Indian Martial Arts — Will they survive?

Initially Fighting was simply Survival


Before Fighting became a Science, it was simply survival.
“Man is a social animal” – we’ve all come across this saying in the course of our lives. So if we took the “social” out of the mix, Man is an animal. And that’s what he was before he grew social. As we all know, most animals fight. For an animal fighting is as natural as the phenomena of Eating, sleeping, living. In the wild – if you were an animal, everything is automatically a fight. A fight to protect your home-turf, a fight to protect your food, a fight to acquire the right to mate (we call it family these days) and so on…if you get the hang of what I’m saying. Anyone who’s seen documentaries on wilderness and wildlife will know this for a fact – Fighting was/is an integral part of animal life. Even the harmless herbivorous animals will fight – for all the reasons listed above (and perhaps many others not listed). So, if you happen to buy into the Evolution theory, you will know that we (Human beings) also evolved from a state of existence such as that described above. So fighting is/was almost an automatic response to threats (predators, bigger humans, etc)…well almost…since our ancestors also learnt that “It is wiser to live to fight another day than die fighting today…” before they could articulate it (Hence the “Fight or Flight response” – depending on the circumstances). Well, to fight off large predators or to acquire food, they (early humans) began hunting with “weapons” of various degrees of primitiveness. To fight off each other (in the struggle of intra-group dominance), they probably started with primitive (bite, gouge eyes, punch, slap, kick) techniques of hand-to-hand combat (and most of us, even today, when pushed into a corner will react in exactly that way).

How Fighting became a Science

As time went by, our ancestors figured out which entities are threatening and which are benign. Predators had always been the greatest threats and so they invented “weapons” to deal with them. Also, as they started “socializing” (living in groups, moving from fulltime hunters to gatherers); each of these social groups started developing the need to assert dominance over the others, thus giving rise to the sciences of the battle — bare-hands fighting, wrestling, weaponry, warfare-tactics. Bare-hands fighting and wrestling have had a very illustrious and long history in India. In fact, Ancient treatises such as the Dhanur Veda (8) and the Malla Purana supposedly deal with warfare and martial techniques in great detail.

When the conditions of combat went beyond the rudimentary “bite, kick, slap, scratch” of animalistic reflexes, and the early man had to figure out ways to get the “edge”. For example:

In course of fighting (or watching some others fight), one of them might have realized that simply throwing a punch at the target doesn’t have as much an impact as throwing a punch at a target a few inches behind the opponent’s head. Also, a kick could have greater impact than a punch…or a stick would be a more effective tool for fighting than a hand or a leg…

Therefore, as countless such refinements happened, the animal reflex of fighting turned into a Science, where the experts (or those with a penchant for this kind of an affair) would spend hours, months, perhaps even years studying and understanding the mechanics of the human body. They figured out which would the best way to lock a joint (in a human limb); what would be the optimal pressure applied to a pressure point in the human body to bring the body under their control. In course of these efforts at studying the human body, the early Martial scientists started unearthing the mysteries of the physical body. We could easily assume that the need to stay alive (both from natural ailments, as well as human-caused ones) was the driving force behind both the Science of fighting and the science of medicine.

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