Kids Corner


Gatka Morphs Into Extreme Sport





A video showing a group of Sikh warriors performing extreme stunts on regional television has shot them to Internet fame over the last few days.

On Chinese video sites, where it was posted earlier this week, the video had collected more than 2.4 million views by Thursday afternoon (November 24, 2011). On YouTube, it now has close to 5.5 million views.

But the seven-minute video, edited from a televised talent show performance, is not for the faint of heart. (Warning: video contains graphic content)

While it’s loosely inspired by Gatka, the traditional Sikh martial art popular in the Sikh state of Punjab, the performers decided to do away with all the spiritual fluff and the ritual dancing. These guys are testosterone-fueled Sikh fighters; there is nothing subtle about their act. While the top-viewed YouTube video describes them as the “Warriors of Goja,” they actually call themselves the “Bir Khalsa Group,” Punjabi for brave warriors. They’re Gatka-fighter-meets-G.I.-Joe-meets-Jackass.

The performance, first aired on regional television over a month ago, starts innocently enough with spinning chakkars, wheel-like symbolic weapons. But the performers’ combat pants and spike-studded armbands suggest they’re up to something a little more hardcore.

Wooden sticks, typical of Gatka, still make an appearance, but instead of twirling them gracefully, the warriors bash them on each other.

They are shown chewing on what looks like glass, smashing bricks with a hammer on their faces and pulling a car with their teeth. And it gets worse: one guy gets simultaneously run over by a car and a motorbike while another plunges four or five meters, bare-chested, through tubelights. The grand finale shows three of them sandwiched between beds of nails while (just to make sure it really hurts) others hammer them down.

Throughout the act, a Punjabi tune plays in the background and a khanda, the sword-like symbol of the Sikh religion, glows on a screen in the background.

While parts of the stunts may have been faked, the blood at the end of the show looks real enough. After the performance, one of them proudly twirls his mustache and makes a victory sign with his blood-stained fingers.

The three judges look understandably horrified. But this doesn’t stop them from handing them a wad of cash - 300,000-rupees ($5,750) in total - and praising them for having won the contest as well as their hearts.

Too much for television? Not in India, where similar acts - though rarely of comparable violence - are often broadcast on reality shows.

But the performance appears to be a revelation for many in China, where Shaolin monks practicing “iron body” kung fu have long wowed crowds by bending metal rods with their bare hands and lying on beds of nails while other monks pound their stomachs with hammers.

“I’m guessing Shaolin iron body kungfu must have come from India,” one viewer, Snow Love in Summer, wrote on the video site Youku, noting that Bodhidharma, the monk who supposedly founded Shaolin kung fu in the 5th or 6th century, is said to have come to China from India. “No wonder India dares to be so arrogant in the face of the Celestial Kingdom,” wrote osis-chen, a user of the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service, employing a popular slang term for the Chinese government.

But the clip also stirred debate about whether such violence is appropriate for reality television, with some condemning the display as a craven ploy to drive ratings. Wrote one Weibo user going by the handle WW_005_SimpleLife: “There’s nothing at all to applaud about this - one of them is bleeding by the end. Do reality contest shows really need to be so bloody to attract eyeballs?”


To watch video, please CLICK here. [Warning: graphic content!]

[Courtesy: The Wall Street Journal. Edited for]

November 25, 2011


Conversation about this article

1: Balraj Kaur (Melbourne, Australia), November 25, 2011, 8:51 AM.

Now, if the Nihangs want to do something meaningful with their lives - please note, Nidar Singh ji! - they may want to start by switching to this bana. It'll strike terror in the hearts of the desis, as sure as Hari Singh Nalwa did in the hearts and souls of the marauding Afghans, and give India a clear message that 1984 is now indeed behind us. Those who want to look and be macho and seek cheap imitations of eighteenth century garb, may want to look at these warriors ... and train to be REAL warriors, not just for a TV show, or for Sunday morning jaunts through the gurdwara crowds.

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), November 25, 2011, 9:02 AM.

They should also use their energy to promote sitting cross legged in a warm room with low, warm lighting, doing simran. Maybe they already do!

3: Mandeep Singh (Canada), November 25, 2011, 11:31 AM.

These men are clearly passionate about their skills and talent. I can understand how some viewers might think it is a bit too extreme, but I commend them for their will to compete and the drive to excel beyond the body's normal capabilities.

4: Aman (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), November 25, 2011, 12:42 PM.

I'm all for showing Sikhs as tough and all but this video was disturbing to me. Do I really want my children to see this and admire how brave we are? Also, these guys are being used for ratings? I can hear the producers saying - "Yeah, let's show these lunatics hitting themselves with things, it'll be awesome". Who cares if they're all bloodied up everywhere in the end. I'm sure they've proudly signed waivers.

5: D. Sanchez (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), November 25, 2011, 7:46 PM.

The write-up says it all ... Gatka meets GI Joe meets Jackass. Loved the spiked armbands ... a flashback to Judas Priest (an 80's heavy metal ref).

6: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), November 25, 2011, 7:49 PM.

They started with gatka in "India got talent". Their acts are becoming more and more dangerous with time and I pray they do not hurt themselves. The number of video views is close to 6 million today. It was 4.3 million two days ago.

7: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), November 26, 2011, 12:01 AM.

How reckless, obsessive and arrogant can one be to treat their own body like that. I mean, you crave attention so bad that you will go to this level to get it? It's not normal, it's foolishness and insanity!

8: G. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), November 26, 2011, 11:50 AM.

Totally agreed with H.S. (Comment #7). What the hell are they trying to prove? They look more like 'baazigars' and less like soldiers.

9: Lakhvir Singh Khalsa (Nairobi, Kenya), November 26, 2011, 2:38 PM.

This is showbaazi, not gatka. And to use gatka for cheap entertainment is abhorrent. I'm appalled at this nonsense in the name of gatka and the Khalsa.

10: Gatka Sport (India), November 27, 2011, 9:59 AM.

Stunts shown by these guys are not related to the martial art of Gatka but it is baazigiri, mostly performed by by baaazigars. Gatka involves fighting and self-defence techniques with swords or sticks, between two gatkebaaz. It involves fighting skills, bodily movements, defensive and offensive techniques but these guys are defaming and distorting the ancient art for a few rupees.

11: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), November 28, 2011, 12:14 AM.

In India it's a talent show item, in the U.S. it's called a 'jackass' show, as is pointed out in the 4th paragraph. I'm sure that's what the producers of that show are probably referring to them as. After the "red bull" wears out on some of those numbskulls, they're going to be sore for a while. That energy needs to be better channeled elsewhere.

12: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), November 28, 2011, 12:19 AM.

Could other readers please expound on the tube-light smashing. I feel it is very detrimental to health to breath and have that white powder on one's wounds.

13: Harvir Mann (Rosedale, Toronto, Canada), November 28, 2011, 12:35 PM.

How is this bana meaningful? Aand how does this circus act even compare with a martial tradition that has been passed down and is being learned by others? Balraj Kaur, have you ever met Nidar Singh? After all the brouhaha, I actually made a trip out to meet Nidar Singh and realized that the man has a perspective and a talent which is beyond most of the tomfoolery I see in the guise of gatka today.

14: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), November 28, 2011, 4:46 PM.

This act does not reflect Sikhi. In fact it conveys negatively about Sikhi. Why are we all the time trying to only show ourselves as warriors? What about Naam, Seva, Kirtan, compassion, humility and equality. We are portraying a self-image of a violent community that is ready to pick fights with anyone and everyone. This act, at least in India, does not help in improving the image of the Sikhs.

15: I.S. Jallan (U.S.A.), November 29, 2011, 2:41 AM.

Times have changed. Today, "the pen is mightier than the sword!"

16: Sandeep Singh (London, United Kingdom), November 29, 2011, 7:12 PM.

Whilst I applaud the Sikh fighting spirit - why can't these guys do something meaningful on TV instead of reaffirming the Sikh stereotype. No wonder others in India portray Sikhs as the 'Irish' of India. Do something meaningful on TV - imagery stays with people and all this does is just associates negative connotations with the Sikh community.

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