The fighting art of the Sikhs

I came across an interesting article today in the UK Independent: Ancient but deadly: the return of shastar vidiya.

I dated a Sikh girl for a while, and I retain an affection for Sikh culture. I particularly find it interesting that it’s one lonely enthusiast who has dedicated himself to reviving a vanishing art; I hope he finds the disciples that he deserves.

The article draws a distinction between Shaster Vidiya and Gatka, which seems to be more of a performance art – much like the distinction between traditional Chinese fighting styles and modern performance wushu/ Nevertheless, Wikipedia redirects to Gatka, and there are some passages that I find very interesting – spooky, even. For example,

The foundation of the art is a movement methodology for the use of the feet, body, arms and weapons in unison. Gatka favors rhythmic movement, without hesitation, doubt or anxiety.

Interesting… In many ways, this echoes something that I heard elsewhere about Systema… But then there’s this:

The system devised by Captain William Ewart Fairbairn and Captain Eric Anthony Sykes borrowed methodologies from gatka, jujutsu, Chinese martial arts and “gutter fighting”.

Well now…. I wrote about Fairbairn quite a bit on the first version of this blog. One of his martial arts teachers in inter-war Shanghai was the grand-teacher of my own bagua teacher, Zhou Yue Wen. Fairbairn was also the organizer of Singapore’s riot squad, by the by…

Of course, the Shanghai of that period was awash with Russians – refugees from the 1917 revolution, Comintern agents, and who knows who else?

We know about Fairbairn because of what he did afterwards with the British Army in WWII, his fighting manuals, and his post-war work in Singapore and elsewhere. I wonder… was there a Russian equivalent of Fairbairn who also studied in with Sikhs and Chinese in Shanghai? Is that the root of Systema?

Anyway, that’s getting off-topic. YouTube is blocked by the Chinese government, so I can’t search for videos of shastar vidiya. If you can, I would be interested in hearing what you think of it.

1 Comment

  1. How time flies. It’s been a year since I have been training with Master Zhou (minus all the time he travelled back to China). Yes, I have seen the benefits. Even though I am not as disciplined as Carlos 🙂 (I have put more effort in practise after we met though..:P)


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