Lathi – The Indian Secret Form of Defense

Lathi is not an activity to use a bamboo stick or cane to hit others randomly. It is a form of martial arts. Lathi means bamboo stick in Hindi. This type of martial arts often uses a 6 to 8 foot long bamboo stick or cane with an optional metal blunt. Lathi has been used by Indian Police or authority to control crowd. In fact, Lathi has also considered as one of the oldest weapon in the world.

History

For many years, Lathi has been popular among India villages and rural areas, typically in the eastern and southern area of India. It is not only used for fighting against others but also for controlling animals in certain region.

Lathi was used for many different things but the owners of land used it to demonstrate their strength and to help them rule others. They raised large groups of people who were then trained in Lathi, which they used to demonstrate their power over others. Instead of being used as self defense, they were used as an aggressive force that tried to dominate others.

Lathi also has been used for sport around the same time as landlords used it for security purposes. Lathi tournaments often took place between different Indian villages, where landlords could demonstrate to others their power through Lathi tournaments.

Before India was ruled by the British government, the Zamindari system was introduced. The Zamindar trained and hired Lathial armies for many purposes. One of the purposes of using Lathial armies was to forcefully collect taxes from Indian citizens. It was also used by the Indian Riot Police as their primary weapon to disperse rioters, and they only used firearms when the Lathi could not efficiently be used. The system had continued during the British reign over India, and the British government authorized and introduced Lathi as one of the weapons for police and army force in India. At the time, Lathi often used for controlling riots, fights, and crowds against the British government.

After India became independent, the Zamindari system became abolished. This caused the decline of Lathial armies and Lathi transformed into a form of martial art. On the other hand, urbanization also was a reason that caused the decline of this form of martial art.

Although it has been declining, many wealthy landlords and farmers today still train and hire Lathial for security purpose in rural or villages in India. They see Lathi, still, as a form or a way to show their power. Yet, Lathi battles between villages are still happening today, and it remains a famous sport in many villages and rural area in India.

In modern day, Lathi is still one of the primary weapons for Indian police to control riots. All Indian police officers and some security guards today have training in Lathi charge because of its efficiency.

Heart-centered

Lathi is a form of martial arts, but like other forms it has many things which set it apart from the rest. There will be some similarities, but most people will be able to recognize the differences. The dan-tien is the energy center, as it is in other martial arts. This energy center in martial arts is what is behind the distinctive stance that its users take.

Lathi shares many commons aspects with other martial arts, but it is different from other ones. First, it is different from other martial arts in terms of its energy center. In Lathi, the energy center is found at the heart while in others it is lower in the body. It might not seem like a big difference but it does affect the ability of the users of Lathi to perform their movements. It is similar to the difference as the center of gravity of a woman. The woman has a lower center of gravity and it changes the way that she balances the body as she moves. The higher center of gravity is also supposed to impact the body’s ability to heal itself.

One of the most important parts of any martial arts is the breathing techniques that are used. Since the energy center of Lathi is higher; the place that the breathing is concentrated through is also higher. This breathing technique of Lathi is also a reason behind the movements of its practitioners and is said to help with the healing of the body as well.

Spiritual Practice

Lathi is not only a powerful healing therapeutic tool, but it is also a good spiritual practice for individuals. It is a physical practice for the whole-body and it harmonizes the body and mind by moving energy. Its continuous and repetitive movements provide balance and subsequently organize the body. When it moves energy through the body, it also connects our physical body to a deep internal meditative state. On the one hand, it is a very active sport or practice that harmonizes our body and clams our mind and spirit at the same time.

Martial Art

Of course, Lathi is a martial art, but it can be a dangerous one. It is not a game for gentleman and you cannot make any mistake. It is like fighting on the street. The aim of this martial art is to win. Historically Lathi is for security purposes, so it is a gentle, elegant way to move the body, and it is an effective system to bust a body up based on the cane-fighting at the same time.

Training

Individuals practicing Lathi must be able to fight with a stick, which can come with different lengths and thicknesses. Generally speaking, matches are one-on-one but the martial art can also include routine matches for fighting different opponents. Since Lathi uses the heart chakraas their energy centre, practitioners fight mostly in an upright position.

Self defence

Interestingly, Lathi recently has been used by a group of Indian women in the Bundelkhand region who have demanded justice against abusive men, husbands, and fathers. While domestic violence, child marriages, and demands for dowry are still very common in the rural areas of India, a group of women, the Gulabi Gang, have been taught to use Lathi for their self defense, and when needed, they can use Lathi against the harassers.

Source by Yogita Soneji

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