Dance Rituals of Manipur". Thang-Ta is almost completely unknown today outside Manipur. In India itself, the art is not well known, although a 
documentary was broadcast on Indian television in 1994. "Unfortunately, opportunities for Westerners to study Thang-Ta are very limited. Travel to and from the region is restricted - few, if any, people outside of Manipur are able to study the art because of the Indian Government's entry restriction. To our knowledge, Khilton Nongmaithem (of HULA SINDAMSANG, IMPHAL) is the only Manipuri teaching Thang-Ta outside of Manipur." 

Three warriors - Paona Naol Singh, Ningthoukhongja Poila, Loukrakpam Sana Mityeng each founded a distinct style within the art of THANG-TA. Paona died fighting the British and is still regarded as a hero in Manipur. 

At the start of the sword drill, stand with feet shoulder width apart; turn to the left, pivoting on the balls of both feet. The feet should form an approximately forty-five degree angles. Lean forward until the toes of the left foot are aligned with the knee and the chin. Your body should form a straight line from the back of the head down to the right heel. This is called the "Lion's Posture" or basic stance. 

The unarmed aspect of Thang-Ta is named SARIT-SARAT. Traditionally, it is taught after competence in weapons was gained. It uses footwork and handwork form the weapons forms, with a liberal dose of the native wrestling style (MUKNA) thrown in. 

[Khilton Nongmaithem and Dainis Jirgensons (1998): Thang-Ta, The Martial 
Art of Manipur India, JOURNAL OF ASIAN MARTIAL ARTS, vol. 7, no. 4., 
page 46-59]. 

Although the Manipuri Agricultural communities were in contact with great civilizations of India, China and Southeast Asia for thousands of years, the relative isolation of the region allowed the development of a unique cultural tradition that includes a distinctive form of martial arts using the sword and spear. Originally, training in the martial arts was essential for the overall survival of the community, as well as for initiating the youth into the subtleties of religious knowledge and practice. However, over time, the martial arts were separated into two schools for training, one for actual combat and the other as ritual dances that served to reinforce Manipuri cultural identity and played an important role in the physical and spiritual growth of the students who studied it. Traditionally, most Manipuris were agriculturist, but the kingdom of Manipur did not have any need for a standing army as every able bodied man (and if necessary woman), was a warrior and most were skilled in swordsmanship or spear fighting. 

- "The most memorable performance with the sword involved in a blindfolded swordsman and a man lying on his back with five pieces of melon balanced on various parts of his body. A wedge of melon was place on each knee, as well as in each hand, and a single wedge was precariously balanced between his chin and his chest, directly above the throat. The swordsman was blindfolded using a piece of cloth filled with sand, so that everyone could see that there was no way for him to peek through the cloth. After being blindfolded, the swordsman would begin a rhythmic chopping and prancing in place, while a third person took up a position directly opposite the swordsman. In the middle was the man lying with melon slices balanced on various parts of his body. Drumming and cymbals accompanied the whole act and the third man would begin chanting, in order to provide the blindfolded swordsman a 
directional cue. 

Suddenly, the swordsman would surge forward, leaping and chopping in a very precise pattern. As he leaped over the man lying in his path, his sword deftly cut each piece of melon, including the piece directly over the man's throat. Every spectator was tense with expectation until the man lying on the ground would jump to his feet and the swordsman would rip off his blindfold. As people shouted their approval and clapped their hands, many would throw coins and currency notes into the stage in appreciation of this spectacle." 

[Jonathan Mark Kenoyer (1997): "Thangkairol; Manipur Sword Fighting of 
Eastern India", in PERSONAL GROWTH THROUGH MARTIAL ARTS, (edited by M. 
Kiyoto and J. Lee) pp. 53-63.] 

Cheibi Gad-Ga :
This is one of Manipur's most ancient martial arts. The fighting equipment comprises of a sword and a shield, now modified to a stick encased in soft leather and a shield made of leather. The contestants fight a duel, and victory goes to the person, who scores the maximum points. In ancient times, sword and spears were used by the contestants. Victory in this martial art, depends more on skill, than brawn and brute force. 

The competition is held on a flat surface, within a circle, with a diametre of 7 meters. There are two lines of one metre length each in the circle, with a space of two metres between them. The 'cheibi' stick is 2 to 2.5 feet in length, and the shield is 1 metre in diameter.

Silambam :

"Silambam" the ancient art of staff fencing believed to be originated by the body guards of the Tamil Kings which has now developed into a refined art form of self-defence and physical exercise which makes for a brilliant spectacle. 

The state of Tamil Nadu is considered to be the cradle of modern and scientific staff fencing, popularly known in Tamil as Silambam. The Pandya kings ruling in Tamil Nadu promoted Silambam fencing, as did their Chola and Chera counterparts. Silapathiharam Tamil literature, dating back to 2nd century A.D., refers to the sale of silamabam staves, swords, pearls and Armour to foreign traders. The ancient trading centre at Madurai city, renowned globally, was said to be thronged by Romans, Greeks, Egyptians among others who had regular sea trade with the ancient Dravidian kings. The silambam staff was one of the martial art weapons, that was in great demand with the visitors.

The use of the long staff for self - defence or mock - fighting was a highly organised game in the state as early as the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. In the Vedic age, young men were imparted training to defend themselves with staves, both as a ritual and an emergency. The staves wielded by ace fencers were given distinctive names, and treated with reverence. Some records trace the origin of this art to a divine source - Lord Muruga, and within the Tamil mythological framework, sage Agasthya is also credited with the genesis of Silambam. Silambam is believed to have traveled from Tamil Nadu to Malaysia, where it is now a popular recreational sport and also a mode of self - defence.

Four different types of staves are used in this activity. One produces a sonorous, swishing sound, another involves lighted balls of cloth at one end of the staves, called 'torch silambam', a third is quite short in length nevertheless powerful, and finally a non - elastic staff that produces a clattering sound.

Today this rather simplistic art form is a mode of self defence used by the common folk of Tamil Nadu. 


Silambam incorporates a range of techniques.

a) By swift foot movements, large spheres of control can be established.

b) Both hands can be used to wield the staff.

c) Precision, force and momentum can be developed at head, shoulder, hip and leg level.

d) The cut, chop, thrust and sweep can be used to achieve mastery.

e) Development of a reflex defensive action, by concentrating on and anticipating the moves of the opponent and perfecting various kinds of feints in stroke play, can absolutely demoralise an adversary.

The player must also be able to ward off stones hurled by a crowd, and disperse an unruly mob by a range of strokes like 'monkey hits', 'snake hits', 'hawk hits' and 'spring hits', which must be inflicted in quick succession. This activity involves some amazing footwork, staff - swinging, pivot - jumping and stroke play. From a purely defensive art, Silambam has become a combat exercise.

Silambam is a three - type contest.

a) A fight to the finish, when one of the players is dispossessed of his staff.

b) Total number of ' touches ' one combatant makes on the other ( indicated by appropriate markings on the body ).

c) Skill shown in protecting a pouch of money ( kept at or in between a contestant's feet ).

The contestant succeeding in leaving a mark on the forehead of his opponent is adjudged as the victor in the contest.


The contestants wear langots of various colours, sleeveless vests, turbans, canvas shoes, and a chest guard which is a part of the traditional attire of Palmyrah tree - climbers. Wicker - work shields also form an essential part of the gear. 

The Contest

The contest begins with salutations to God, the competitor, the audience and the guru. The result is determined on the basis of the number of touches made by one contestant on another. To distinguish these touches, the ends of the staves are coated with a sticky powder that leaves behind a mark . The mark generally counts as one point, but in certain areas, a touch above the waist counts as two points, while those made below get only one point. In certain areas, the winner is one who makes a mark on his opponent's back, while in others, the contestant who makes the first three touches on the other's body wins. The contest comes to a close, after a period of time fixed well in advance of the contest, or when one of the contestants is dispossessed of his staff. 

Silambam is fought on an even and hard surface, but never on a sandy or slippery area. The arena of this activity is usually circular, the radius not less than 20 ft and not more than 25 ft, when only two contestants are involved. The duration ranges from 6 to 10 minutes, which is divided into four equal quarters. An interval of one minute is allowed at the end of the first and third quarters, while at the end of the second quarter an interval of 3 minutes is allowed.

This is a very popular form of martial art, which has survived the tests of time. The name is derived from the whishing and whooshing noise created by the movement of the pole used in this combat. In Malayalam, it is known as Neduvari; in Kannada, Thanda Varisai, in Telugu Karadi Aattam. Generally youth and middle-aged men involve in this. They fight with long bomboo poles. During the fight one has to protect oneself from being hit by the opponent's pole. It is used for self protection and exercise. Eye, leg and hand co-ordination is very necessary. Movements of beating, swinging the pole and circling the pole are involved. Quick steps, jumping and running are also essential. It can be practiced one against one or one against many. Success in indicated when one manages to knock the pole from the opponent's hand. Expert care is given to the practice of preventing the opponent's pole from touching one's body and also to the touching of other's body with one's own pole. 

In Tamilnadu, Silambaattam is popular in the southerm districts, particularly in Tirunelveli district. This district has given birth to many famous silambaatta experts like Kattabomman, Umaithurai, Marudupandi etc. the person who teaches this art is known as Silambam Vaathiyar or Aasan. This art was practiced as a game during festival times, accompanied by song and music. 

In Jalli Kambu method, the opponents fight with each other armed with tow short sticks of 2 ½ feet length. 

Some Other Marital Art of Tamil Nadu :

Marpor Or Malyutham

This is similar to the western wrestling. It is placed among the 64 arts listed in ancient literature. The art reached its zenith in Tamilnadu during the Pallava period. During mid-Chola period mallas ( artistes ) went to Sri Lanka to participate in tournaments. The art was taught in ancient days by persons belonging to the Malliga Chetty community. 

Here, the opponents wrestle with each other, attempting to push the other down. Various rules of the game appluy to the procedure. In a tournament, wrestlers travel far and wide, challenging local wrestlers, and if they win, the name and fame of their own town or area is multiplied hundredfold. 

Sword Fight

This martial art was famous all over India. It has been mentioned in the great epics of the country, like Ramayana and Mahabharatha. In Tamilnadu, this art reached its zenith during the Chola period. This art was well-known to highlight the physical prowess and courage of Tamil kings and warriors. In this, the opponents fight using swords, protecting themselves from the swing of the other's sword, at the same time trying to wound the other with their own sword. Winning is determined when one person in sounded or his sword is struck to the ground by other. Sometimes, shields were also used for self-protection. 

Urimaram Eruthal

This art involves gymnastic skill and perseverance. At the top of a tall pole, a pot filled with colored water is tied. The bark of the pole is stripped off and the trunk is rubbed well with oil to make it as slippery as possible. The youths try to clamber up the pole, while the others stand round them and pour water on them and shout to distract them. The successful youth is the first one to reach the pot and break it. The successful one gets gifts, money and so on. This is still considered as one of the activities of courage in Tamilnadu. 

Kai Kuthu Sandai (or ) Gusthi

This is another form of boxing, slightly varied from wrestling. In this, the fighters rain blows on each other, thus attempting to floor them. This also, like wrestling, was taught in kalaris. 

Such skilled warriors can defend themselves with bare hands against any weapon. The picture shows a young man overcoming an opponent armed with a knife. 

Jalli Kattu

This art of overcoming a ferocious bull is popular even today in the villages. A bull is specifically reared for this purpose, its horns sharply honed and dreadfully dangerous. When it is let out of the enclosure, many youth or a single youth run with it trying to overcome it by holding down its horns or climbing on its back. This is a very dangerous activity as one hit from the sharp, pointed horns means sure death. 

Normally, money or gold is tied to the horns and the successful youth removes it. At times, it is used as a method of selecting a bridegroom for a well-sought-after and beautiful bride. 

In Tamilnadu, nowadays , this activity is involved in on the day after Pongal, which is known as maattupongal or Bullocks Pongal. This is organized very efficiently at Alanganallur near Madurai. Many tourists form all over the county and also from other countries visit this place to enjoy the fight. 


Sikh's Martial Art 'Gatka' : 
(Gatka the traditional Sikh martial art of  Swordfighting, meditation and philosophy )


Gatka is the martial art of the Sikh warrior, and is famous for its efficiency with the shaster (sword) and lathi (staff). 

Gatka has been proved for centuries, not just by the Sikhs but also the earlier practitioners of this art. However it is taught by the masters of this art that, Gatka, either when fighting in a battle or in simple self-defence is absolutely useless without `Gurbani'. As a higher level of spiritual consciousness is needed rather than just sheer knowledge.

Note :
The ninth Guru, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadar Ji was supposedly seen practising Gatka alone by the Mogul army, his speed and accuracy was both an alarming and surprising experience for them.Guru ji's Gatka was so powerful that he makes two slice of his enemy in the battle. From that very instance he was known as Teg Bahadur. However the real lift of Gatka began in his son's time Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji who is and was described as the most perfect person on earth, as he was very intelligent and could speak and write a number of different languages with equal comfort. He was spiritually blessed by his father and had great athletic abilities. He was known as the greatest master of weaponry of his time and it is assured that he was taught Gatka by his father and his followers from a very young age. His ability was much admired by his army of followers and to this day the fact that he and his army fought and won so many battles against countless numbers of Mogul soldiers with a very limited amount of men and weapons, to this day leaves historians all over the world surprised. 

It has been learned that in 1984 when the Golden Temple was attacked by the Indian Army, it is said that four Singhs stood at each of the doors of the temple, swinging their Shasters (full length swords) in a basic movement from the Gatka and nobody could come within a ten-metre range of them. 

Another incident in India, after the prime ministers' death, an eighty year old man was attacked whilst riding his scooter in Delhi by a mass of 3000 people. He was forced to defend himself and so took out his Kirpan (sword) and using his knowledge of Gatka, seriously injured and killed many of his attackers. When the police arrived at the scene the attackers fled, one of the officers present at the attack reported "all I could see was an old man standing sword in hand and numerous dead body's lying around him." 

So clearly the effectiveness of Gatka has been proved for centuries, not just by the Sikhs but also the earlier practitioners of this art. However it is taught by the masters of this art that, Gatka, either when fighting in a battle or in simple self-defence is absolutely useless without `Gurbani'. As a higher level of spiritual consciousness is needed rather than just sheer knowledge. 

Many Sikh warriors practiced Gatka & use it !...

More about this art and Indian MA history at :

Read more about a weapon called "CHAKRAM" :


Thoda, the impressive martial art form of Himachal Pradesh, relies on one's archery prowess, dating back to the days of the Mahabharata, when bows and arrows were used in the epic battles, between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, residing in the picturesque valleys of Kulu and Manali. Thus, this martial art has its origin in Kulu. Thoda, the name is derived, from the round piece of wood fixed to the head of the arrow, which is used to blunt its wounding potential.

The equipment required for this game are bows and arrows. Wooden bows measuring 1.5m to 2m, to suit the height of the archer and wooden arrows in proportion to the length of the bow, are prepared by skilled and traditional artisans.

Today its a sport ! :
In Himachal Pradesh, in earlier days, the game of Thoda was organised in a very interesting way. A handful of village folk would go to another village, and would throw tree leaves into the village well, before sun rise. They would, then, hide in the bushes nearby, just outside the boundary of that village. As soon as the villagers came to draw water, the awaiting youths would shout, and throw challenges to them for a fight. This would spark the preparations for an encounter.

The competition is a mixture of martial arts, culture and sport, and is held on Baisakhi Day, April 13 and 14, and community prayers are organised to invoke the blessings of the principal deities, Goddesses Mashoo and Durga. 

Sports & Martial Arts in ancient India


Physical perfection has been an integral part of Hinduism. One of the means to fully realize one's Self is defined as the body - way or dehvada. Salvation was to be gained through physical perfection or kaya sadhana, possible only through perfect understanding of the body and its functions. The capstone of Hatha Yoga is strength, stamina and supreme control of the body functions. The zenith of the whole experience is the fusion of meditation and physical movement. The ' eight - fold method ' encompasses techniques associated with breathing control or pranayama, body posture or asanas, and withdrawal of the senses or pratyahara. Religious rites provided the needed impetus to physical culture in ancient India. Many of the present day Olympic disciplines are sophisticated versions of the games involving strength and speed that were common in ancient India and Greece.

During the era of the Rig - Veda, Ramayana and Mahabharata, men of a certain stature were expected to be well - versed in chariot - racing, archery, military stratagems, swimming, wrestling and hunting. Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro confirm that during the Indus valley civilization ( 2500 - 1550 B.C ) the weapons involved in war and hunting exercises included the bow and arrow, the dagger, the axe and the mace. These weapons of war, for instance, the javelin ( toran ) and the discus ( chakra ), were also, frequently used in the sports arena. Lord Krishna wielded an impressive discus or Sudarshan chakra. Arjuna and Bhima, two of the mighty Pandavas, excelled in archery and weightlifting respectively. Bhimsen, Hanuman, Jamvant, Jarasandha were some of the great champion wrestlers of yore. Women, too, excelled in sport and the art of self - defence, and were active participants in games like cock - fighting, quail - fighting and ram - fighting.

With the flowering of Buddhism in the country, Indian sport reached the very peak of excellence. Gautam Buddha himself, is said to have been an ace at archery, chariot - racing, equitation and hammer - throwing. In Villas Mani Manjri, Tiruvedacharya describes many of these games in detail. In Manas Olhas ( 1135 AD.), Someshwar writes at length about bharashram ( weight - lifting ), bharamanshram ( walking ), both of which are established Olympic disciplines at present, and Mall - Stambha, a peculiar form of wrestling, wherein both contestants sit on the shoulders of their 'seconds', who stand in waist - deep water throughout the game. The renowned Chinese travellers Hieun Tsang and Fa Hien wrote of a plethora of sporting activities. Swimming, sword - fighting ( fencing, as we know it today ), running, wrestling and ball games were immensely popular among the students of Nalanda and Taxila. In the 16th century, a Portuguese ambassador who visited Krishnanagar was impressed by the range of sports activity, and the many sports venues, in the city. The king, Raja Krishnadev was an ace wrestler and horseman, himself.

The Mughal emperors were keen hunters of wild game, and avid patrons of sports, especially wrestling. The Agra fort and the Red Fort were the popular venues of many a wrestling bout, in the times of Emperor Shahjahan. Chattrapati Shivaji's guru, Ramdas, built several Hanuman temples all over Maharashtra, for the promotion of physical culture among the youth.

Kerala's martial art form, Kalari Payattu, is very similar to Karate. Those who practice it have to develop acrobatic capabilities, when using swords or knives to attack their adversaries, and even an unarmed exponent can be a force to reckon with. With the advent of Buddhism, this art form spread to the Far East countries. Buddhist monks who traveled far and wide, mostly unarmed, to spread the teachings of the Buddha, accepted this form of self - defence, against religious fanatics, with alternatives that were suitable to their philosophy of non - violence. The relationship between a student and teacher in the disciplines of Judo and Karate could trace its roots to the guru - shishya tradition, India was, and continues to be famous for. It is quite possible that some of our martial art forms travelled to China, Korea and Japan, but as in the case of Buddhism, atrophied in India.

The technique of Pranayama or breathing control, which is a prominent feature of Tae - kwan - do, Karate, Judo and Sumo wrestling was one of the many techniques spread in the Far East by Buddhist pilgrims from India. The idea that man enters into harmony with the five elements, through the science of breathing, is to be found in the most ancient records of Indian history. If mind and body are one, the possibilities of development of one's physical and mental capabilities are limitless, provided they are united and controlled. Using this as the foundation, Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk started a new trend in the Shaolin temple in China, from which probably stemmed most of the rules and precepts which govern all martial art forms.

Festivals and local fairs are the natural venues of indigenous games and martial arts. Post - Independence the government made special efforts to preserve and nurture the awesome cultural heritage, by setting up a number of new incentives, and by heightening media exposure at the national level, to propagate and popularise indigenous games.

"Vajra-musti", Ancient Martial Art of India :
Vajra-Musti, which combined wrestling with savage armed blows. Weapons like Knuckleduster from India called a Hora…they were made out of animal horn were used in fights !. 
Note : Okinawan Tekko (a dagger like weapon) too have similar Knuckleduster on its hand grips..


Ancient Indian Wrestling [Pahalwani or Mallavidya]

Wrestling Indian wrestling pre-dates military tradition and has been variously known as mallak-rida, malla-yuddha, and niyuddha-kride. 

There has been claims by some experts & historians that "Alexander the Great may have brought Pankration to western India and influenced the local grappling arts". Actually this assumption has no standing proof, neither there are any resemblance to the Greek grappling arts with that of the Indians grappling arts. So this is just a baseless argument.. Infact in most Indian martial art (especially Kalari) you can see the grappling techniques as well. As sports wrestling grew different forms of grappling arts influenced each other and as a result they have adopted each other's techniques as well. So today you can see may resemblance between these grappling arts.

But as Pankration (Greek art) was the first to use  grappling techniques (besides other methods), So it is thought that pankration may be one of  the  root styles of most grappling arts.

Look at this anyway the fact still remains that grappling arts (especially Indian Wrestling) had evolved so much that it is unique and indigenous in itself !.. So each grappling art deserves credit and has contributed for its growth and influence.. Each of these has its own history and significance.. And Pankration is just another form of this great art !.

Traditional Indian wrestling was unique in all its essence. It had not been influenced by any other wrestling forms (like that of Greek' s Pankration or Japan's Sumo). Like Pankration or Sumo this was indigenously developed by the Indians and has many advanced techniques in it. This is the reason why even today we find the world's best free style wrestlers in India (mostly in north India's villages where still this form of wrestling is practiced) !.

One of the most religion and ancient forms of wrestling that exist is Indian wrestling from India. Traditional Indian wrestling has been around since 11 AD and is integrated with the religion of Hinduism. Indian wrestling known as Pahalwani or Mallavidya is a form exercise that defines the essence of wrestling and man. Through the eyes of Indian wrestling one achieves not only self discipline through physical fitness but achieves identity and purity of the body, mind and spirit.  Training resides at the Akharas (temples, gyms). When one enters the temple he leaves behind him the civilization that he is part of and enters a world of tranquility and acknowledgment. Akharas are equipped with fine grit dirt floors to bring one closer to natural elements of the earth. Dirt floors that cover the training have been shifted and saturated with essential oils to supple the skin of the wrestler when he is wrestling. The oils also keep the dirt clean and compressed for body's to tumble upon. Natural light and fresh air impact the training area as well to keep it in harmony with the surrounding atmosphere. Strength training is performed religiously. Indian wrestler are well known for there flexibility and power. This is achieve through several types of exercises done with ones own body weight. Performing exercises such as Yogi (posture stretches), Bethak (in place squats), Dand (push ups), Jori (swinging weighted wooden clubs) Gada (swinging weighted ball and mace) and body massages gives the wrestler a complete regiment.                                                                      

A well known champion from India in the 1930's known as "The Great Gama" performed several thousand of Bethak (squats) daily for routine training. "Gama" like many Indian champions are noted for there size, strength and knowledge.  Other forms of wrestling that have appeared out of India is Vajra-Musti wrestling. Contestants face each other with claw daggers in one hand while using wrestling techniques. This form of wrestling was banned because of frequent fatal wounds to the opponent. It can still be seen today at fairs and gatherings for demonstration purposes. 

With many varies forms of wrestling that exist throughout the world they all have one basic element in common, the skill of close quarter combat. The engagement of two individuals locking limbs and body's may seem primitive but wrestling displays a high degree of skill in the science and the knowledge of leverage and fulcrum. A wrestler must learn to attack and counter attack in varies position that are constantly changing direction. This performance of strength and athleticism is dynamic in coupling ones agility and patience.   

Bharatiya kushti (Indian wrestling) :

kushti  has a great deal of yoga type exercises and other internal principles. One of the largest problems when talking about Indian Wrestling is the many forms. There are many influences including Older, Modern, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, British, Northern, Southern and personal "styles" of the coaches or gurus. So you may hear that Indian wrestling is this or that, good and bad. There are many "flavors" like the regional curry dishes of India!.

Iranian 'Kushti' too has similar things.. Not sure which influenced which.. I think both to be unique with some similarities.. 

Generally speaking sport bouts last for a predetermined amount of time. Generally 5-15 minutes. It is something quite flexible. 

The wrestlers seldom wear more that a loincloth (a janghiya) so the wrestling style reflects this. 

Matches begin from the standing posture. There is no particular distance that one must stand. There is usually a jockey here for position and subsequently an entry and clinch. From the clinch there is more jockeying for position and looking for the takedown. At any time the wrestler may move back out. Here it is like a chess game. They place such a high importance on the entry and clinch because if done properly you will have an advantage. Since all moves are tied together as a thread (Sutra) there is move and countermove. Everything is about posture, position, weight, etc. It is in the little things. It's a takedown game. There is a lot of 'pummeling', sweeps, throws, and lifts from here. The modern version does not go past the takedown. Although, the older (Mallayuddha) is replete with submissions, and it resembles Catch wrestling if anything at all. 

Life of an Indian wrestler ! :

Typically they would rise at around four in the morning, dig the earth akhara (arena) with a heavy hoe, which is a hard job in itself - some of them weigh thirty kilos or so - do two thousand squats (they call them bethaks over there, and they are slightly different from squats: they stand on the balls of their feet and go up and down very quickly, which makes it a lot harder) or so (the better, bigger, more well-known wrestlers would do around five thousand a day, and I've heard of one guy, who also killed a lion, who did ten thousand, but often in India you don't know what to believe is really true and what is exaggeration), and then do anywhere between a thousand and two thousand five hundred dands (alternatively they would do the dands in the evening), and only then would they start to wrestle. The really good guys would spar with everyone at the akhara, say twenty five men. In the evening, they would do more exercise, or go for a long run. So you can see they trained very hard. Of course a lot of them had knee problems from doing so many squats, but there you go. They also have some unique training equipment - the gada and jori. Gada are like huge lollipops, a bamboo stick attached to a ball of stone, which you swing behind your back; jori are sets of two cylindrical clubs, again, often huge, up to sixty kilos each, often richly decorated, which they swing behind their backs. Both exercises I guess were originally done to improve the shoulder-based motion of wielding a sword. Interestingly, in Iran they have a similar exercise to jori, with smaller clubs. There must be some kind of Mughal crossover connection, something to do with cross fertlisation when the Mughals invaded India. 

There really aren't any wrestlers left in India of the calibre of the men who were active fifty years ago. You have these beautiful akharas, with histories that go back hundreds of years, being bulldozed and turned into shopping complexes. It really is sickening. Wrestling is still strong in the villages though. The have competitions called dangals, which I visited a couple of times and which reminded me of Thai boxing matches in the villages in the North of Thailand. They don't have alcohol or betting in Uttar Pradesh, but apart from that it was the same - you have a stream of local dignataries going up onto the wrestling akhara to receive respect by being given a garland or having a turban tied around their head. If a wrestler wrestles very well, he goes through the crowd picking up money; the best wrestler of the competition gets a money garland. All the competitions are open: anyone can compete. You can issue a challenge by walking around the perimeter of the wrestling area. Then someone will come, if they fancy themselves, and shake your hand, and the bout is on. Thinking about it as I write this, you'd probably love competing there yourself: it's for money, not huge money, but they would give good money to a foreigner and probably palm you off as an Olympic champion. The problem is that you win only by pinning the shoulders, which isn't easy. No subs of course. Their current wrestling, by international standards, is a bit naive. They don't really know much about leg takedowns; they do a lot of standing throws, standing grapevines, the sort of thing you find in folk styles all over the world. I didn't get to Pakistan, but I presume, from what I've been told, that the wrestling culture there is currently stronger - though it's far more interesting culturally in India. 

They wrestle in a 'langota' (sort Indian  underwear..). One of the most interesting aspects of traditional wrestling in India is the concept of  brahmacharya. In the Indian spiritual traditions, there is the belief that you must retain your semen and sperm, and through doing so the fluid is transformed into a sort of spiritual energy. This is a central concept in ayurveda. In India wrestling they have the similar idea that to lose your sperm and semen is to lose your strength - and they are and were incredibly serious on this point. It's not just a case of celibacy and not masturbating, you have to avoid thinking about women, looking at women, thinking about sex in any way whatsoever; you have to eat sattvic food that doesn't inflame sexual desire (no garlic or onions) - there's a lot to it. They have an expression for brahmacharya, or to be celibate, 'To keep a tight langota', and I would hear wrestlers say things like, 'Of course when he loosened his langota, his wrestling declined.' A lot of the best wrestlers in India never married. However I interviewed an ayurvedic doctor who told me that a lot of wrestlers had problems bearing children because wearing a literally tight langota, as they do (when I myself wore a langota for the first time, It does not allow the genitals to swing freely as they should and creates heat which disrupts the creation of sperm. Actually, the same doctor quoted a study done in the US which showed, apparently, that women athletes who had had sex the day before an event performed better in their sport. What he meant was that the sperm in their body gave them more strength and stamina. You can see how bizarre some ideas are !!.

Note By Webmaster :
Please read "COMPREHENSIVE ASIAN FIGHTING ARTS"  by Robert Smith and Donn Draeger. They have a full chapter about Indian and Pakistani wrestling and other arts as well  !. This book was also was suggested by my master Sensei G.S GopaKumar  (

I think the Hindu wrestlers of India could become a force on the olympic level today, if they Change their diet. Most Hindu wrestlers never eat meat due to religious reasons but instead substitue by eating five pounds of almond paste every day, this is very inefficient. 2) Adopted the modern rules for the sport. This would mean a break from traditional Indian rules, it would be dificult to get the hardcore guru's to change their ways which they may see as being unchangeable due the sport being passed down for 3000 plus years. Technically I think they would be very competitive.

About The 'Great Gama' :


The Great Gama
Real Name: Ghulum Mohammed
Stats: 5' 7" 230 lbs
Born: 1888

He was the greatest wrestler to ever come out of India and is still considered one of the greatest of all time. 

Zbyszko, the mighty, who tumbled Munn off his throne, after the latter had beaten Lewis, visited Paddulo, India, on January 31, 1928, where, before a huge crowd, he was defeated in four seconds by the Great Gama. Gotch had done it in six seconds, it took Gama four seconds, and yet a man apparently not a first flight grappler, if we can judge by the Gotch and Gama defeats, was able to throw World's Champion Munn, two straight falls inside of twelve minutes. The Zbyszko victory over Munn was one of the epochal doublecrossings of matdom.

When people look at the greatest wrestlers and wrestling families of all time, the Great Gama and his family should be right at the top of the list. Born in 1888 in Amritsar in the Punjab, Gama (whose real name was Ghulum Mohammed) was the son of a wrestler named Aziz. Gama and his brother, Imam, were the most feared wrestlers in all of India. 

Gama won the title of Champion of India in 1909 and laid out a challenge to anyone who would wrestle him. Generally, in order to get a shot at Gama, a competitor would have to hold the title of his nation's Champion, or would have to first fight Imam - none were able to defeat Imam who lost only once in his lifetime. After winning his country's championship, Gama, Imam and R. B. Benjamin's circus of Indian wrestlers traveled throughout Europe taking on all comers. During this tour Gama defeated some of the most respected grapplers in the world, including "Doc" Benjamin Roller of the United States, Maurice Deriaz of France, Johann Lemm (the European Champion) of Switzerland, and Jesse Peterson (World Champion) from Sweden. His most acclaimed match was with the great Stanislaus Zbyszco, the World Champion from Poland. Zbyszco, upon assessing Gama considerable ability wrestled defensively the entire match and secured a disputed draw. In the match against Roller, Gama threw "Doc" 13 times in the 15 minute match. Gama now issued a challenge to the rest of those who laid claim to the World Champion's Title, including Japanese Judo champion Taro Miyake, Georges Hackenschmidt of Russia and Frank Gotch of the United States - each declined his invitation to enter the Ring to face him. At one point, in order to face some type of competition, Gama offer to fight twenty English wrestlers, one after another. He announced that he would defeat all of them or pay out prize money - still no one would take up his challenge.

Game returned to India as his country's hero and wrestled for the next 15 years. He once again faced Zbyszco and avenged his disputed draw by defeating the great Pole in just 21 seconds. Although he had a number of draws early in his career, he retired undefeated in an estimated 5,000 matches. After retiRing, he helped to train his nephew Bhollu who held the Pakistani Championship for almost 20 years.

The Great Gama, the Lion of Punjab, died in 1953 in Pakistan and is still remembered as one of the greatest champions ever to grace the mat.


Throughout the world numerous styles of hand and fighting have been developed, each of which reflects the needs of the time and the varying historical and cultural background of the country where it originated. 

In China open hand fighting is called Kung Fu or Daeji-Chon; in India Selambam; in France Savate; in Japan, Judo, Karate or Ai Kido or Jujitsu; in Russia Samba; In Malaysia Bosilat; in Thailand Kick Boxing; and in Korea it is known as Tae Kyon, Soo-Bak-Gi, and Taekwon-Do. 
Some of these forms of self-defence are no doubt as old as mankind itself. It would be virtually impossible to trace hand and foot fighting to any single beginning. 

Everything which was either discovered or invented in India was cleverly denied authenticity and downplayed by those who came to rule India, the Arabs and the British.  

Sanskrit, the oldest language in the World, originated from India.Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans. Charaka, the father of medicine consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago. Today Ayurveda is fast regaining its rightful place in our civilization.

Sushruta is the father of surgery. 2600 years ago he and health scientists of his time conducted complicated surgeries like cesareans, cataract, artificial limbs, fractures, urinary stones and even plastic surgery and brain surgery. Usage of anesthesia was well known in ancient India. Over 125 surgical equipment were used. Deep knowledge of anatomy, physiology, etiology, mbryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics and immunity is also found in many texts.

Adoption of Indian knowledge seems to parallel the adoption of Kalaripayat- the Indian martial arts which was taken to China by Buddhist monks and traders and which later developed into Shaolin Temple Boxing.

"The Origin of Martial Arts & Influence of Greek Martial Art/Pankration"
A Note by the Author :  Jimmy George :

Some experts/historians argue that all asian martial art took roots from the Greek Martial Art ("Pankration"). Actually I do not agree with this point. It could be possible that Pankration and other form of wrestling were the first type to martial art ever developed and had influenced other martial culture as well. But during the same time period there were some martial forms that were being developed in India/Asia as well.. These forms were completely indigenous martial forms.. Here are some points that hold true in this perspective.

* There are no similarities in form, dress code, terminologies etc when we compare Pankration with Asian martial arts (especially which  were developed in India). Contrarily many Sanskrit names (ancient Indian language..) can be found in Chinese martial art culture !. Hence India's martial arts culture had made the most significant impact on Asian martial arts than any other MA. Its correct to say that India was the cradle of martial culture. Indian martial arts culture linked this art with spiritual & philosophic levels.. Now the martial art was more than just physical culture.. Indians developed scientific theories based on Martial Arts. It was now a 'science' for better spiritual cultivation and long life.. This system was followed by other Asian countries that later developed into the prominent martial art countries (China, Japan, Burma and Thailand).

*  European Pankration techniques of fighting spread into Asia, following the invasion of Alexander the Great into India (336-323 B.C.). But in India the martial culture was not prominent during this period.. Hence most of the influence was not truly utilized by Indians. Rather India's martial culture developed gradually and was unique in all ways !.  People like Bodhi Dharma were exceptions who had developed their own martial forms and spread it across Asia.

* Bodhi Dharma's Martial forms were entirely different than the  Pankration  wrestling forms of the Greeks. He had actually invented & developed unique forms like :  The eighteen ways of Lo-han, The I-hu ching, and The Hsi-sui ching. Infact the Greeks would have been amazed to see all these ingenious & unique martial art forms in India !.

* Because of its early date, Pankration is considered by some authorities to be the first true martial art. Also, because Alexander the Great's armies carried the sport with them across the Alps into Asia, and because of the similarities of basic techniques, a number of authorities are of the opinion that the Asian martial arts were based on Pankration, which I think is NOT correct.. Because there is no other evidence to support this theory. If you see the martial art forms that exists now in Asia & Japan then you can see that they have evolved into completely different martial art and have the least resemblance to the Greek's wrestling/Pankration. The Martial arts of India in those days were unique in its own ways, these Indian martial arts (like Kalari) had developed its own treatments & human body science too. The vital point science and weapon forms were all unique and indigenous in all ways. Hence  Pankration & Alexander's influence on all Indian/Asian martial art is baseless and lacks proof. Also greatly misleading !.

Even if we presume that there had some influence of Greek MA on Asian forms, All the credit MUST be given to the Indian/China/Japanese for evolving it into a great martial art form that world had ever seen !... It is here that Karate has its own place and the Japanese contribution is truly amazing.. !.

 Oriental martial arts, such as jujitsu, fighting with sword or spear, archery, or dueling with cudgels, the basis of them all is the same as that of Karate: Karate is the most basic of all the martial arts, for it teaches fighting with no more weapons than a man is born with, and follows the teaching of emptiness as in Zen Buddhism. 

When it comes to Martial Arts culture the first three civilization that comes to our minds are Indian, China and Japan. Although Greek grappling art was the first to develop as a sport as well. This is because these three countries have contributed to martial culture than anyone else !. These have its own true origins, traditions and histories.. Hence it is true to say that the seeds of Martial arts were first started in Greece and later Asian martial art developed its own science and art forms that was completely indigenous and unique to the core !..

The possibility is greater that, Chinese martial arts, believed to have been invented in India by the Buddhist monk 

Hindu rulers fought for control of India. Buddhists, Taoists, and others cultivated the martial arts. 

Apart from worldly strife, communities of mystics, monks, and others practiced the hard disciplines of a spiritually centered life. Their quiet experiences, too, are part of the history of this second civilization. 

More about "True Origin for Martial Arts" Ref :

Hope these details are enough to put to rest the different theories about the  "Influence of Greek Martial Art/Pankration on other martial culture..". Its better to say that each country had developed their own Martial Culture in different time periods. Hence the confusion about "which came first, Egg or the Chicken" ?.. Actually it was biological evolution that made the difference.. The same evolution theory applied to martial cultures too.. ie Each country had developed their own martial art culture as per their requirements & challenges :-) , some  in different time periods..

Jimmy George -- Webmaster


Some Quotes  :

"We do need more martial arts training ... wherever it is taught, it eliminates violence. That is so overlooked." -- Lord Yehudi Menuhin

Quote : By Internationally-recognized martial arts champion Willie "The Bam" Johnson states:

"I see it in every sparring match--students trying
to outdo each other and win at any cost. We've
forgotten that the purpose of the martial arts is 
to defeat the ultimate opponent--the self, not each

"Have we become so focused on winning and on self that we've forgotten that the martial arts was intended to be a physical, mental and spiritual way of life?"

"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you
need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If
you know yourself but not the enemy, for every 
victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you
know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will
succumb in every battle." -- Sun Tzu 

"Strategy is the craft of the warrior." -- Musashi [Greatest Swordsman !]