The last master of shastar vidya

By » Mon, October 31 2011

Nihang 12 The last master of shastar vidya
Don’t let all that Gandhi noise fool you, Indians have just as much history killing people as any other civilization that, you know, exists. One of its many martial arts is shastar vidya, or the science of weapons. Its last known grand master, Nidar Singh, lives in England where he teaches its techniques, and is now looking to start conditioning a student to take over the academy.

The science of weapons started out as Vedic boxing, I shit you not, but also wanted to use the phrase “Vedic boxing.” It was incorporated into Sikh tradition in the 18th century, and revised with martial arts knowledge from the Mughal era to incorporate every God damn sharp and shooty thing they could get their hands on; Singh’s training includes riflery; he practices with a matchlock, but in India they use AKs.

It was later banned by the English because its practitioners look fucking terrifying; even their turbans are armed. Seriously, those spikes in his headdress are not for looks, just like those jagged-edged frisbees he’s sporting.

Nihang 11 The last master of shastar vidya

“I’ve travelled all over India and I have spoken to many elders, this is basically a last-ditch attempt to flush someone out because if I die with it, it is all gone.”

He would be overjoyed to discover an existing master somewhere in India, or to find a talented young student determined to dedicate his life to the art.

Until he was 17 years old, he knew little of his Sikh heritage. His family were not religious – he wore his hair short and dressed like any British teenager. He was a keen wrestler, but knew nothing of martial arts.

He spent his childhood between Punjab and Wolverhampton and it was on one of these trips to see an aunt in India that he met Baba Mohinder Singh, the old man who was to become his master.

Already in his early 80s, Baba Mohinder Singh had abandoned life as a hermit in a final effort to find someone to pass on his knowledge to.

“When he saw my physique he looked at me, even though I was clean-shaven and he asked me: ‘Do you want to learn how to fight’,” recalls Nidar Singh. “I couldn’t say no.”

Anywho, you can read up on it here and at Nidar Singh’s website here, and see more photos of Singh in all his glory here.

One thing of note is that Singh’s probably just the last of the English grand masters, but there are people who practice and teach it still in India. But judging by some of these performances, he’s could very well be the world’s best last master of shastar vidya.

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