HomeSports 2.0Thang-Ta: The Ancient Martial Art of Manipur
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Thang-Ta: The Ancient Martial Art of Manipur

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Thang-Ta is a traditional martial art from the Indian state of Manipur. It is a physically demanding and challenging sport that combines elements of wrestling, boxing, and fighting involving swords and spears. Thang-Ta is a centuries-old tradition, and it is still practiced today by people of all ages in Manipur. ThangTa (armed combat) is one of the two main components of Huyen langlon, whose other main component is sarit sarak (unarmed fighting). Thang-Ta practitioners are known as “Thangmei” for male practitioners and “Thangmeina” for female practitioners. The art form involves intricate and graceful movements, making it an aesthetically appealing martial art to watch. Let’s delve into the world of Thang-Ta, exploring its history, rules, weapons, and the essence of the graceful warrior of dance within.

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History of Thang-Ta

Thang-Ta (Martial Arts)
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The exact origins of Thang-Ta are unknown, but it is believed to have originated in Manipur over 1000 years ago. The name “Thang-Ta” comes from the Manipuri words “thang” (sword) and “ta” (spear). Thang-Ta was originally developed as a way of self-defense, and it was also used as a training ground for soldiers.

Thang-Ta was popularized in Manipur during the 17th century when the state was ruled by the Meitei kingdom. The Meitei kings were great patrons of the arts and sciences, and they encouraged the practice of Thang-Ta. Thang-Ta was also used as a way to train soldiers for battle. This method of combat was utilized extensively while fighting against British rule.

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Rules of Thang-Ta

Image Source: Hindustan Times

The rules of Thang-Ta vary depending on the region, but there are some basic rules that are common to all forms of the sport. 

  • The goal of Thang-Ta is to score points by hitting your opponent with your stick or by knocking them to the ground. 
  • Points can also be scored by tripping your opponent or by throwing them.
  • The game is played on a circular arena that is about 20 feet long in diameter and 30 feet in diameter of outline.
  • The referee line will be drawn at a distance of 5ft. from the center of the arena in the direction of the referee.
  • The player line will be drawn at a distance of 5 ft. from the center arena in the direction of each player.
  • The players use a variety of sticks, including straight sticks, curved sticks, and weighted sticks.
  • The game is played in two rounds, and each round lasts for three minutes. In between the 2 rounds, the players will get 1 minute of interval. The one with the most points at the end of the two rounds wins the game.

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The Artistic Expression of the Combat

Unlike some other martial arts, Thang-Ta performances are characterized by a beautiful dance-like quality, blending combat techniques with artistic expression. The practitioners move with a harmonious rhythm, their movements a symphony of grace and strength. The mesmerizing spectacle of Thang-Ta performances leaves spectators in awe of the artistry and prowess displayed by the practitioners.

Thang-Ta Weapons

Thang Ta-“The Art of the Sword and Spear”
Image Source: Sana Leibak Manipur

Thang-Ta encompasses a variety of weapons that are used in both practice and combat. Each weapon is an extension of the practitioner’s body, and the mastery of these weapons requires skill, precision, and discipline. Here are some of the prominent Thang-Ta weapons:

Sword (Thang): The sword, known as “Thang” in Manipuri, is one of the primary weapons in Thang-Ta. It is typically a single-edged, slightly curved blade with a hilt for gripping. The sword techniques focus on slashing, cutting, and thrusting maneuvers. Practitioners learn various grips, strikes, and defensive techniques, making the Thang a versatile and deadly weapon in skilled hands.

Spear (Ta): The “Ta” or spear is another essential weapon in Thang-Ta. The spear used in Thang-Ta is typically a one-pointed long staff, often with a blade attached to the tip. The techniques involve thrusting, parrying, and striking from a distance. The spear enables the practitioner to keep adversaries at bay while maintaining an advantage in combat.

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Shield (Thok): The “Thok” is a traditional shield used in Thang-Ta. It is usually made of buffalo hide and is designed to protect the practitioner from incoming attacks. The Thok plays a vital role in defense, as it allows the practitioner to block strikes and maintain a solid defense while looking for opportunities to counterattack.


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Dagger (Sandek): The “Sandek” is a short dagger or knife used in Thang-Ta. It is an effective close-quarters weapon, ideal for swift and decisive strikes. Practitioners learn various techniques for quick and precise movements with the Sandek, making it a lethal tool when confronted at close range.

Staff (Khambang): The “Khambang” or staff is a long wooden pole used as a weapon in Thang-Ta. The staff techniques involve both offensive and defensive maneuvers. It can be used for striking, blocking, and disarming opponents. The staff’s length provides a reach advantage, making it useful in maintaining distance during combat.

Flexible Sword (Panthoibi): The “Panthoibi” is a unique weapon in Thang-Ta, often referred to as a “flexible sword” or “whip-sword.” It consists of a flexible metal blade attached to a handle, which allows for a combination of slashing and flexible whip-like movements. Mastery of the Panthoibi requires advanced skill and precision.

Club (Mukna Cheibi): The “Mukna Cheibi” is a club or baton used in Thang-Ta. It is a straightforward yet powerful weapon that enhances the practitioner’s striking abilities. Techniques with the club focus on strong and forceful blows.

Chain (Athen): The “Athen” is a chain weapon used in Thang-Ta. It consists of a chain with weights on both ends, and the practitioner can employ it for striking, trapping, and disarming opponents. The chain’s flexible nature allows for unpredictable movements, adding an element of surprise in combat.

Thang-Ta as a Competitive Sport

Thang-Ta: History, Rules, Weapons, Dance | KreedOn
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Thang-Ta is a competitive sport, and there are a number of tournaments held every year in Manipur. The most prestigious tournament is the Thang-Ta World Cup, which is held every four years. The Thang-Ta World Cup is a major event, and it attracts teams from all over the world.


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International and National Organizations

There are a number of international organizations that promote Thang-Ta, including:

World Thang-Ta Federation (WTF)

Thang-Ta: History, Rules, Weapons, Dance | KreedOn
Image Source: Facebook

The WTF is the governing body for Thang-Ta worldwide. The WTF is responsible for organizing international tournaments and promoting the sport.

Thang-Ta Federation of India

Thang-Ta: History, Rules, Weapons, Dance | KreedOn
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The Thang-Ta Federation of India is the governing body for Thang-Ta in India. It is responsible for organizing national tournaments and promoting the sport in India.

Conclusion

Thang-Ta is a centuries-old martial art that is still practiced today in Manipur. It is a physically demanding and challenging sport that combines elements of wrestling, boxing, and stick fighting. Thang-Ta is a great way to stay in shape and learn self-defense. It is also a great way to connect with the culture of Manipur.


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