GUNTUR: The COVID-19 pandemic has breathed new life into indigenous martial arts form with people evincing a keen interest in learning them. The pandemic-enforced lockdown had made many aware of the need for physical activities. Besides regular sporting activities, people are now taking up combat sports in large numbers.
The newfound interest has brought some of the long-forgotten martial arts, such as stick fighting and sword fighting, back to limelight. “Many people had been unaware that stick and sword fighting, too, are martial arts, and hence opted for other forms such as taekwando. Awareness on these Indian combat forms have now increased, resulting in an increase in the number of students signing up for the classes over the past couple of years,’’ Kiran Kumar, a stick-fighting instructor, said.
The stick fight, also called as Karra samu, is a traditional martial art of Andhra Pradesh. It has now spread to other parts of India.Earlier, youngsters trained in stick fighting to protect themselves and their villages. It helped them in preventing thefts which were then common in villages.But with time the martial art became a mere pastime exercise and was completely forgotten.
“With the increased need for self-protection, especially for girls and women, this art is coming back to life. I have been a coach for almost 10 years. The student strength has now increased from 10-15 to over 50 in the past two years. Stick fighting not only helps physical fitness but also inculcates discipline in students. It helps them to remain alert and aware of their surroundings,” Kiran added. Additionally, learning stick fighting is comparatively cheaper, making it attractive to middle-class families. Apart from a stick, no other gear is required to learn the skill.
“My two children got addicted to mobile phones during Covid. I wanted to reintroduce them into sports, not for attending any competitions, but as a distraction. While considering options I zeroed-in on stick fighting since it suited our budget. My sons are now very enthusiastic to learn the skills,” Madhumitha, a parent, said.
She added that she has been noticing positive changes in the children’s behaviour, ever since they joined the class six months ago. “The experience is so different as I have never learnt anything like this. I’m suggesting to my friends to join our classes,” said Rihanna, a 12-year-old student. She said regular practice has made her more confident.
As the number of students is gradually increasing, many trainers who have taken up different professions are now eager to pass on the skills to others. Thirty-two-year old Ramana, who had practised won medals in state-level stick fighting competitions in his college days, has rejoined an institute as a trainer. “I couldn’t become a trainer since there were very few students earlier and I chose another profession. Now, with more students joining the class, I’m training them in the evenings,’’ Ramana said.