The Stick Martial Art of West Bengal

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Lathi Khela- the stick martial art of West Bengal
Lathi Khela- the stick martial art of West Bengal

When it comes to martial art, we often think about Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, and other forms which are mostly originated in Japan or China. But India doesn’t lag here… West Bengal comes to the rescue with Lathi Khela… a stick martial art which is also a popular form of sport…

Playing with sticks –

Stick martial art have predominantly prevailed in south-east Asia since ancient times. Sticks or Lathis, as they are called, were used for defence. Often, rich people, especially farmers hired various people with lathis for their protection. It was like a security system in those days and meant a symbol of power then. From there, we get the reference for the ‘defence’ factor of the stick game- martial art.

One to one stick sport
One to one stick sport

This game is played in groups or one to one. The sticks are typically about 2 to 2.5 metres long. Sometimes, they are bounded with one or more iron or metal rings around them at some distance intervals. The material used is bamboo; it is light and strong.

Bamboo sticks
Bamboo sticks

Well, not only Lathi Khela, but many other games include sticks for defence and are broadly classified as ‘stick martial arts’.

Word history –

Lathi Khela comprises of two different words. the former being lathi means a long stick and the later, which means a sport or a game. So together, it translates to a game of sticks, or rather a sport of sticks.

Lathi Khela today –

Lathi Khela today is more of a sport rather than something used as a defence skill. Though it is not an Olympic sport, it has a unique past. But the sport’s popularity is slowing waning. It is quite a hesitant “yes” whether it will exist or not in the coming decades.

Lathi Khela's cultural aspect decreasing in the modern times
Lathi Khela’s cultural aspect decreasing in modern times

But whatever the future be, this sport has surely kept us engaged throughout the past, acquiring its different forms, in all its splendour…