Gatka is an ancient martial art from India which focuses heavily on weapons fighting with a wooden stick, as the primary training weapon. The wooden-stick is used instead of a sword during practice. The word Gatka itself means a three-length hand-span stick.
Gatka, as a martial art originated after the 14th century in Punjab, northern Pakistan. The theory and techniques are believed to be taught by Sikh Gurus and handed down by masters to the apprentice. This art of offense and self-defense is an integral part of “Sikh Shastar Vidiya,” which translated to the skills to use weapons. This martial art style was heavily employed during the Anglo-Sikh wars.
Due to the wars, Gatka was banned during the British colonial rule in India, along with Neja (Javelin) and Kirpan (Sword). The intention was to prevent rebellion among its practitioner. Gatka’s practitioner has to practice the art in secrecy due to the ban.
However, Sikh martial art practitioner assisted the British during the Indian rebellion in 1857, resulting in less restriction on the art after the rebellion. The technique that appears after that has changed significantly where wooden sticks are used instead of swords, and the martial art is officially referred to as Gatka.
The self-defense technique was employed by the British Indian Army for hand-to-hand combat.
Gatka’s technique involves the correct use of vast hand-to-hand weapons (refer to Gatka Weapon). The foundation is called Panthra. Panthra is a simple four-step movement to train the coordination, form, and method of moving the body. This foundation is so crucial that Gatka’s practitioner often practices the steps repeatedly until the body and weapon are in unison.
By perfecting Panthra, Gatka practitioner will be able to move in a fluid and flowing movement without doubt or hesitation. This is important when weapons are involved.
Unlike karate or taekwondo, Gatka does not have any pattern or a specific set of movements. The practitioner will move in a flowing movement, and they will defend and attack during this movement. Usually, a drum beats will accompany Gatka’s training to develop a rhythmic pattern for the martial artist.
In this martial art style, weapons are known as “Shastars”. Some of the typical weapon used in Gatka are as follow.