HomeSports 2.0Gatka Sport: Where Tradition Meets Combat – Unveiling the Secrets of this...
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Gatka Sport: Where Tradition Meets Combat – Unveiling the Secrets of this Exhilarating Sport

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The traditional Indian martial art known as gatka was developed in Punjab. It emphasizes swords and wooden sticks used in armed battles. Practitioners of the Gatka, also called Gatkaars, exhibit a combination of dexterity, coordination, and proficiency with a weapon. Techniques for self-defense, physical fitness, and spiritual growth are highlighted in this art form. Gatka game has become recognized as a sport and a cultural tradition that encourages self-control, bravery, and cultural preservation. In this blog, we will delve deeper to look at the game of Gatka, its origin, and history in Punjab, how the sport has evolved, etc.

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Origin of Gatka

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In Punjabi, the word “gatka” literally means “wooden sticks,” which are used in place of swords. Gatka uses the sword as the primary weapon, among other things, and has been handed down through the generations and recorded in Sikh history. The two swords that Sri Guru Har Gobind Singh Ji used to wield, Miri and Piri, respectively represented might and spirituality. It is a form that should only be utilized as a last resort to protect both you and other people.

The players of the Gatka game are known as Nihangs or armed Sikh warriors. Sikh warriors made great use of the gatka during the 16th and 17th centuries to protect themselves from the Mughals and their crimes. One of history’s finest Gatka warriors is known as Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

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Motive of Gatka

Not only the fighting part is taught during the learning process. This type of art represents the fusion of the body, mind, and soul. This art form trains you to exercise with dedication and discipline and to maintain mental equilibrium.

How to Perform Gatka

Image Source- SikhNet

Gatka, an Indian martial art, has evolved from bare-hand combat to encompass a wide range of weapons. Beginners start with wooden bamboo sticks before progressing to kirpans, which can be customized in size and shape. Shields also play a crucial role, ranging from simple to bulky and spikey designs.

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As practitioners become proficient with the basics, they learn to wield various Shastras, requiring strict discipline, concentration, and proper technique. Additionally, while not used in combat, Shastras like the Dastar (turban) and Kamar Kasa (belt) are worn for adornment. The uplifting power of Ranjit Nagara (the drum of victory) and reciting Gurbani is also harnessed to boost the spirits of Sikh fighters.

Weapons in Gatka

Gatka Game | Sport Origin | Punjab | History | KreedOn
Image Source: allmartialarts

This martial art has evolved from hand-to-hand combat to incorporating a range of weapons such as swords, kirpans, lathis, axes, and wooden poles. Mastering the basics begins with a wooden bamboo stick, followed by the use of kirpans in various sizes and forms to suit different requirements.

Shields, available in diverse shapes and sizes, range from plain and simple to large and spiked. Once proficiency is achieved with the fundamental weapons, other Shastras are introduced to further enhance mastery. Due to the potential risks associated with handling these weapons, a high level of discipline, focus, and proper technique is essential.

Some Shastras, like the Dastar (turban) and Kamar Kasa (belt), are worn by Nihangs as ornamental symbols rather than for actual combat. To instill bravery, Sikhs engage in playing the Ranjit Nagara (the drum of victory) and reciting Gurbani. These elements are also regarded as Shastras employed within Gatka, promoting a holistic approach to the martial art.

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List of Shastras

  • Wooden bamboo stick (basic weapon)
  • Kirpans (swords of various shapes and sizes)
  • Lathis (long wooden sticks)
  • Axes
  • Shields (varying from basic to bulky and spikey)
  • Other Shastras (advanced weapons)
  • Dastar (turban, worn for adornment)
  • Kamar Kasa (belt, worn for adornment)
  • Ranjit Nagara (drum of victory, used for raising spirits)
  • Reciting Gurbani (spiritual verses, used for raising spirits)

Rules of the Sport

Gatka Game | Sport Origin | Punjab | History | KreedOn
Image Source- Holidify

Gatka, as a traditional Indian martial art and a recognized sport, follows certain rules and guidelines to ensure safety and fair play. While specific rules may vary, here are some common aspects and principles observed in Gatka:

  1. Attire: Practitioners typically wear traditional clothing such as a Kurta (tunic), Salwar (pants), and Dumala (turban) during Gatka performances. The attire may vary based on regional customs and preferences.
  2. Weapons: Gatka involves the use of various weapons, including swords, kirpans, lathis (long sticks), and shields. Participants must handle these weapons responsibly and adhere to proper techniques while performing.
  3. Respect and Discipline: Gatka emphasizes respect for opponents, instructors, and the art itself. Participants are expected to demonstrate discipline, courtesy, and humility throughout their training and performances.
  4. Sparring and Techniques: Gatka involves both solo and sparring practices. During sparring, participants engage in controlled combat, focusing on precise strikes, blocks, footwork, and defensive maneuvers. Safety precautions are essential to prevent injuries.
  5. Scoring and Judging: In formal Gatka competitions, points may be awarded based on techniques executed correctly, successful strikes, effective defense, and overall performance. Judges assess the skill, agility, and control displayed by participants.
  6. Sportsmanship: Good sportsmanship is highly valued in Gatka. Participants are encouraged to display integrity, fairness, and respect towards their opponents, regardless of the outcome of a match or performance.
  7. Rituals and Traditions: Gatka often incorporates traditional rituals and practices, such as the recitation of Gurbani (spiritual verses) and the playing of the Ranjit Nagara (the drum of victory). These elements contribute to the cultural and spiritual significance of the art form.

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Gatka in Today’s World

The modern Gatka performance we witness today originated in the early 19th century and has since been categorized into traditional (Rasmi) and sports (Khel) styles. In 1936, formal rules were established, transforming Gatka into a recognized sport. Interestingly, Punjab University Patiala is the sole institution offering a 1-year diploma course dedicated to mastering Gatka. The NGO ‘Sarbat da Bhala’ sponsors 75% of the course fee, amounting to Rs. 25,000, leaving the student responsible for the remaining 25%. Gatka has become an integral and captivating part of Sikh festivals, processions, and Gurdwaras, particularly after its revival and formalization by the International Gatka Federation in 1987.

Recognition as Sport

Today, it is a recognized sport played at the national level, thanks to the establishment of the Gatka Federation of India in 2008. This recognition by the Punjab government has resulted in Gatka being included as a sport in their official policy, granting players a 3% quota during admissions, similar to players of other sports. Gatka serves as a testament to the preservation and promotion of a unique martial art form from medieval times, encapsulating and safeguarding our rich cultural heritage.

Gatka is set to gain national prominence as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has included it as a demonstration sport for the 2023 National Games in Goa in October. While medals earned in demonstration sports do not count toward the overall medal tally, the inclusion of Gatka in 2023 National Games curriculum increases the likelihood of it being recognized as a competitive discipline in future editions.

Where to see Gatka?

Gatka Game | Sport Origin | Punjab | History | KreedOn
Image Source- SBS Punjabi

The most entertaining and interesting venue to see this sport is at any of the major Sikh festivals, in addition to the several academies in India that offer training facilities. In addition to the procession, hymns, and mouthwatering cuisine, trained professionals provide entertainment in the form of gatka.


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