Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Got Gatka?

Got Gatka?

Sikh Traditional Martial Art Being Revived as a Sport


Swords clash, sticks meet and battles take place in front of audiences as they watch awe-inspiring Gatka—the Sikhs' traditional martial art form.

While it is generally shown for public display, usually during religious procession, the ancient martial art is being popularized and revived as a sport across the globe. In these public displays, robed men and women dressed in traditional attire combat fiercely as they showcase their technical abilities.

Some spectators fear for the martial artists' safety, while others are simply spellbound by the sportsmanship and talent displayed. A closer examination shows that there is more than technical ability to this martial art— there exists a specified order and coordination with the martial artist's body during his/her attacking motions with carefully followed rhythms and motions.
Gatka is a martial art that originated in northern India, and was used mainly by the followers of the Sikh religion to defend the local people against Moghul oppression in South East Asia in the 17th century. It is believed that the Sikhs would use this ancient form of combat to fight opponents outnumbering them five to one.

But how can one person be able to defend him/herself from five people?

"Fluidity is really important in this art, as every move is calculated to start with an attack and end with a defensive pose in one motion," said Gurcharan Singh, who teaches Gatka in Ontario.

The martial art streamlines each move to be as efficient as possible and demands great physical control of the weapon. This efficiency "reduces the reload time," as Singh mentioned, and keeps a continuous flow of attack and defence.

"It takes a lot of mental strength to be able to maintain the coordination required to keep the pace of Gatka," said Gurcharan.

As a result, Gatka emphasizes and puts a special focus on mental training in addition to the physical training of handling and learning the techniques to yield a weapon.

"This sport is a method to maintain a discipline. We are all in a battle to control our minds, whether it is anger, greed, or other negative emotions, and sports, in general, help us achieve this."  —Balwant Singh,  Gatka instructor

Today, Gatka is rarely used in combat and evolved into a sport out of sword practice in the British Indian Army during the 1880s. The sport was heavily influenced by other combat sports, especially fencing.

A single match—or fight—is played between two opponents who spar with wooden shafts or cudgels intended to simulate swords. Sometimes the sticks are paired with a shield.

In North America, the major Gatka competition is the annual "Yudh Gatka Tournament" held across the continent. The Tournament features duels between competing players who alternate between offence and defence. Each fight is three minutes long and points are awarded for striking the opponent—with no intention to hurt them—using a wooden sword called the "soti."

A hit to the lower body rewards the offensive player with one point. Hits to the upper torso are two points and hits to the back and head result in three points. A hit must be clear to the body, head, arms, legs or the feet of the opponent. Any hits to the face/ears or hits in attempts to injure result in a foul.

"Before even touching a weapon, a student is first taught the correct step methods and body movements," said Gurcharan, noting many students are eager to pick up weapons to fight. "This in itself takes a very long time, and I know many students often feel frustrated that they're not fighting with weapons. However, it is crucial that the students know the motions before even touching a weapon."

Both males and females can partake in the sport, but it is mandatory that the combat skills be used only in self-defence.

"This sport is a method to maintain a discipline," said Balwant Singh, a junior instructor at the Fateh Singh Gatka Akhara school in London, England. "We are all in a battle to control our minds, whether it is anger, greed, or other negative emotions, and sports, in general, help us achieve this."

With the growing demand for Gatka instruction, it seems many people are looking to Gatka to learn the discipline, improve their self-defence skills and maintain healthier lifestyles. As a result, many new Gatka schools have begun to spring up across the country. However, for any interested Montrealers, none exist in the city as of yet.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 15, published November 23, 2010.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Dhan Guru Gobind Singh Ji Mahararaj


PERSONALITY :  A visionary of the highest order and a born leader - an excellent planner and superb strategist. Apart from educating his followers in the art of war, guruji also introduced them to literature. The Guru had a natural genius for poetic composition and knew not only Punjabi but also Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. (among other languages)
Manas Ki Jaat Sabhey Aikey Pechhanbo.  - Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib

Behold All Human Race as ONE.

1. Have a mission and continuously work for its success. Let no grief, no hardship, no adversity, in short nothing deviate you from the goal. ,

2. The weak are to be defended against injustice, oppression and tyranny but without entertaining any malice.

3. Evil is to be resisted and uprooted, but the sword is never to be struck in hatred or in anger or in spirit of revenge.

4. Power is never to be used for material gains at the cost of suffering of others.

5. At times it might be possible to reform an evil doer by love and non violence. The silent resistance and suffering for a righteous cause might enable the evil doers to see the truth and he may be reformed, but no amount of non-violence can succeed against a tyrant who is hardened and steeped in criminal oppressive ways and pays no heed to basic values of moral and civilized conduct.

6. One must not be attached to anything as all that is visible has to vanish.

7. Wealth is never to be loved. One may attain wealth but one should always be prepared to part with it.

8. Power (Physical and intellectual) helps one gain dominance in any sphere. The powerless are pushed to wall, humbled and humiliated.

9. Wahe-Guru is symbolic of the Formless Eternal Lord, who is True Guru (Enlightener) of all and the Creator of the Universe.

CONTRIBUTIONS : The contributions made by Guru Gobind Singh ji to the society are far reaching and immense and bear the stamp of his personality. Infact, his contributions are a living embodiment of his "life in action and thought".

Guruji's organizational skills were an immaculate blend of political pragmatics and spiritual ethics and manifested itself in his creation of the Khalsa- a movement for the establishment of an egalitarian society and just social order that was initiated by Guru Nanak Dev ji and reached its finale during the times of Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The KHALSA Pure was created ostensibly to awaken fragmented society and get rid of ritualistic superstitions that were prevalent in the name of religions. Khalsa, as a new order of the saint-soldier, was to uphold Truth and achieve not only self conquest but also control physical evil.

Guru Gobind Singh ji conceived the KHALSA as a common brotherhood composed of persons who were pure at heart and in mind and soul. These persons would join each other as equals in community kitchen and in all other activities- spiritual binding force being the presence of God with them at all hours.

Underlining the significance of this act, Sri Aurobindo in his book, Foundation of Indian Culture, writes that "The Khalsa was an astonishingly original and novel creation and its face was turned not to the past but to the future."

In equally glowing terms Swami Vivekananda writes "Guru Gobind Singh by a flash of his sword filled the dying soul of India with the life- giving light of Truth and Lo! It shone in all its glory again in the life of the new born Khalsa.

Arnold Toyanbee attributed the conceptualization of this egalitarian community with just social order to Guru Gobind Singh when he wrote in Study of World History that "The Khalsa Panth of Guru Gobind Singh, established in 1699, was the fore runner of Lenin's communist party and refuted the claims of Lenin that his party, set up in 1917, was the first to establish a classless and socialist society."

Verses from Sikh Scriptures

1)  Sab Main Jot Jot Hai Soi  -Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji,  ang 663

=> God is in everyone and everywhere

2) Satguru Daya Nidh Mehma Agadh Bodh Namo Namo Namo Namo Net Net Net Hai -  Bhai Gurdas Ji

"Satguru is an Ocean of Mercy, Daya, Compassion. It means Daya on all alike. This covers the whole humanity."

3) Sarb Dharam Mein Shreisht Dharam Har Ko Nam Jap Nirmal Karam  - Sri Guru Granth SahibJi, ang 266

"Best of all religions is the thirst for the Divine and pure deeds, says Sri Guru Arjan Sahib."

4) Saach Kahou Sun Laih Sabhai Jin Prem Kio Tin Hi Prabh PaioGuru Gobind Singh ji

'Let the Eternal Truth be known by all, Only those who thirst for the Divine attain Him'