On Saturday, the hall of the Gurdwara Amrit Parchar Dharmik Diwan (Sikh temple) on the Birmingham Road in Oldbury was filled with Gatka competitors and spectators.
The Khalsa Panth Akhara (Gatka group) based at the Birmingham Road temple is one of the largest and most influential in the country.
|At the tournament|
'Ustaad' Bhai Butta Singh Ji, Head of all the Akharras (Gatka groups) in the UK, is based at the Oldbury 'Battleground' (Yudh-Bhoomi - Oldbury). The group's website explains what Gatka is:
"Gatka is spiritual and physical martial art given to humanity from Waheguru "God" to help defend righteousness, belief, truthful living and annihilate oppression. This Waheguru given battle proven art should only be used in defence and only in offence when "all other means fail" It is an art that assists and serves the divine laws of God.
"Gatka with all the other teachings from the Sikh Guru's helps students gain confidence in themselves as Waheguru's beings on Earth to serve Gods' creation...
"Gatka is an art that intends to get rid of the five innate passions - lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego - only when one can conquer the evil passions inside can one conquer the evil outside - 'only then can it be just for them to wield the sword'."
For the tournament, those in combat used Sotis - bamboo Gatka sticks.
Luvjinder Singh does voluntary work at the Khalsa Panth Akhara. He said:
"Today, I would say, a thousand people would have come and gone throughout the day [to watch the matches].
"The actual tournament is broken down into categories and then sub categories - it's basically Seniors and Juniors, which are broken down into two sub groups - team combat and singles combat.
"The teams have five people and it's a knock-out, best of five. Same with the singles.
|Oldbury win the senior team award |
"The rules are spoken at the start. We have something called a vaar - it's a strike. Our Guru said that if we're going to go into battle, and you have to fight somebody - then you give them an easy death - so you have to strike them with one strike, not with many. The Guru said you be humane - you let them attack you first, then you attack them.
"So that philosophy has come into Sikh martial arts - where a vaar is a clear attack. Your feet and body have to be in 100% coordination - if they're not, the point won't count. There's three points to be won in a fight."
At Saturday's tournament, combat started at 10am and finished at nearly 5pm.
Varinder Singh, from the Khalsa Panth Akhara in Oldbury, was presented with the tournament's Outstanding Player Award. Arvinder Singh, from Derby, won the Fair Play Award.
|At the tournament|
Jaspreet Kaur, from South Shields Khalsa Panth Akhara, won first place in the Junior Singles category. In the Senior Singles category, Jagmohan Singh, from Glasgow, took first place.
Teams from the Oldbury Khalsa Panth Akhara won both the Junior and the Senior Team awards.
"We believe it's not just the skill that you have to practice." said Luvjinder, "It's about being humble and clear-headed-ness. It's not about the going out to win - it's about going out to learn. It's not just about the martial art - it's about becoming a better person."
Sharing Gatka - how to take part
The Khalsa Panth Akhara (Gatka group) in Oldbury are keen to share Gatka and Sikhism with the wider community, especially the young. Luvjinder said:
"Don't be afraid - we don't care who you are, what colour you are, what religion you are - we're Sikhs - a big part of Sikhism is equality.
|At the tournament|
"The higher levels of Gatka require the practice of Sikh spirituality and meditation - but we encourage everyone to have go at the basics, to find out more, and enjoy themselves!"
The Gatka group in Oldbury's full address is:
Yudh-Bhoomi - Oldbury, Gurdwara Amrit Parchar Dharmik Diwan, Birmingham Road, Oldbury, Warley, West Midlands. The Senior Gatka Teacher is Ustaad Bhai Butta Singh Ji.
Telephone 0121 552 3778, or see their website: www.khalsapanth.co.uk for more information.
A message from Senior Gatka Teacher -
Ustaad Bhai Butta Singh Ji
"Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh (The Pure belong to God - Victory is Gods')
"Well done to all that participated in Yudh 06 Gatka Tournament and were able to take something positive away. Even if you won or lost it is all about the positive change it made within you. Thanks to all those who attended the first ever Yudh Reinsbhai.
"The next Reinsbhai will be the Yudh 06 reunion and will be held at Gurdwara Khalsa Mero Roop Hai Khaas, Southshields, UK on the Saturday 3rd June 2006."
Bhai Butta Singh Ji - Khalsa Panth Akhara