Gatka is a traditional South Asian form of combat-training in which wooden sticks are used to simulate swords in sparring matches.Gatka is an ancient martial art which has been thoroughly battle-tested and has existed in northern India for many thousands of years. It is considered to be a spiritual as well as a physical exercise. Both these aspects of the person are developed to a high level during the learning phase in this ancient art. Although it uses the sword as its primary weapon, many other weapons are available to the Gatka master. Today, this art exists exclusively amongst the Sikhs who have passed down the flamboyant techniques through generations, since their sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind wore the two swords of Miri (temporal, worldly) and Piri (spiritual, transcendental).
In modern usage, it commonly refers to the northwestern Indian martial arts, which should more properly be called shastara vidiyā ( from Sanskrit sastra-vidya or “science of weapons”). In English, the terms gatka and shastar vidya are very often used specifically in relation to Panjabi-Sikhs. In actuality, the art is not unique to any particular ethno-cultural group or religion but has been the traditional form of combat throughout north India and Pakistan for centuries. Attacks and counterattacks vary from one community to another but the basic techniques are the same. This article will primarily use the extended definition of gatka, making it synonymous with shastara-vidiya.
Gatka can be practiced either as a sport (khel) or ritual (rasmi). The sport form is played by two opponents wielding wooden staves called gatka. These sticks may be paired with a shield. Points are scored for making contact with the stick. The other weapons are not used for full-contact sparring, but their techniques are taught through forms training. The ritual form is purely for demonstration and is performed to music during occasions such as weddings, or as part of a theatrical performance like the chhau dance. A practitioner of gatka is called a gatkabaj while a teacher is addressed as Guru or Gurudev.