Those who’ve made martial arts central to their existence know that these art forms require dedication, discipline and passion. Another often-overlooked aspect of martial arts is that they often reflect a part of a country’s heritage, history and culture. In fact, some martial art forms trace back to hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years.
Musti Yuddha is one such martial art form which is of the Indian origin. The term quite literally means fist fighting (‘musti’ meaning fist and ‘yuddha’ meaning fight or battle) in Sanskrit. The technique used is mainly restricted to punches and elbow strikes with minimal use of kicks and knee strikes. Tracing back to ancient India, this form of combat has been referenced in both the Rig Veda and the Ramayana.
After the introduction of western style of boxing in the 1860s, there was a decline in the popularity of Musti Yuddha. The colonial government tried banning the form because of the deaths of fighters, and severe injuries this type of martial art caused. It became increasingly rare by the 1960s and was restricted to illegal underground tournaments.
It is an unarmed martial art from Varanasi (Benares) in the northern part of India which has a history of boxing traditions dating back 350 years. In Varanasi, Musti Yuddha was not a sport, but a way to fight with the anti-social elements. The martial art form of Musti Yuddha was considered a way to develop the mental, physical and spiritual aspects of the practitioner.
The boxers underwent rigorous physical training on a regular basis for extreme conditioning of the arm and fists. Oftentimes training included punching hard surfaces like rocks, tree trunks and bricks to build strength and toughen fists making it an extremely disciplined process.
Musti Yuddha, a native style of combat required discipline and devotion to the technique and remained a way to test one’s endurance and strength. In a country like India which takes great pride in physical strength and has a history of wrestling in ‘akhadas’, it’s no surprise that an extreme sport like Musti Yuddha which requires brute strength and intense focus, exists.