September 16, 2009

Forgotten Legacies - Indian Wrestling



If you search the worlds cultures certain aspects will be common ground. As far as combative sports / arts go, wrestling is one such common denominator. Iceland has 'Glima' - China of course practices 'Shuai Chiao' - In N. America we practice 'Free style' or 'Folk Wrestling' - Japan has 'Judo' - and in India they practice an ancient form of wrestling generically referred to as kushti (literally 'wrestling').

India is one of the oldest cultures know to man and their wrestling arts are perhaps one of, if not the, oldest practiced martial art on earth! I have a couple of offerings for my fellow readers who just may be interested in this rarely heard of aspect of the martial arts.

"The Wrestlers Body" by Joseph Alter

Not only is this seminal work one of the only English language resources for Indian Wrestling, but it is also a landmark piece in regards to the study of martial ethos and their affect on society, culture, and the shaping of Indian identity. A fascinating read all in all. Oh, and did I mention it is FREE!?!?

"Gama The World Champion"

A short paper on Gama and the role of wrestling and its hero's in colonial India, also written by Alter (considered one of the west's foremost experts on Indian wrestling). Gama is arguably the best wrestler to ever live. Now I understand that is a loaded statement that can be argued endlessly, but the physical prowess, gameness, and pure dedication to the art of wrestling is what leads many to make such comments. Regardless of his status, Gama was an amazing athlete who dominated the sport of wrestling during turbulent times in Colonial India. He quickly became a hero for thousands who had no voice.

DVD:
"The Physical Body"

To view the trailer for this DVD click here!

Vincent Giordano is one of the unsung hero's of the martial realm. A dedicated, meticulous, professional video librarian and preserver of the dying arts of Southeast Asia, Giordano breaks new ground once again with "The Physical Body" an intimate documentary of traditional Indian wrestling, or Kushti.

Two different DVDs offer a rare glimpse into the practically unknown world (to us in the west) of kushti. Training regimens from different schools are offered including demonstrations of club bell swinging, body weight exercises, preparation of the wrestling platform (digging the pit), and of course techniques and free wrestling are included.

The first volume is hands down a must have for anyone interested in grappling. The second volume seemed to contain more of the same from volume one and was overall disappointing in its scope and range.

The role wrestling plays in both traditional and contemporary Indian culture is fascinating especially dealing with the various caste's and religions of the region. From a technical standpoint I find it nothing short of amazing that most cultures have some sort of grappling "sport" inherent in their physical legacies, and that each culture developed the same techniques (obviously using the principles of leverage and the physiology of the human body) way before one could potentially "steal" moves from Youtube!

Check out these sources for an interesting view into a grappling art that is rarely, if ever, seen in the western atmosphere. To the best of my knowledge there are no Indian Wrestling clubs that teach publicly here in the United States. If someone knows of any please feel free to email me (three_harmonies@hotmail.com) and forward the information. The book, paper, and DVDs I mention above offer insight into the daily training regimen, strict diet, technique, and interesting belief systems of the grapplers of South Asia.

Enjoy,
JAB

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