India – A destination of martial art

India is very popular for its history, culture, beautiful places, technique, ayurveda etc but do you know it has a very ancient martial art form which is world famous. 

While we hear the phrase ‘martial arts’, the words ‘karate’, ‘kung fu’, pop up in our minds, and we think of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan showing off some fast moves.Nowadays these famous forms are used in rituals, celebrations, in sports, means of physical fitness, as a self defence but earlier it is used for warfare. Many of the arts can be related to forms of dance, Yoga etc.

Let me take you towards the different types of martial arts invented in India. 


It is the oldest Martial Art in India and it originated in the state of Kerala aka God’s Own Country in 4th century A.D. 

Techniques and aspects of Kalaripayattu: Uzhichil or the massage with Gingli oil, Otta, Maipayattu or exercise of body, Puliyankam or sword fight, Verumkai or bare-handed fight etc.

Kalarsikh a Malayalam word which means a training area where Martial arts are practiced or taught.

Kalaripayattu was introduced as martial art by a legend, sage Parasurama, who had also built temples in the south. 

This art is used as a means of unarmed self-defence and a way to achieve physical fitness today. Also used in traditional rituals and ceremonies.

It includes mock fights (armed and unarmed combat) and physical exercises, an important aspect is the style of fighting and is nor accompanied by any drumming or song. It’s essential key is footwork which includes kicks, strikes and weapon based practice. Women also practiced this art.


It is a kind of Staff Fencing. It originated in Tamil Nadu, a modern and scientific martial art.

Techniques of Silambam:  Fast and swift movements of the foot, use of thrust, cut, chop, sweep to achieve mastery & development of force, momentum & precision at different levels of the body like snake, monkey & hawk hits.

It is encouraged in Tamilnadu by the rulers Pandya, Chola and Chera and the reference to the sale of Silambam staves, pearls, swords and armours can be seen in a Tamil literature ‘Silapaddigaram’. This art has also spread to Malaysia, where it is a famous sport apart from a self defence technique.

Lord Muruga (in Tamil Mythology) and sage Agasthya are credited with the formation of Silambam. Even during ancient Vedic times, training was imparted to young men as a ritual and for an emergency.

Thang-ta and Sarit Sarak

This art was created by the Meitei people of Manipur. Thang means ‘sword’ while Ta refers to a ‘spear’ and is an armed martial art, whereas Sarit Sarak is an unarmed art form that uses hand to hand combat.

In the 17th century, this art was used by Manipuri kings against Britishers later on when Britishers captured the area this technique was banned.

Thang-Ta is also known as Huyen Lallong, which is a popular ancient martial art which uses other weapons including an axe and a shield.

It is rehearsed in 3 different manners: Firstly, ritualistic in nature linked with tantric practices, secondly, mesmerising performance of sword and sword dances and thirdly, is the actual technique of fighting.


This form originated in Himachal Pradesh. Technique: Wooden bows, arrows are used.

Thoda name is acquired from the round wooden piece attached to the head of an arrow to minimise its lethal potential. It is a blend of martial art, sport and culture. It takes place during Baisakhi every year.

This martial art relies on a player’s skill of archery and can be dated back to the time of Mahabharata where bows and arrows were used in the valleys of Kullu and Manali.

In the game, there are 1000 people divided into two groups equally. Not all of them are archers, few are dancers who came with the rest of the troop to boost the morale of their respective teams.

The two teams are called Pashis and Saathis, who are believed to be the descendants of Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharata.


Gatka form originated in Punjab. It is a weapon based martial art form performed by the Sikhs of Punjab. Gatka means whose freedom belongs to grace. Some believe that ‘Gatka’ comes from a Sanskrit word ‘Gadha’ means mace.

This art uses weapons like Kirpan, Talwar and Kataar which are forms of sharp knife or small sword. 

It is displayed in various occasions, celebrations in the state including fairs.


It originated and majorly practiced in Punjab and Bengal. Lathi is an ancient weapon used in martial arts.

Lathi means ‘stick’ and it is mainly cane sticks which are generally 6 to 8 feet in length and sometimes metal tipped. This sport is very common in various villages of the country.

Inbuan Wrestling

It originated in Mizoram and it is believed to have its genesis in 1750 A.D. in Duntland village.

This art consists of very strict rules that prohibit stepping out the circle, kicking and knee bending. It also involves catching the belt worn around their waist by the wrestlers. When people moved from Burma to Lushai hills, then this art form was regarded as a sport.

Kuttu Varisai

This is a sport practiced in South of India and also popular in north-eastern part of Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Its technique is Grappling, locking techniques are used in this art.

This art was first mentioned in Sangam literature in the first or second century B.C. Kuttu Varisai means ‘empty hand combat’. It is an unarmed Dravidian martial art used to advance athleticism and footwork through yoga, gymnastics, breathing exercises etc. 

Musti Yuddha

It originated in Varanasi, its techniques are Kicks, punches, knee and elbow strikes are the techniques used by this martial art.

It is an unarmed martial art form. Since 1960 it has been a popular art. It incorporates the development of all three aspects: physical, mental and spiritual.

The fights in this art are named after the Hindu God and divided into four categories. The first is known as Jambuvanti that refers to forcing the opponent into submission through locking and holding. Second is Hanumanti, which is for technical superiority. Third refers to Bhimaseni, which focuses on sheer strength and forth is called Jarasandhi that concentrates on limb and joint breaking.


It originated in Bihar, created by Rajputs. ‘Pari’ means shield while ‘khanda’ refers to sword. Hence, the sword along with the shield , both are used in this art. It involves fighting using Sword and Shield. The unique techniques and steps are used in Chhau dance of Bihar.

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