Indian Martial Arts — Will they survive?

Martial Sciences in the Indian Context


This transformation (changing from a basic instinct to a science) had happened in every culture since antiquity (and though we might not notice it, it IS happening even today all over the world – the scale might have changed, but the process still lives on). Before we go into a little more detail about the various facets of Indian Martial systems, let us first look at the general distinct categories that exist in it.

The Martial Systems can be categorized into two general branches:

a) Armed fighting

b) Unarmed fighting


a) Armed Fighting: Historically, this system was about using weapons to fight. The first weapons were probably crude club-like instruments made out of rocks and wood (yeah – “Hagar the Horrible” ring a bell anyone?). These eventually evolved into the famous Mace (or Gada of Bheema/Duryodhana fame). The other commonly used weapons were “Bows and Arrows”, swords, tridents, spears, sticks, staves, and the chakras (Sri Krishna fame).

b) Unarmed Fighting: This is my topic of interest (primarily) and I shall elaborate a little more in depth on this…

· Grappling

· Striking

· Kicking

· Throwing and Joint-locking

· Grappling: Grappling systems are perhaps the most basic and natural instinctive technique of fighting. For example: Kusti, Sumo


· Striking: Using hand-strikes to hurt the opponent(s). For example: Boxing, Karate


· Kicking: Using kicks (legs) to hurt the opponent(s). For example: Kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do


· Throwing: using throwing and joint-locking techniques to subdue the opponents. For example: Judo, Aikido, and Hapkido.


Even though I have differentiated between Striking and Kicking, these two normally go together – some systems focus more on the hand-strikes (Karate Do) as opposed to others that focus more on leg-strikes (Tae Kwon Do). Henceforth, when I mention striking, I will be referring to both hand and leg striking.


So how do these all come together in the Indian context?

Just as the Greeks had what is known as Pankrase (or Pankration) (a combination of striking and grappling)in India developed Malla Yuddha (again a combination of striking and grappling) – also known as “Malla Krida” which later on (with the advent of the Persians), also came to be known as “Kusti” (or Kushthi). Historically, Bheema (of Mahabharata fame), Hanuman (of Ramayana fame), Balarama (of Mahabharata fame) were all renowned wrestlers (or Malla Yodhas). One of the distinct and most ancient forms of this is reputed to be “Vajra Mushti” (5, 6, 7) (or Thunderbolt Fist) – a combination style of striking, grappling and throwing techniques.

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