April 7

The Devastating Martial Arts of India: The Complete Guide


Indian Martial Arts

Almost every nation on the planet has a unique Martial Art.

And in this article, we are going to look at Indian Martial Arts.

From their history to the Indian Martial legends.

By the end of this article, you will know 

Ready to learn more?

Dive in.

The History of Indian Martial Arts

Vedic literature ranging back in time to the 1500-700 B.C.E has mentions of Indian martial arts of various forms. 

The broader term calls it Dhanurveda, or the study of archery. 

Dhanurveda comprises of armed and unarmed combat, mental conditioning and meditation. 

The archery study also includes Tantra, Yoga, Ayurveda, Prana, Kundalini, Chakra, and Marmam, which encompass almost all aspects of martial arts. 

It is a comprehensive art that teaches how to hone the body and discipline the mind.

The Kshatriyas or the warrior class in India were legendarily entrusted with matters dealing with warfare. 

India's southern parts also saw the emergence of the Dravidian martial arts that hold a special position in the Indian martial arts history.

There were many forms of martial arts practised in that era. 

Although many experts believe that martial arts were brought to India by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E, there are differing reports. 

The early Vedic era has reports of Krishna wrestling and that was before the advent of the Greeks in India. 

The rich legacy of Indian martial arts has been instrumental in the spread of other martial art forms. 

The most notable ones are Muay Thai, Eskrima, Bando, Silat, Jogo do Pau and others. They all have their roots in ancient Indian martial art forms.

The Main Martial Arts Taught In India

Indian martial arts were mainly used to train armies. The spectrum of martial arts used weapons like sticks and swords in their repertoire. 


The oldest form is most probably Kalaripayattu, which was practised almost 3000 years ago as a martial art discipline and not freestyle.

It is often cited that Kalaripayattu influenced a Bodhi monk to take the style of fighting to Shaolin to form the Shaolin Kung Fu form of martial arts.

Malla Yuddha

Malla Yuddha is another very ancient Indian martial art form. It is a form of wrestling and is literally translated as hand to hand combat. The Mahabharata, an Indian epic literature has depicted Malla Yuddha as a fighting style in the 5thcentury B.C.E. Some communities in South Asia still practice the art.


Kushti or wrestling in Indian martial art parlance is probably the most popular. It is more specifically freehand wrestling performed in a dirt arena. It has been made popular by Hindi films like ‘Sultan’ and ‘Dangal’ that have found international fame.


Gatka is an Indian martial art form from the land of Punjab and involves swordplay. The weapons are fierce, but the style is graceful, almost like a dance. It is the ultimate expression of self-control.

Huyen Langlon

Huyen Langlon or Thang-Ta is the North East Indian martial art form that uses swords, daggers and spears. It is predominantly performed in the Manipur area.


Silambam is the martial art of staff fighting from southern India. The term is derived from Silambal or the murmur of leaves and the call of birds. The sport was initially a form of fencing.


Say is another weapon-based sport that has its origins in Kashmir.

Mardani Khel

Mardani Khel is a popular Indian martial art that also uses weapons and is performed in many parts of the country.


Niyuddha focuses on punching and kicking and is an ancient art form.

Varma Kalai

Varma Kalai comes last on this list. 

It emphasizes on using pressure points and is also an essential healing discipline. 

What Martial Arts Are Taught To the Indian Army?

The recent dispute on the Indo-Chinese border has brought light to an integral part of martial arts in the modern warfare system. 

An agreement that goes back to1996 states that neither the Indian nor the Chinese side can use guns or any explosives in the border areas. 

Here, martial arts become an integral part of even modern warfare.

Interesting right?

The intensity of the martial arts training is dependent on the rank of the soldier, and the area he/she is deployed. 

The INDRA exercise involving the Indo-Russian armies gave the world a glimpse of Indian martial arts exponents in the Indian army.

There are reports that a new secret method termed the Army Battle Combative, comprised of 125 techniques derived from different martial arts forms is used in training the armed forces. 

They include Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Pekiti Tirsia Kali, Shaolin Chinna, Vale Tudo, Jiu-Jitsu, Russian Systema, Bison, Pencak Silat and others. 

All these martial art forms have some roots in the Indian martial arts and now are being taught to the Indian army personnel. 

The Indian armed forces are intensively trained in hand to hand combat. 

The course training is called ‘Ghatak’ or lethal. The elite units and Special Forces are especially subjected to learning the most number of styles as a part of their regimen. 

This makes the Indian armed forces training schedule one of the most gruelling ones!

Check out this video of Ghatak in action.

Famous Indian Martial Artists

There are many famous Indian martial artists, but the most popular ones are the movie stars. 

They have celebrity status, and when they perform martial arts on screen, the art form gains more exposure and, hence, popularity. 

One of the most famous practitioners of the ancient art of Kalaripayattu is Vidyut Jamwal. 

He trained in the art from the tender age of four. 

The movie star is famous for mesmerizing stunts on the screen without using any doubles. He has been listed as one of the best six martial arts proponents in the world. No less a personality as Lee Cooper has endorsed his skills. Seeing him perform is simply poetry in motion.

Some of the other famous Indian martial arts exponents are listed below!

Tiger Shroff has trained in martial arts and gymnastics since childhood and is an expert in many forms of ancient fighting styles. He has showcased his skills in the super hit movie Heropanti.

John Abraham, another famous cine star, excels in martial arts. He has trained in mixed martial Arts and has engaged in cage fighting in an explosive scene which won him many laurels.

Akshay Kumar was the superstar who made martial arts training a rage. He has trained in Muay Thai, an offshoot of Indian martial arts. His stint in Thailand made him a diehard fan of the art form. 

Akshay Kumar has been very vocal about making martial arts compulsory training for all children.

Randeep Hooda has joined this elite group of movie stars that expound the virtues of staying fit and disciplined through Indian martial art techniques. The actor has taken up a new passion. He is set to train Mumbai city’s fire-fighters in mixed martial arts. He believes it increases concentration, improves mindfulness and encourages discipline at all levels. 

The ladies of the Indian film industry are not far behind. Many female actors have broken boundaries to showcase their expertise in this domain. 

Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai, and Priyanka Chopra are international movie stars who have trained in different martial arts.

These famous personalities have done a great job in taking Indian martial arts to the next level. 

They have showcased the styles in their movies and helped in making the art forms popular amongst the masses. More and more children and even adults are learning self-defence due to this awareness spread by these celebrities. 


So, there you have it.

Our definitive guide to Indian Martial Arts.

Did we miss anything?

Comment below to let us know.


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