Introduction to Gatka

The Gatka | Introduction to Gatka | History of Gatka | Origins of Gatka | Gatka Techniques | Gatka Early Development | Meaning of Gatka | Gatka Requirements | Gatka Shastar Weapons | Weapons in Gatka | Gatka Vidyaa

Gatka is an ancient martial art which has been thoroughly battle-tested and has existed in northern India for many thousands of years. Although it uses the sword as its primary weapon, many other weapons are available to the Gatka master. Today, this art exists exclusively amongst the Sikhs who have passed down the flamboyant techniques through generations, since their sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind wore the two swords of Miri (temporal, worldly) and Piri (spiritual, transcendental).

The Sikhs have been responsible for the revival of this early art ensuring it’s survival despite mass persecution of the native population in India by foreign invaders like the Mughals and others for many hundreds of years.
Gatka is the traditional martial art of the Sikhs. It is based on the basic principle of unification of the mind, body and spirit in a rhythm of life to train a saint-soldier to be able to defend himself or herself.

When learning the art, you go from bare handed combat to using various shastars (weapons) such as kirpans, sticks, lathis, marotis, nun chucks, axes and a lot more.

The first shastar that a student will use is a stick normally made out of bamboo, sometimes called a Marati. With the stick you are taught all of the basic physical movements and the mental attitude required. Once these techniques have been learnt then these can be applied with other shastars as you gain more experience.

Kirpans type Shastars come in different shapes and sizes and can also come in different styles. Some the kirpans that are used by practitioners are: Talwar, Gurj, Standard, Thega, etc.

Gatka Warriors in Temple

Once the various techniques have been mastered, you go onto to sparing with shastars and this is when you will then be introduced to shields. Shields come in many forms and shapes.

They vary a lot – some are large and heavy; some have spikes on them for attacking; some are very basic and are only used for defence only.

Sparing is a completely different level of functioning. It can be very dangerous sparing with kirpans and axes and requires strict discipline, concentration, clartity of mind and restrain.

Some shastars are not used in action but are worn by the practitioner for defence. These are either placed in our “kamar kasa” (belt) or around our dastars (Turban) such as a “chakar” (metal ring).

Some instruments used in war were not even weapons such as the Ranjit Nagara, the drum of victory, was used to boast the morale of the Sikhs going to battle, during battle and coming out of battle. Even Bani was used to help in battle the soldiers during wars. Gurbani helped even the weakest Sikhs to fight heroically. The Bani, Shastar Mahma from the Dasam Granth is one such Bani.

In addition to giving the student defensive skills, it also helps the individual with other aspects of their life: makes the mind alert and responsive, maintains the body in a near perfect condition and makes soul fearless, compassionate and tranquil.

The techniques involved are extremely effective for defence and attack as well as visually spectacular. The Sikhs mastered Gatka and perfected its use in battle. Many battles were won by the Sikhs, despite almost always numbering far fewer than the opposite forces. The techniques within Gatka were combined with the spiritual practices of the Sikhs to create a perfect fighting system. Opposing forces have documented how awesome these Sikhs were at battle!

The art of Gatka involves a series of integral combat training systems that include several systems of duels armed – unarmed and the use of weapons of defense and offence. It aims at the coordination of mind & body through the meditation of spiritual verses of Gurbani, a holistic system by which the character and moral attitude of a student is shaped.

In its physical form , Gatka is the original feudal art of the Saint Soldiers “Khalsa”, for whom the way of life is the same as the art of war. A separate entity from the art of mere fighting, its a way of life. The balance of fighting skills, religion, healing and philosophy are the elements which consolidate into this great martial art. Any martial tradition (“Bir Bidiya”), skill, belief or art which is not beneficial to both the exponent and society is not a martial art, the following must exist:

  • Disciplined training
  • A moral philosophy
  • Dedication and a sense of duty and respect, where a balance and understanding of both cultural and martial ways is established.

Through its own evolution and efforts of a group of Instructors and schools ( Akhara’s ) around the world, it has progressed through the years to its present position as a martial art of great valor. Its theory, techniques and methods have been handed down through the centuries and today have been molded into an art with all of the action and history of the past contained within its present training. It is practiced in a way that it proves useful at any time and is taught in a way that it is useful in all walks and duties of life.

The Spiritual attributes of this art are instilled with the realization that one is participating in an art developed by spiritual warriors who possessed great valor, honesty and integrity, the principles and traditional concepts as laid down by great saints, bhagats, peers of various religions and faiths and Sikh Gurus off and during the evolution of the Sikh religion.

The martial mind, the discipline, the focus of the truth all elements of the MIND, the principles laid down for the warrior practitioner mankind is that the personality of ones self is a temporary alliance of wants and desires, (The material) and that life it self is no more than an illusion (The dream) , one can aspire to no greater heights than to die gloriously for the truth. To die is a metaphor which relates to all aspects of life from the daily duties as a citizen of a country , a noble, a peasant, a king, a parent, a soldier or a saint. The duties of the saint soldier has no margin in the way of life. The principles are all the same in any field and walk of life for all mankind. The prime objective, achieving a balance of the outer and inner elements. The ultimate, to die fighting in the field of battle.