Top 10 Popular Indian Martial Arts Forms

India is a place of diverse culture and ethnicity. That’s still alive in the form of many arts like dance, crafts, music, and many more. Martial arts is one of them, which has been practicing since ancient times. Firstly, Martial arts emerged in the southern part of India.

Many martial art forms had been used not only for self-defense but also for combat in the war field during the old period. Many rulers and their armies were well trained in the martial arts and they used technique during war fields. In the course of time, many new art forms were developed and the old one was modified by the rulers. The formation of martial arts was not held in a couple of periods but it was a very long process.

The literal means of martial art is “arts associated with waging of war”.

The number of martial arts was banned during the British period including Kalaripayattu and Silambam. After independence, they gained popularity among people. Today, various martial art forms are mostly related to yoga, dance, and performing arts in India. 

List of Names of Top 10 Indian Martial Arts Forms:

1. Kalaripayattu

This is mostly practiced in southern parts of India . Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest art forms in India. Basically, it originated around the 3rd century in the state of Kerala. Kalari is a Malayalam word and the literal meaning of this word is ” a type of gymnasium or training hall” where martial arts practice is conducted. The important factor of this art form is fighting technique and footwork plays an important role like kick and strike. Weapons are also used in this art. Women also learn this art. Nowadays, the performance of this art is only limited to traditional and ceremonial occasions.

2. Silambam

Silambam is a modern and scientific martial art of Tamil Nadu. Weapons are used in this art form like staves, pearls, sword, and armor. They were very popular trading stuff in many parts of the world during ancient times. Many south Indian rulers like Pandyas, Cholas, and Cheras promoted this art during their period. It’s believed that this art form travelled to Malaysia from India, where it is practiced as a very popular sport.

The techniques which are used in this art like Swift movement of the foot, use of both hands to manipulate staff, use of thrust, cut, chop, and sweep to achieve proficiency and development of force and movement at a different part of the body. The players trained how to fight with an uncontrollable mob and they used many techniques like snake hits, monkey hits, hawk hits, and even also used stone to protect themselves.

3. Thang-Ta

It is an armed martial arts and it is mentioned as one of the lethal combat forms of Manipur. It was created by the native Meitei people of Manipur. The word Thang means ‘sword’ and Ta means to ‘ spear’, both are important elements of Thang-ta. In the 17th century, the Manipuri kings used this art to fight with the British. When the British captured the regions of Manipur, they banned the practice of this art form.

4. Pari-Khanda

The name of this martial art consists of two words, ‘pari’ that means to shield and ‘khanda’ means to swords, these two are important elements of this art form. These weapons are used while fighting. This is a famous art form created by Rajputs in Bihar. Pari- khanda is still practiced in many parts of Bihar. Even their steps and techniques are used in the famous folk dance of Bihar chhau.

5. Thoda

On the occasion of Baisakhi festival, this art form is performed in the month of April every year. This is a mix of martial arts, sports, and culture of Himachal Pradesh. A sort of deep and religious beliefs attached to this. Even many of the community of Himachal Pradesh perform prayers and remember their deities God and summon the blessings of these gods. The story of this art is related to Mahabharata, that time bows and arrows were used in the epic battle, in the valley of Kullu and Manali. Even bow and arrow are an important element of this art.

Presently, this is played as a game in the group. Basically, there are two groups of approx 500 people each. Most of them are not Archer but dancers and they encourage the moral of their respective teams. The main role played by Archers. The pints are given on the basis of striking any part of the body by the archers of the respective teams.

This game has also certain rules and disciplines that should be followed during the game like played in marked court.

6. Gatka

Gatka literally means “the one whose freedom belongs to grace”. This is a skillful and armed martial art, performed by the Sikhs of Punjab. They used armed sticks like, stick Kirpan, Talwar, and Kataar. Gatka is performed on the occasion of celebration like fairs.

7. Lathi

Lathi is a local word that refers to ‘stick’ which is mostly 6 to 8 ft in length and sometimes metal-tipped. Lathi used as a martial arts weapon is one of the world’s oldest weapons. This is popularly used by Indian police to control crowds. Presently, it is played as a game in villages of Punjab and Bengal.

8. Musti Yuddha

Musti Yuddha is also known as Malla yuddha in the northern part of India. Basically, it originated in the oldest city of Varanasi. It was quite popular art during the 1960s. Presently, it has become a rear art form. It is unarmed martial arts and more like boxing. In this art, techniques used like punches, knees, kicks, and elbows strike. These art forms are divided into four categories on the basis of techniques in the name of Hindu Gods like Jambuvanti, Hanumanti , Bhimaseni and the last one is Jarasandhi.

9. Kuttu Varisai

This is also known as an unarmed component of Silambam or Empty hand Silambam in Tamil Nadu.

Although, it is famous in the North-Eastern part of Srilanka and Malaysia. The first evidence of this art is found in Sangam literature. In this Dravidian art form, the important techniques used like grappling, striking, and locking. This is also used for exercise purposes.

10. Mardani Khel

Mardani Khel is a very energetic martial art. This is mostly practiced in the district of Kolhapur Maharashtra. Basically, this is known as the unique Indian Patta and Vita. That is an important element of this art form.

This art form was created by Maratha warriors like Shivaji Maharaj who was the best practitioner at his time. These art forms were also followed by many freedom fighters during the British period. This art had great glorious yore. Today, it just performed on the occasion of some ceremony.

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