What is GATKA and its history?


February 14, 2023

Gatka is a Sikh martial art that originated in the gurus’ martial court to teach self-defense techniques. The gurus also used this martial art form as a form of spiritual expression, to connect with their body and mind.

It focuses not only on physical training but also on spiritual development and self-defense techniques. It’s an ancient art form with its roots dating back to around 500 CE in ancient Persia where it was known as ‘astak gatka’.

Over the centuries, gatka has faced several ups and downs due to political turmoil, revival of the art during the 1920s and revival of martial art forms in recent times. In this blog, we will tell you about gatka—its history, evolution through the ages, weapons used, and techniques involved. Let’s begin!

Traditional Sikh Martial Art

– Gatka is a traditional martial art form of the Sikhs. It’s an exciting and amusing feature of many Sikh festivals, processions, gurdwaras, and camps.

– The art has a history of over 400 years. It was first codified by the World Gatka Federation in 1987, making it a legitimate sport. There is a one-year diploma program in learning this art form offered by the University of Punjab Patiala with ‘Sarbat Da Bhala’ sponsoring 75% of the fee.

– Traditionally, gatka was practiced for self-defence and training for military fighting. However, it has now evolved into a martial art that involves dance and acrobatics as well. It is divided into two sub-styles—traditional (Rasmi) and sports (Khel).

– In rasmi gatka, bhajans are sung out loud while performing various techniques such as kar-sikh and khar-sikh. In khel gatka, people sing kirtan as they go through various martial arts maneuvers like kar-sikh, khar- sikh, siajia gatka, etc. This provides an outlet for expression of joy and passion while exercising their body. Besides, gatka is also practiced by people who are not connected to any martial art community.

Gatka — The traditional martial arts introduced by Sikhs is now a nationally recognised sport

Origins and History of Gatka

Gatka was developed by the Sikhs of Punjab region during the 1600s. It was further developed in the 19th century by Sikhs from different parts of the world, especially those who had served in the British army. Since gatka training was an important part of military life for Sikhs, it became a part of martial art known as kabbadi. It was formally divided into two sub-forms, rasmi (traditional) and khel (sport), in 1920.

The Akali Sena, also known as the Budha Dalin Gatka, is believed to have been one of the earliest gatka schools started by Sikh warriors in Punjab. The gatka has been continuously developed over the years and today there are several gatka schools all over India. The gatka has evolved into a martial art that involves a variety of disciplines such as kalaripayat, kathak, and salsingh nirjhau (a form of unarmed martial arts).

Gatka has been adopted widely across the world and has become a popular martial art for people of different age groups and abilities.

The gatka is no doubt an ancient martial art with a history of more than 150 years.

Gatka Weapons and Techniques

Gatka is a martial art which uses a range of weapons in hand-to-hand combat. The foundation of Gatka is the Panthra, which refers to the form, coordination and method of moving the feet, body, arms, and weapons. The soti or wooden stick is equipped with a basket hilt and used as a weapon. Other weapons used in Gatka are spears, katathas (a staff with wooden knobs at each end), and long range weapons such as bows and arrows. The techniques involved are extremely effective for defence and attack and are visually spectacular.

Some of the weapons used in Gatka include:

Shastar: A type of sword used in Gatka, typically made of steel and with a curved blade.

Chakkar: A circular shield used in Gatka, made of wood and covered in leather.

Kirpan: A type of dagger used in Gatka, typically with a curved blade.

Taal: A type of stick used in Gatka, typically made of wood and used in combination with other weapons.

The techniques used in Gatka include strikes, blocks, and footwork, designed to be used in combination with the various weapons. Gatka techniques are designed to be fast, fluid, and effective, allowing practitioners to quickly disable an opponent or defend themselves against an attack.

The gatka system has been adapted by several other martial arts schools across the world such as kobudo, kali sutras, bhagpuri gatka and kalar gatka, making it one of the leading weapon systems among martial arts.

Gatka - The Sikh Martial Art - Holidify

Gatka in Modern Times

Gatka is a martial art that originated in ancient India. It is still practiced today and has been adapted to modern combat sports. In the 16th century, Gatka was developed to defend against foreign invaders. It incorporates various combat techniques such as hand-to-hand combat, armed combat, and stick fighting.

  • Competitions are held around the world to celebrate and promote the art of Gatka. These competitions encourage participants to showcase their skills and demonstrate the art’s versatility.
  • Gatka has evolved considerably since its inception, with practitioners incorporating new elements into their training routines. This allows them to stay updated and proficient in their field of expertise.
  • As a martial art, Gatka promotes self-discipline, balance, and strength among its practitioners. It also instills them with confidence and teaches them how to protect themselves from harm without resorting to violence.
  • From self-defense classes to fitness training, Gatka provides an effective method of improving physical strength and coordination.

Let’s Sum Up

Gatka is an ancient martial art that originated in Punjab and evolved over centuries. It encompasses various techniques of self-defense such as kicks, punches, and weapon-based combat. The art is still practiced by Sikhs today for self-defense and spiritual fulfillment. In modern times, gatka has been adapted to the form of martial arts competitions. Sikh martial art gatka is an art that has been passed down through generations of Sikhs and remains alive today.


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