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Indian Martial Arts - Ek Itihaas - E12 Kathi Samu

This episode of Indian Martial Arts tells you about a centuries old sword fighting technique from the lands of Dravidians, now a depleting tradition, Kathi Samu.

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    This episode throws light on a weapon-based Indian martial art, Mardaani khel which originated in Maharashtra around the early 1600s. The Maratha's were known to be homespun warriors whose martial art was distinctive as it employed the use of Pata (sword) and Vita (corded lance). Mardaani khel rose to prominence under the leadership of Shivaji who relied on the guerilla tactics of Maratha units. As with many of India's combat sports, Mardaani khel gradually declined in popularity during the colonial period when firearms were more widely adopted. However, as the 18th century British colonists recognized the military qualities of the Maratha people and in 1768 the Maratha Light Infantry regiment was formed which still exists. It is the oldest and most renowned regiment in the Indian army. Today, Mardani Khel is considered to be a performing art and a reminder of the valiant heritage of the Marathas.

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    India has international level wrestlers including women. Where did this sport originate and how did it grow in popularity? Epic Channel takes you on a journey to discover the original form of wrestling, Kushti, which was developed in the Mughal Empire. The combat art combined the native malla-yuddha with influences from Persian koshti pahlavani. A practitioner of this sport was referred to as a pehlwan while the teachers were known either as ustad or guru. In the 16th century, the Central Asian Mughals, through the influence of Iranian and Mongolian wrestling, incorporated groundwork to the local malla-yuddha, thereby creating the modern Kushti. During the late 17th century, Ramadasa the father of Indian athletics travelled the country encouraging people to take up a physical activity in homage to the monkey god, Hanuman. Wrestling was the favourite spectator sport of the Rajputs and every prince or chief had a number of wrestling champions to compete for his entertainment. Find out further details about this art form all on this episode.

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    Delve into the history of the earliest weapon known to man. Lathi Khel or game of sticks was the first weapon based Martial Art. Once a pupil became an expert in Lathi Khel they would graduate to other weapons. A lathi is a 5 to 6 feet long bamboo stick tipped with a metal blunt and used by swinging it like a sword. A single person well versed in the Martial art of Lathi Khel can successfully fight with many at the same time. Lathi Khel was practiced all over India but particularly in Rajasthan. Known to be the land of the valiant Rajputs, Rajasthan had fierce swordsmen whose dexterity of swordsmanship lay in the ancient Martial Art form, Lathi Khel. In 17th Century the Zamindars responsible for collections raised Lathaits for forceful tax collections. At the same time, Lathi Khel had also evolved as a sport. The British introduced Lathis as a weapon for the Indian Police in the 19th Century. This gave birth to the lathi charge used to disperse crowds. The British after 1857 discouraged the village self-defense technique but Nationalist groups revived the concept and imparted Lathi Khel training to young men and women organizing secret clubs in order to be able to stand up against the British atrocities. Lathi Khel remains the favorite weapon of the common man even today.

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    E4 Gatka

    21 Min

    This episode helps you to understand the traditional form of combat-training with wooden sticks called Gatka. These sticks are used to simulate swords in sparring matches. Gatka originated in North India and neighbouring Pakistan where the regional system of fighting is today most commonly termed shastara-vidiya. Its creation is attributed to Lord Shiva and his devotees. Guru Nanak was taught the art of combat by sadhus of the Natha sect and his successor, Guru Angad Dev, taught followers to train the body physically, mentally and spiritually, encouraging the practice of martial arts. One of Guru Nanak's early disciples, Baba Buddha, taught the boy who would eventually become the sixth Sikh patriarch, Guru Hargobind. Guru Hargobind founded the original Sikh fighting school, the Ranjit Akhara (invincible training hall) at Amritsar, with its armed force known as the Akal Sena or immortal army. He propagated the theory of the warrior-saint (miri-piri) and emphasized the need to practice fighting for self-defence against the Mughal rulers due to growing animosities. Since India's independence from colonial rule, Gatka has been managed and promoted in India by the Punjab Gatka Association, Gatka Federation of India and International Sikh Martial Art Academy. Gatka is still practiced by some communities in Pakistan but is a dying art. Today, Gatka is most often showcased during the martial festival of Hola Mohalla, as well as Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations in the Punjab.

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    Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian sport in which a gymnast performs feats and poses in concert with a vertical wooden pole or rope. Mallakhamba derives from the terms, malla which denotes a wrestler and khamba which means a pole. Mallakhamba can therefore be translated in English as pole gymnastics. The earliest recorded reference to mallakhamba is found in Someshvara Chalukya's classic Manasollasa (1135 AD). Originally, mallakhamba was used as a supporting exercise for wrestlers. Although known to have been practiced in medieval Maharasthra and Hyderabad, the sport didn't become visible in practice and well recorded until the 18th century when it was revived by Balambhatdada Deodhar, the fitness instructor of PeshwaBaji Rao II during the reign of the Peshwas. Subsequently, the unavailability of cane resulted in rope mallakhamba. Today, it is used more often as a performance art rather than a method of training. At present The Mallakhamb Federation of India is the official Indian National Federation. 29 states of India participate in mallakhamba competitions at the national level.

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    Learn about one of the oldest fighting systems, Kalaripayattu which originated in 1362 CE in Kerala.The word kalari first appeared in Sangam literature which described both a battlefield and a combat arena. Each warrior in the Sangam era received regular military training. The combat techniques of the Sangam period were the earliest precursors to Kalaripayattu. The martial art developed into its present form by the 6th century, during an extended period of warfare between the Chera and Chola dynasties.The Tamil sage, Agastya and Lord Parashurama are regarded as the founders and patron saints of Southern Kalaripayat. The martial art includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry as well as healing methods. Regional variants are classified according to geographical positions in Kerala. Kalari warriors stood up against the British in the early part of the 19th century and then the British banned its practice. In recent years, efforts have been made to further popularise the art by featuring it in international and Indian films.

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    E7 Sqay

    22 Min

    Sqay is a South Asian martial art created by the Kashmiris from the former state of Kashmir. The early history of sqay is limited to mythology. Folklore traces it to remote antiquity several thousand years ago, as far back as the ancient Kashmiri flood myth. The Shaivite snake-worshipping Naga people are said to have created the art prior to the Indo-Aryan invasions and was later patronised by kings. The first written evidence of sqay dates to the Muslim period when writings told of sabre-fighting (shamsherizen) in Kashmir. The word sqay itself is first recorded in this period, and is said to mean knowledge of war in Persian. Sqay first began to decline in the colonial period but its popularity suffered more during the post-independence border conflict. Armed sqay makes use of a curved single-edge sword paired with a shield, while unarmed techniques incorporate kicks, punches, locks and chops. In the 1980's, the sqay grandmaster, Nazir Ahmed Mir feared that the art would go extinct, and so introduced modern types of competition influenced by karate and taekwondo. The subsequent founding of the International Council of Sqay and the Sqay Federation of India has allowed the system to be promoted on a national level, and it is now taught in twenty Indian states. It is today practiced mainly in what are now Azad Kashmir in Pakistan and the Kashmir Valley in India.

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    Paika akhada or paika akhara is an Odia term which roughly translates as warrior gymnasium. Paika akhada were originally the training schools of the paika class of warriors. The paika were landed militia who were exempted from taxes in lieu of their services. They were not in the regular pay-roll of the army, but still received large land grants from the king. A peasant militia, the paika's main source of income was agriculture. In times of peace the paika served as law enforcement, and the paika akhada were used to keep the warrior class physically and mentally fit. Kharavela of ancient Kalinga relied on the military of the paika in his campaigns.The paika and khandayat reached their zenith of power during the Gajapati Dynasty, and were known as far as Indonesia. The paika lost their power and prestige in the early 19th century under British rule. Discontent over the East India Company's policies resulted in the Paika Rebellion of 1817, Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mohapatra Rai lead 400 paika in revolting against British rule. Descendants of the paika practice at their local akhara every day after work. Demonstrations are arranged every year for the Dasara festival and other occasions. Today's paika akhada are used for practising the traditional physical exercises in addition to the paika dance, a performing art with rhythmic movements and weapons being hit in time to the drum.

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    Karnataka is a state where one of the most ancient Indian Martial art is still practiced in its traditional form – Vajramushti. The term refers to a knuckleduster-like weapon and also a form of Indian wrestling with the weapon. The vajramusti is usually made of ivory or a buffalo horn. The variation used for warfare had long blades protruding from each end and an elaborate bladed knuckle. The first literary mention of vajra-musti comes from the Manasollasa of the Chalukya king, Someswara III (1124–1138), although it has been conjectured to have existed as early as the Maurya dynasty. Vajra-musti and its unarmed counterpart malla-yuddha was practiced by the Jyeṣṭīmalla (the most excellent wrestlers), worshipping Modha Brahmins first mentioned in the 12th century. The Portuguese traveller Domingo Paez records the practice of vajra-musti in the southern Vijayanagara Empire. After independence, the family tradition of wrestling lost its prestige without its royal patronage. Modern Indians regarded such violent sports as barbarically outdated. Vajra-musti matches are still held during the annual Mysore Dasara festival at Mysore Palace, a tradition dating back to the Wadiyar dynasty in 1610. Unlike the bloody matches of old, the modern combatant use knuckle-dusters with blunt studs. The fight ends immediately after first blood is drawn and the referee's verdict is seldom questioned.

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    Silambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art from Tamil Nadu. It is also traditionally practised by the Tamil community of Sri Lanka and Malaysia and is closely related to Keralan Kalaripayatu. It derives from the Tamil word silam meaning hill and the Kannada word bambu from which the English bamboo originates. The term silambambu referred to a particular type of bamboo from the Kurinji hills in present-day Kerala. Thus, silambam was named after its primary weapon, the bamboo staff. Oral folklore traces silambam back several thousand years to the Agastya. While on his way to Vellimalai, Agastya discussed Hindu philosophy with an old man he met, said to be the God Murugan in disguise. The old man taught him the method of Silambam. Agastya practiced this method and eventually compiled three texts on palm leaves based on the God's teachings. References in the Silappadikkaram and other works of Sangam literature shows that silambam has been practiced as far back as the 2nd Century BC. The soldiers of Kings Puli Thevar, Veerapandiya Kattabomman and Maruthu Pandiyar relied mainly on their silambam prowess in their warfare against the British Army. Indian martial arts suffered a decline after the British colonists banned silambam along with various other systems. The ban was lifted after India achieved independence. Today, silambam is the most famous and widely practiced Indian martial art in India and Malaysia where demonstrations are held for cultural shows. In subsequent decades silambam has featured in Tamil films as well.

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    The Singhbhum and Saraikela areas are situated on the Chota Nagpur plateau, now a part of Jharkhand State. The tribes of these areas practice a martial art from time antiquity which later came to be known as Pari (phari) Khanda. Singhbhum was ruled by Darp Narayan Singh in 1205 AD and he inducted the tribesmen into his army and all the soldiers were trained in the Martial Art. Adivasi version of the parikhanda dance is called Sastriya Nritya. The dance portrayals are mostly enactments of hunting scenes and self-defense. It is believed that the existing martial art form of the Singhbhum soldiers was called Pari Khanda. Many Gurus such as Upendra Biswal and Banmali Das who started imparting Pari Khanda training to soldiers also kept on improvising on its techniques. The mughals, the British and even the Marathas tried to conquer this region but in vain. During the 1760, Orissa and Bengal was ceded to the East India company by the Mughals, the kings who had never acceded their territory to the Mughals opposed this fiercely and the British met with little success. In 1857, Raja Arjun Singh fought with his Pari Khanda experts and gave the British a tough time for several months and was never captured. Later in 1900 Birsa Munda, a 25 year old Pari Khanda warrior revolted against the acquisition of land of the tribes by the Zamindars. In the 18th century few soldiers started to entertain their fellow soldiers by performing the movements of Pari Khanda that became the basis of the Chau Dance. The decline of the practice of the martial art began as the monarchy ended and modern firearms came into practice. However, the martial art has managed to survive in the guise of a dance form.

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    This episode of Indian Martial Arts tells you about a centuries old sword fighting technique from the lands of Dravidians, now a depleting tradition, Kathi Samu.

    Read More + Watch Promo

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