Ancient but deadly: the return of Shastar Vidiya
(from the Independent UK)
Shastar Vidiya is a once-popular but today little-known fighting technique from north India that was forced to go underground when banned by the British in the 19th century, to be replaced by the mostly ceremonial "gatka" style seen at Sikh festivals. Though the art itself had been practiced prior to the emergence of Sikhism, it was the Punjabi Sikh tribes -- in particular the blue-turbaned Akhali Nihangs, the elite among Sikh warriors -- who honed it to its highest pitch of perfection and uniqueness.
Indian monks were the first to export Buddha's new teachings across the Himalayas and legend has it that it was the great Indian monk and zen pioneer Bodhidharma who first introduced martial arts to the Shaolin Temple in AD 600. Bodhidharma himself is thought to have come from south India where another indigenous fighting style known as Kalaripayattu has also undergone a recent renaissance.
However, Shastar Vidiya is more than simply a fighting style. Practitioners are expected to live up to strict religious principles and honor martial codes, demonstrating the unity of body, mind and spirit that is the real essence of ancient martial arts.
Today, a handful of British Sikhs have begun teaching this art to the public in an attempt to revive it for the 21st century world. More on this story at the link.