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Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh! Why is literature on Indian martial arts so rare? There are countless books on Chinese, Japanese and Korean martial arts, but probably only about 5 Kalaripayattu books, and only 4 Gatka books (two in English and two in Punjabi). The first Gatka book was published in 1936 by K. S. Akali. He refers to Gatka as a ‘sport’ and exponents as ‘players’. No association to Sikh warriorhood, etc. And the pentra doesn’t seem correct. Also, it only covers the soti; no dhal talvar, barcha, etc. Then there is Nanak Dev Singh Khalsa’s Gatka book written in the 1980s. It’s mixed with H3O-style yoga. I remember emailing the author directly back in 2000 to obtain his book, which I had read about in an old online Gatka article. He told me to forget about the book and gave me the mobile number of his new Ustad, named… Nidar Singh! In 2000, I travelled to India specifically to obtain books on Indian martial arts (previously could only find brief mentions of IMA in desi magazines and newspapers). In India, I came across large book markets. They had tons of books on school education, poetry, religion, but no Gatka books. Fortunately, though, as I was about to leave from a small store, the shopkeeper pointed to a dusty old book. He said it was titled “Lathi Shiksha”. It was an illustrated manual on quarterstaff fighting written in deep Hindi. Includes some mystical-seeming geometrical patterns. I assume they are the directions of stick-fighting forms. It was so fragile that the pages would break off if bended. No date on it, but could be from the 1940s or 50s. There is a short booklet called Shastar vidya, by Baba Gian Singh (published by Budha Dal). I believe it was first published decades ago. Most of it is full of warrior philosophy and martial verses from the Dasam Granth. There are some dagger-fighting descriptions towards the end. Then there is a 2017 book called “Shastra vidya: The Ancient Indian Martial Art of the Hindu Kshatriyas”. It’s got textual evidence (from Hindu scriptures, epics and treatises) and includes illustrations to go with the descriptions. It covers weapons like bhindipal, vajr, trishul, gada, mayukhi, dhanush, etc. But it’s not by Nidar Singh! I’m surprised Nidar Singh hasn’t brought out a book yet on Shastar vidya.
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