Martial arts in India – the what’s and why’s

Throughout most of the world it is believed that the concept of martial arts originated in China but not many know that India, too, has a connection with the concept of unarmed combat. It is said that Saint Bodhidhamma who helped in the development of martial arts in China took kalaripayattu, which is an ancient south Indian form with him when he went to China. During the Nirbhaya rape case, Akshay Kumar, well known actor and an accomplished martial artist, had suggested that martial arts be included in the curriculum of schools so that students learnt the basic points of self defense. There are several reasons as to why such a suggestion is worth supporting:


Improved fitness, strength and agility: Martial arts, especially one that focus on whole body movements, make people fit and agile and better aware of what to do in various circumstances. Martial arts also help in developing lean muscle especially the oriental martial arts like kung-fu, karate and taekwondo. Even Muay Thai is also an effective form in this case. In martial arts such as boxing and wrestling people can become stronger and know how to use their power to destabilize their opponents.


Better control over emotions: The end aim of any martial arts is to have better control of one’s emotions especially anger. Pupils are taught to control their temper and treat everyone kindly. Since martial artists are also supposed to use their skills only for self defence it also makes them less aggressive and thus attain a better position to control any problematic situation.


Higher survival skills: Since martial arts teaches one how to use their bodies in defense and in attack it is possible for students to come out of situations where they are challenged physically – especially say by bullies and criminals. For girls this can be especially effective and one feels that martial art training should be made mandatory for them.


Improved discipline: Since a practitioner goes through a lot, both physically and mentally, he or she learns important values like discipline, which stand them in good stead later on in life. It is almost like a stint in the army.


Indian martial arts


Kalaripayattu: Perhaps the most ancient form of martial art, it focuses a lot on jumping and striking as well as speed and endows one with the speed and agility of a cat. Vidyut Jamwal, who appeared as the lead in Commando is perhaps the most famous practitioner of this form.


Marmakala: Marmakala focuses on nerve and pressure point attacks. One example of this art being depicted in mainstream media was Hindustani where Kamal Haasan’s character used it to fight against his opponents.


Hindustani kushti: Indian wrestling is all about throws and takedowns and greatly increases the strength and agility of a practitioner as well as the presence of mind to search for the weak areas of the opponent and seize the moment as and when it comes.


How beneficial are martial arts from other countries?


Kung fu: Kung fu is a blanket term for all the different forms of martial arts that help one develop different aspects of combat. Forms like wing-chun help one develop the skills for close range combat while southern praying mantis makes one stronger and capable of withstanding great amount of physical abuse. The same goes for the form known as iron shirt where breath control techniques are used to absorb blows to the body. Iron palm helps one inflict serious physical damage in case the need arises and once more breath control is important here.


Hung ga boxing also helps the practitioner develop his or her strength while choy lee fut is a fluid style that comes in handy in both short and long range combat. Then there are styles like tai-chi that are almost meditative and great for stress reduction and keeping supple and fit. The most famous practitioner of kung fu was Bruce Lee followed by Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen nowadays.


Karate: Karate is also a blanket term that encompasses the different forms of martial arts that have originated in Japan. It focuses primarily on strength and accuracy as a fighter and its training regimen prepares one for any form of martial arts training later on in life. In fact, if I am not mistaken, armed forces all over the world are taught karate.


Judo and aikido: Both these forms are soft, which means there is less emphasis on power of the practitioner, and more on the techniques and mental awareness. These forms teach a person how to use another person’s weight against him or her and involve a lot of throws.


Taekwondo: This is a Korean form where the lower part of the body is used more and the training as well as techniques involved in taekwondo are such that the practitioners are really fit and agile as well as strong. One of its prominent practitioners is Akshay Kumar.


Muay thai: This is a Thai form and focuses a lot on using knees and elbows for attacks as well as the shins and arms for defense. The training helps the students be lean and agile. Tony Jaa, of Ong Bak and Tom Yung Goong fame, is the leading practitioner of this form.


Brazilian jiu-jitsu: Developed by the Gracie family in Brazil, this is a form that depends a lot on techniques that teach one how to get the opposition grounded and incapacitate them for the time being. The focus is a lot on locks and takedowns – the emphasis is given on perfecting the technique, which enables a practitioner of this form to be ready for a bad situation throughout his or her life.


Western boxing: This is perhaps the most well known martial art around the world and focuses a lot on upper body strength and core stability as well as speed of your arms in offense. It is great form as it increases one’s strength as well as durability and stamina. Balance is also an important aspect of this form of combat.


Interested students can also take up other forms like krav maga, parkour and kickboxing among others.


Some do’s and don’ts for aspiring martial artists


  • It is important to choose well. Before opting for a teacher it is essential for a prospective student to find out about his or her background and how far he or she knows. Also they should talk with the students, if they can, and find out about the training regimen and procedures. They should be absolutely sure about what they are getting into.
  • Completing the training is crucial. Quite often during the process students feel disenchanted with the results and tend to leave it. However, it is always better to complete the training, get the black belt and then look for other avenues.
  • Students should be sure of the reason they wish to learn martial arts for. If it is for taking revenge for a beating or for impressing friends then martial arts may not be the right thing. With such an attitude at the outset there are chances that the training will not be the fulfilling and joyous experience that it is supposed to be.
  • It is better to keep practicing and never lose hope. With hard work one day they will reach their goals.