Shiva"s dance ayudh vidya first form Martial Arts
Indian Martial History India has a very rich Martial tradition and arts trace back to Lord Shiva.
"Lord Shiva" is believed to be the creator of war art forms, which were passed down through to the common man.
There are records of Sumerian Martial Arts, engravings on the caves, walls in Egypt and Africa like "Mantu Arts", which have older records then the Indian Arts.
The oldest record of any organized combat in the India, goes to "Vajra Mushti", which is traced back to around 300 BC. There were arts prior to that, but there is no recorded evidence of that. The Mahabharata, describes the Great war, with different weapons and hand to hand combat, but all that has been lost to the time immemorial.
The Indian Arts, influenced many other arts, like Bodhidharma's travel to china and in the same way the Greek, the Persian and few others have influenced the Indian Martial Art forms and weapons, especially the edged weapons.
The above passage does not mean to say that kung-fu originated from India or it has been taught by an Indian, it's just to say that it influenced the zen forms and other Internal Martial Arts like the "Bone Marrow Cleanings", "18 Hands of Lohan" etc.
There are detailed description in Vedas, Scriptures and many historic epics, about the rich Martial Arts and Battle formations, which western world was not aware of till the resent times.
During the British era, many traditional arts were banned like kalari, Shastar Vidya and Varma Kalai and others. The current guru-kuls/institutes, teach a modern version of all these arts and it is very difficult, if not impossible to find the True Gurus of these traditional forms. These arts were so developed at one point of time, that even a few percentage of it in the current era, is quite breath taking.
Taxila (TakshaShila), is known to be an old guru-kul of these arts, were people from different parts of India, Persia, Greece interact and share the combat knowledge. It is quite astonishing to see, how detailed were these in the historic texts, the concepts like Kinetic/kinematic Linkages, Internal Power (Pranaya/Chi/Ki), Sinking/Grounding, description of peripheral vision, footwork and Human anatomy.
Medical Science, was well developed during the ancient India and that knowledge was used to develop the Martial arts further, like striking the Vital points called Marma, to incapacitate the enemy. It is sad that we have lost our historic texts/manuals and are now subject to some drilled down version of the interpretations of the others.
I do not mean to say, that the Indian Arts are/were the best, but we need to protect our arts from some fancy styles, which are not effective and just a means to make money. The traditional forms are the War arts, tested on the battle field and everyone at that time was well trained in whose forms.
Vajra Mushti - "Mushti" - means fist.
This art is from Gujarat, a western state in India. There are historical texts describing this form with 4 variations based on the organized combat system. They range from defining constraints on the type of strikes that can be done in a match to the way an opponent is declared winner. The highest form had no rules and fight ends with death or severe injury.
For details: http://www.hinduhistory.info/vajramushti-style-of-the-thunderbolt-fist/
Attempt to revive it: http://www.vajramushti.com/
All arts in India are traced back to "Lord Shiva", then descended down through Parshuram (Sixth Re-incarnation of Vishnu) to "Nath baba's", Kapal Baba's, Kshatriya, Rajputs and many other.
India being a vast country with different terrains like mountains, desert, coastal areas and plains. This prompted many styles, specific to terrains and with sub-categories in each. Most Indian forms contain weapons, and hand-to-hand combat was only an last resort.
Some Styles are Virahaa (Boar) Style, Sheshnag (Cobra) Sytle, Grur (Eagle, Peacock) Style, Nandi (Bull) style, Narsingha (Tiger) Style and few other higher forms which talk about prana( chi/ki), center of gravity and the Anatomy of human body.
The above are the broad classification of the styles, but there are many region specific styles/forms, right from Kashmir in the North to Kaniya Kumari in the South.
Some well know arts in India are:
1. Kalari (Kerala), it is the umbrella term for many arts under it.
2. MarmaKalai or Varma Adi (Tamil Nadu) - This is the art of striking the vital points.
3. Shastar Vidya (Punjab, Gujarat) - Many weapons and bare hand combat. Almost extinct!!
4. Gatka (Punjab) - This is the most common in Punjab today and people mistake it as being the ancient art of the Sikhs, which is not. It is a demonstration art and not a battle field art.
5. Thang-Ta (Manipur) - It is mainly with weapons and not very popular in India.
It is quite sad to see that all these arts died a silent death, with few left having lost the original form. It is quite disappointing to see how uneducated people in India are about their own art forms, and the few who are really genuine, do not come into the lime light.
kalaripayattu, believed to be one of the oldest form in the World, do not have the true sense left. Most are running massage centers on the name of Kalari and the true value is long lost.
Recently, I came across an Kalari practitioner, who has been practicing "Kalari" for the past 8 years. Unsurprisingly, our discussion started about current state of arts in India and to which he stated, Kalari is still "The Best" art around. I politely inquired, did you mean "One of the Best", he said no I mean "It is the Best" art. Being a novice, I politely inquired, what are the techniques/forms that make it the best Martial Art ? To my surprise he said "In Kalari, we can kick the highest". I did not bother to ask anything further, the sorry state of the Art is known by just one simple sentence.
Our selfishness, ego and the habit of projecting things we know as the best around, has killed many arts and the knowledge has been long lost. The Gurukul system, has restricted the transfer of knowledge down the ages. Students, did not ask questions to their teachers, they just took what was offered, how so ever incorrect it may be.
An art is Battle tested only, if it has faced challenges from the outside like foreign invasions. This way you get to test you art/skills against the best. The claim, stating that an art is best, because one can beat anyone in the neighborhood - with neighboring states having the same art as your is not a true test. It's like fighting among your students and then claiming, that it is the best art.
Let's say, I devise a self defense system called "Kick Ass" and start training students in that. I tell them, punch with only your right hand, kick with left leg and do some fancy techniques. Then, i do grading by testing them among each other, obviously there will be one winner out of my Dojo, he is the best right !! Best amongst whom ?
That's the question, one needs to ask the so called claimers of best systems.
The north-western front of India has faced invaders from Persia, Greece, and Afghanistan as that was the only opening to reach India. The other side was Himalaya, down south surrounded by sea, invaders can come easily through the route connected by land - that is North-Western border, which is present day Punjab(India) and Pakistan.
The Arts in the Norther Indian were tested against hostile mogul invaders and prior to that with Greek and others. That's the test of one's skill and arts and not by fighting your neighboring states, within the country.
These invasions enriched the Indian edged weapons and the skill to use them. The warriors figting in the Armies on the Indian side were young, as well as old people. But the most feared were the old warriors, because they were deceptive in their techniques. One does not need to jump around and have the quickest hands or legs, it is the agility that matters. This was well understood in the old battle formations, unlike the modern depiction of doing fancy stuff.
The Self proclaimed Guru's, with falsified and inflated ego's contributed heavily to the decline of this art. As students cannot question the Guru, effectiveness of a technique, knowledge was not tested/challenged and this resulted in a limited knowledge set.
We, Indians are not good at documenting things, we do not have any fact to justify our claims of having the best art forms or the oldest art forms. The biggest misconception people have is about Kalaripayattu, being the mother of all arts. Legend says that it the origin of Kung fu and Karate etc and Bodhidharma took it to China during his journey in the 5th AD. When we look at the facts, or ask for documents which proves this, we do not have any recorded historical documents at hand.
I firmly believe that it is not true, Martial arts cannot be credited to one person or society, its the nature which taught this over a long period of time. It is instinctive and by nature you will wrestle, grapple and use spears to kill or protect, that's the evolution. Arts cannot be from one guy or country or region, it is a long evolutionary process and it is there, right from the beginning of mankind, it is timeless.
Why I do not believe that Kung fu, karate descended from Kalari:
1. Bodhidharma, went to China in 5th AD, so do we mean to say that China did not have any Martial forms before that? China did not fought any war, isn't it strange ?
2. China has documents from 2200 BC, showing organized combat, but agree that the word kung fu or Gung fu, was never mentioned in those old documents.
3. The first mention of Kalari comes from a document written in 12th AD, 600 years after Bodhidharma went to China. So, can we say that physical form of arts came to India on the return journey from China or after wards through exchange of knowledge during the trade period.
Well, there will always be debate on this, but the main point is that we have lost precious documents/knowledge in the past and we must get together and revive it.
It is a very common saying in India, that Britishers took wealth out of India like Gold, Diamonds etc, but the real wealth is ancient texts/manuals which they took with them, which was about our ancient arts.
Martial Arts were practiced right from the time of "Taxila", the documents written in Persian, Sanskrit and later on in Punjabi, are there in the museums around the world, but sadly not with us.
Battle formation manuals from Maharaja Ranjit singh's time, describing Battle formations, Loh mushti, Sword man-ship has been lost.
"If we want to save our Martial Arts, we should think as being Indian and not be narrow minded on division of states and whose art is the oldest or best. Arts get lost not because of time, but because of lack of ability to spread/share among different races."
Arms: Arms are shorter then the legs, so where possible use legs, especially against an armed attacker. It will keep your vulnerable parts of the body far from attackers strike. But, arms are very efficient as they are quick and we feel more comfortable using them. They do much more complex movements then our legs, especially the forearms and hands.
Few important Points to take account of:
1. Never extend you arm fully, avoid the locking of the elbow at all times. This will prevent injury to the elbow.
2. Arms work the best closer to the body (center of gravity), the bent arm can have more angles and quicker strikes.
3. While punching make fist at the very last moment, else it will slow down the punch speed.
4. Hit in the V region, where the blind spot is, explained in "Peripheral Vision section".
5. Do not use your shoulder (lift), while punching.
1. Make a comfortable fist and use a near vertical punch, as they are difficult to spot. Horizontal punches, brings the elbow up, which makes the punches detectable quite early.
2. Also, hit through and beyond the target to get the maximum effect.
3. Use your hips for rotation and pivot on toes as the punch goes through.
4. Do a quick retrieval of the punches and always keep the guard up with the other hand.
1. Never lock user knees, always keep them bent slightly.
2. No need to do high fancy kicks, lower ones are the best and safe. But to build elasticity, one has to do drill with high kicks etc.
3. Balance is very important, one should be able to change position one one leg as well.
Keep your footwork simple and agile. As with age, one cannot keep on jumping all around. "The most dangerous movements are the one's which are not quick but efficient".
To make the technique of liner or single-plane movements more sophisticated and natural, they should be complemented with specific motions that make the movement three-dimensional. So for example, linear bending (unbending) of an arm (leg) may be effected in a «whip-like» way or be rotated around its axis. And in a single-plane radial movement of an arm (leg), it can be simultaneously rotated around its axis.
Compared to linear and single-plane movements, three-dimensional spiral movements have a number of benefits and positive qualities. Firstly, these are the most natural and balanced movements. Secondly, they are performed in three planes and their trajectory consists of both linear and radial motion moments, and subsequently, this implies the ability to perform and control these movements also. Thirdly, three-dimensional spiral movements cover almost all-possible positions «within the Marginal Mobility Circle» of the arms and the legs. This allows one to control this space and link any points inside this space between themselves. Fourthly, performing such spiral movements employs all muscle groups of the arms, legs, shoulder and hip girdle, which results in powerful and comprehensive strengthening effects during training.
Since movements with the limbs include overcoming gravitation, there is a relationship between the force lines of the Earth’s gravitational field and the «inner energy flows». According to the «action equals counteraction» rule, the upward movement of the limbs against the gravitational force relates to actively overcoming energy flows. Or it is possible to say that the active component of the gravitational force is transferred to the channels of the arms and legs. And on the contrary with moving the limbs down, on the gravitational force movement, the activity of energy flows decreases. For all that the activity of gravitational force carries out the work of falling down the limbs and a passive anti-flow is filled in the energetic channels of the arms and legs.
Continuous spiral movements consist of two complete counter-directional sine curves. Therefore, performing such movements sets a series of alternating active and passive fragments of the energy flow. These energy impulses purify energy channels and balance the circulation of energy inside them.
Synchronizing spiral movements of the limbs with the breath creates a constant and intensive energy consumption from the surrounding space, translation of it through psychic-energy structure channels, and accumulation and radiation into the surrounding space.
Such spiral motions were widely used in early Buddhist practices. Initially these were the elements of the Dance of Shiva, a Yogic art which develops conscious control, coordination and the potential abilities of the body, without specialized application in life.
Later, Boddhidharma exported them to Shaolin, and on the basis of these movements applied martial art techniques were developed with the use of one’s own body and various weapons: a sword, a pole, a spear, etc. These techniques became the perfect means for developing the functional abilities of the body, increasing the organism’s energy potential, the controling and coordinating several «sectors» of various body parts at the same time.
It should be noted that having a weapon in the hands promotes an increase of density energy flowing through arm channels, and more intensively develops the strength and endurance of the fighter. But there is another side of using weapons in training: it reduces the requirements to the twisting capability of the joints.
Therefore, the Far East schools of martial arts allowed practitioners to exercise with weapons only after many years of practicing base exercises without any weapons.
Impact Weapons Understanding the range is very important, especially when it comes to weapons. Impact weapons like sticks, rods, umbrella etc can be deadly and the hit to the head can be fatal.
Let's take a case of stick about 3 feet long for this discussion, but the rule applies to all.
Let's say an attacker is standing at a distance of 6 to 7 feet, with a stick in his hand. He lifts his stick, steps in and swings at you:
- The most dangerous part of an impact weapon is the last few centimeters of the weapon, that's what which is traveling at the maximum angular velocity and will cause the max damage.
- The normal reaction of the body is the bend down with your hands around the head, giving the swinging strike more distance to accelerate and hit with more momentum.
Getting rid of the this habit is the key against impact weapons, one should step in - so as to reduce the momentum and the time for the weapon to gain speed. Obviously there are many things to look at:
- Steeping in with your arm extended forward, covering your head with angle of the arm about 160 degrees, so that the weapon can slide along the arm, causing minimum impact.
- Remember, key here is to deflect not to block the impact.
- If the attacker is out of range and the swing can be avoided by swaying back, avoid it, else step in.
- When you have closed the distance, even if the weapon touches you the impact will be less and you can run away with few bruises.
Indian Martial Fascination "We Indian's are fascinated by thing which are not ours" -- This is more true now, then ever before.
Whether it comes to western culture, dressing, the way we talk/walk and more importantly Martial arts, we think that everything in the west in better then ours.
Some guy from America will fly to China, Japan or Korea and spend sometime there, learn few stuff and start back home as an "Martial Arts expert".
Most of the Arts we see today in India, have lot of western influence and they are not the true forms of what is there in China or Japan. The reasons could be many, like influence of Movies, British era, the advertisement/propaganda by westerners of being experts in various art form like Judo, different style of Karate etc.
The most recent influence is "Krav Maga", the Israel self defense system. No doubt, about its practical applicability in street, as it has groomed in the hostile environments, with attacks as frequent as breathing.
We often see comparison between the two,with Kravmagist saying that Krav Maga is better then Martial Arts. Well true, if we compare it to the current form of Martial Arts.
But, it does not mean that being a KravMagist, is better then an Martial Artist. It is the exponent of an art that matters not the form. Most Krav Maga teachers in India, do not have any background in Combat or Martial Arts, they take a crash course and make big claims.
I understand genuine Krav Maga is great, as it readies you for the street in short span of time but just putting a name "krav Maga" to bullshit will not make it great.
Krav Maga is street smart, because on street you might pick up a fight with an Auto-rickshaw driver and escape, that make you look smart. You do not expect to pick up a fight with a Martial Artist, a guy who knows kinematic linkages, so Krav Maga will suffice as you can do quick hits and run out of the situation.
Krav Maga is not about Skills, it is about Tactics !!
Martial Arts in their original forms are very effective, but they are very rare to find in India. What we see today is the sports version of the Art, with a point based system.
The transition from the effective street defense to the point based sparing is a result of westernization, which neutralized its value for self defense.
Originally, if you look at the history of Martial Arts, whether it is Taekwondo, Ju-jutsu or Karate, they were designed as War arts and not as point based sparring sports. The matter was of life and death and not of mere points.
Arts like Taekwondo, Jujitsu were developed to defend against real attacks, but when these Arts reached America, they took the competitive form, with restrictions like using only hands to fight and gradually turning into full contact with diminished practicality. Slowly, the original techniques took a back seat and less intensity strikes took the front seat. Dojo's flourished left and right with everyone want to make money.
Many fake masters emerged, who were rich and can afford to spread their teachings quickly. These teachings reached India as well, and we have many so called masters here as well.
Why we Indian's never went directly to China, Japan or Korea for these arts, they came through US - Strange.
We Indian's have a very rich Martial tradition and our arts trace back to Lord Shiva.
"Lord Shiva" is believed to be the creator of war art forms, which were passed down through to the common man.
Edge Weapons "The best defense against a knife - Run for your life."
"Knife fighting is not about fighting with kitchen knifes used for applying spreads on bread"
The story here is entirely different from impact weapons, as one does not need any force to cause damage. A knife will cut by a simple slash, it does not need to generate momentum and even a slight touch could be fatal.
Only when you cannot leave the place, then only you should engage into a fight and then also look for the very first opening to leave the spot and be safe. Many times you will not see the knife coming, they are easily concealable and very difficult to see.
Myths about knife attacks
If you go to a Martial arts or any modern day self defense class, the first knife attack scenario will be the attacker coming with an ice-pick grip and showing you a knife from 30 meters attacking with a thrusting motion and then you do a blocking defense. "Cool !! - You are a knife expert"
This is the state of self defense in our country, with schools advertising that they teach knife fighting, out of which they spend 1 year, just doing the defense against the thrusting knifes, which does not happen in reality. When you ask them, this is not the way knife attacks will happen, they will just ignore with an excuse.
Technical Details - Foundation Understanding the Physics, Kinetmatic linkages is very important for an effective self defense. One must at least have basic knowledge of Human Anatomy, especially nervous system. This helps a martial artist get better hold on techniques, by better exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent.
It is very difficult to explain in writing alone, the details about techniques, the hitting angles, the vital points of the human body, but still I will try to elaborate as much as I could in theory.
Things which, I am going to talk about might look very obvious, but still its important to go through them for a solid foundation. Let's look at things one-by-one:
Our limbs are fantastic weapons and if we look at them carefully and examine how they have evolved and what are the directions/angles they can bend, it will help us to do the techniques better.
1. While Walking, we never lock our knees or we never stretch them beyond our comfort. That's what we have to follow always, even in a fight. Never step wider then the distance you use while walking. Yes, we can thrust with the back leg to cover the extra distance, but have to practice that and be very careful while executing that.
2. The optimal distance for our stance is keeping the feet, shoulder width apart. Well, shoulder width can be understood by different people differently.
- If we draw a straight line from outer part of the shoulder to the ground, it might touch the outside of our foot or inside of our foot. In both cases, the feet are shoulder width apart.
- But in the first case, when the line cuts the outside of the feet, your shoulders are hanging outside your feet. This has an advantage of moving the feet quickly, as it is easy to spill the center of gravity in this case.
- To understand this, first we need to understand how we move, we do not move by lifting our feet from one place and then placing it at the other location, it is very slow process. Rather, we move by spilling our center of gravity and then try to balance it with our feet. Try doing this at home, you either move like a robot( with no sense of center of gravity) or like a intelligent being, with a sense of physics, moving the upper body first ( very slight movement) and then balancing it with the feet.
- You are most stable on two feet and most agile on toes. If legs are very close, your movement will be quicker, but it is highly unstable position. on the other hand, if legs are very wide, you will comprise agility for stability. So, there is a trade-off between agility and stability.
3. Movement is very crucial, this is the base for the upper body attacks/defenses. If we are not at the right distance, our punch may never reach the opponent or our defense will not be on the correct "line of defense".
- Covering the gap between you and the attacker is crucial. This is most important in the case of weapons, which we will see in a different section.
- Never stay in the center line of the attacker. If you do so, the attacker will have many weapons at his disposal like kicks, knee, punches, head butt. So, get out of the center line ASAP.