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- This is about the revival of the style associated with Sikhs in particular. For the general meaning of the term, see Indian martial arts.
Gatka demonstration in Bedford, England (2007)
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Gatka (Punjabi: ਗਤਕਾ Urdu: گٹکا gatkā) is the name of an Indian martial art associated with the Sikhs of the Punjab region, and with the Tanoli(Pathan Tribe) and Gujjar communities residing in mountainous regions of northern Pakistan who practice an early variant of the martial art. It is a style of stick fighting, with wooden sticks intended to simulate swords. The Punjabi name gatka properly refers to the wooden stick used. The word originates as a diminutive of Sanskrit gada "mace".
The style originated in later 19th century, out of sword practice in the British Indian Army, divided in two sub-style, called rasmi (ritualistic) and khel (sport) from the 1880s. There has been a revival during the later 20th century, with an International Gatka Federation was founded in 1982 and formalized in 1987, and gatka is now popular as a sport or sword dance performance art and is often shown during Sikh festivals.
During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Sikhs assisted the British in crushing the mutiny. As a consequence of this assistance, restrictions on fighting practices were relaxed, but the Punjabi martial arts which re-emerged after 1857 had changed significantly. The new style applied the sword-fighting techniques to the wooden training-stick. It was referred to as gatka, after its primary weapon. Gatka was used mainly by the British Indian Army in the 1860s as practice for hand-to-hand combat.
The Defendu system devised by Captain William Ewart Fairbairn and Captain Eric Anthony Sykes borrowed methodologies from gatka, jujutsu, Chinese martial arts and "gutter fighting". This method was used to train soldiers in close-combat techniques at the Commando Basic Training Centre in Achnacarry, Scotland.
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Khel (meaning sport or game) is the modern competitive aspect of gatka, originally used as a method of sword-training (fari-gatka) or stick-fighting (lathi khela) in medieval times.
While khel gatka is today most commonly associated with Sikhs, it has always been used in the martial arts of other ethno-cultural groups. It is still practiced in India and Pakistan by the Tanoli and Gurjara communities.
- Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith (1969). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International Limited.
- Ananda Lal, The Oxford companion to Indian theatre, Oxford University Press (2004), ISBN 9780195644463, p. 129.
- Sikh martial art `Gatka' takes the West by storm. (Press Trust of India). The Hindu
- [v MILITARY SIKHS: The Education of a Sikh Warrior. Victoria and Albert Museum.] 'An introduction to Shastar Vidiya - the education of a Sikh warrior' was a lecture by Nidar Singh, given as part of the Sikh Arts and Heritage Lecture Series at the V&A, 10 October 2001.
- O. Janson. Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting knife: The famous fightingknife used by British commandos and SOE during WW2. Gothia Arms Historical Society
- Nanak Dev Singh Khalsa & Sat Katar Kaur Ocasio-Khalsa (1991) Gatka as taught by Nanak Dev Singh, Book One - Dance of the Sword (2nd Edition). GT International, Phoenix, Arizona. ISBN 0-89509-087-2
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