The Sikh Martial Art: Shastar Vidya

The Sikhs are a warrior religion from India, whose turbans often cause them to be confused with Muslims. In fact, the Sikhs were founded as a direct challenge to Islam. For all of the ignorant talk of Islam as a “religion of peace,” Muslim armies trampled India, razing Hindu temples and slaughtering Hindus by the tens of thousands.

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When I taught in Fresno I had Sikh students and was introduced to Sikhism. I was impressed by the Sikhs I knew, and admired them for their willingness to fight for justice as well as their emphasis on charity and equality (Sikhism is also a counter to the Brahmins and the Indian caste system).

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In this article, Nidar Singh is the last living master of the Sikh martial art of Shastar Vidya, which means, “the science of weapons.” I have heard of the kara, or the steel bangle worn by Sikhs being used as a weapon, but this art has an entire panoply of weapons.

Sikh Soldier and Weapons

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Note the shoes with blades in the toes! The sickle blade is reminiscent of the sanggot I wrote about here.

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It is interesting to see how quickly a stick fighting art (or any martial method) can quickly devolve into a sport-friendly pastime suitable for public entertainment:

Shastar vidya often gets confused with Gatka, a stick-fighting technique that was developed during British occupation of Punjab and was widely practised among Sikh soldiers in the British army.

Though it is a highly skilled art it was developed for exhibition rather than mortal combat. It is much easier to practise in public.

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In my next post I will write about the 5 K’s of Sikhism and their implications for the modern warrior.

Sikh Warrior

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