British Sikhs revive deadly art banned by the Raj

Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:15am EDT
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By Georgina Cooper

LANGLEY, England (Reuters Life!) - A short drive away from Windsor Castle, a group of ferocious-looking, blue-turbanned men are trying to preserve a martial art that frightened the life out of the British when they ruled India.

Grunting at each other like wild boars, they brandish swords and sticks according to the dictates of the Sikh fighting discipline of Shastar Vidya.

Their teacher, Nidar Singh, believes he is the only "gurdev" or master of the art seriously practicing today.

The 42-year old British-Indian barks out orders in a thick regional English accent to an attentive class of mainly Sikh pupils ranging in age from 5 to 45.

Singh is on a mission to keep the martial art alive and he spends all his time teaching in schools and community halls across the country.

Razor-sharp swords flash through the air, wooden batons are brandished and hands grab the heads of opponents in threatening moves designed to kill in an instant.

With a long, dark beard and huge dark eyes peering out from his dark blue turban, Singh implored his students to "Watch, watch" as he mock-felled one pupil after another in a dizzying display of ferocity.

"It's a battlefield art, so the idea is if you can defeat the enemy by sheer intimidation then all the better ... the art is very aggressive," he said. "The idea is to traumatize the people watching."   Continued...