Hazaras urge women to learn traditional martial arts for self-defense

Gatka, the traditional martial art skill of stick-fighting between two players simulating sword fight, is one of the popular cultural sports of self-defence in Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Traditional martial arts, referred to as Gatka, is a martial art associated with the Sikhs of the Punjab region. With Punjab, the martial arts is also associated with Tanoli and Gujjar communities residing in mountainous regions of northern Pakistan who practice an early variant of the martial art.

This stick-fighting between two players simulating sword fight is a very popular cultural sport in Hazara division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly practised for self-defence. The skills are practised in cultural festivals and weddings etc in different parts of Hazara Division especially plains of Mansehra, lower and upper Tanawal, Abbottabad, Haripur, Ghazi and Chach areas besides Taxila, Hasanabdal and neighbouring areas up to Punjab.

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Unfortunately, there are no formal clubs for training. The skill and expertise of gatka is transferred to the youth by their seniors, mostly the family members. 45 years old Malik Gulfraz from Dheri Sikandarpur said it took him six to seven years to master the art of self-defence and forward attack. He inherited this from his father Malik Abdul Rafique. He added that Haripur, Ghazi, Chach, lower and upper Tanawal and along with some areas of Punjab were the main hubs, where people were performing gatka and transferring the skill to hundreds of their students.

”A trained gatka player could easily fight against 10 persons at a time. The government had ignored the traditional sports bringing them to the point of vanishing” – Gulfraz said. 

Speaking about the future of gatka, Gulfraz said that due to the lack of support from the government, the centuries-old traditional game was vanishing. However, a few years ago, youth again started to show interest and inclination towards it. This has helped revive the lost spirit of the game. The locals also insisted that youngsters, especially girls, should learn it for self-defence.

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