List of Famous Martial Arts in India | UPSC Notes (2023)

Martial arts are codified systems and traditions of combat practices, which are practised for a variety of reasons – self-defence, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, as well as mental, physical, and spiritual development.

India has an ancient tradition in diverse martial arts. Nearly every part of India has evolved one or the other form of popular martial art.

This article will provide information about Indian Martial Arts in the context of the IAS Exam.

This topic is useful for the Art & Culture section (GS Paper I) of the UPSC Syllabus.

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The candidates can read more related information from the links provided below:

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  • ‘Martial Arts’, as the name suggests, are popular art forms that give training in different kinds and dimensions of fighting – fighting with a spear or a sword, physical combat, resisting cavalry attack, single combat or combat with many, etc.,
  • Although the term martial art has become associated with the fighting arts of eastern Asia, it originally referred to the combat systems of Europe as early as the 1550s.
  • The term is derived from Latin, and means “arts of Mars”, the Roman god of war.


  • Even at the dawn of man’s existence, one of the first arts men were forced to learn, for self-preservation, was the art of self-defence and therefore the origin of martial arts anywhere in the world will ultimately always be traced back to the origin of man.
  • Early man had to learn not only to effectively defend himself against his enemies but also against marauding and carnivorous animals.
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(Video) Martial Arts From Different Countries

List of Martial Arts in India

Here is a list of famous Indian martial arts with different histories, backgrounds and styles. They are briefly discussed below:

(Video) Martial Arts Of India | Art & Culture Gk | Thang Ta , Gatka etc | Dewashish Sir

List of Famous Indian Martial Arts
Name of the Martial ArtAssociated Famous Place
SilambamTamil Nadu
Lathi KhelaNorth India
Mardani KhelMaharashtra
Pari KhandaBihar
Kathi SamuAndhra Pradesh


  • Silambam is an Ancient Martial art of Tamil Nadu.
  • The origin and historical development of Silambam fencing may have begun with the early Dravidians from ancient Tamil Nadu.
  • “Silambal” is a word generally used to denote the sound created by a fast-flowing spring, the murmur of leaves, the chirping noises of birds etc.
  • It might have been originally used to describe the “whooshing” sound created by the swinging of the long staff and the clashing sound of the swords.
  • Thus, Silambam became the popular word to describe a martial art that used long staff and various kinds of swords, knives and lances.
  • Silambam is a traditional stick martial art from South India.
  • Silambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art from Tamil Nadu, but also traditionally practised by the Tamil community of Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
  • It is closely related to Keralan kalaripayat and Sri Lankan angampora.
  • Silambam was originally practised with bamboo sticks, and later with steel swords and shields.


  • Kalaripayattu is a martial art that originated as a style in Kerala during the 13th Century AD.
  • The word Kalari first appears in Sangam literature to describe both a battlefield and combat arena.
  • The word Kalari tatt denoted a martial feat, while Kalari kozhai meant a coward in war.
  • It is considered to be one of the oldest fighting systems in existence.
  • It is now practised in Kerala, in contiguous parts of Tamil Nadu.
  • It was originally practised in the northern and central parts of Kerala and the Tulunadu region of Karnataka.
  • Kalaripayattu means battlefield practices or training that takes place in an arena or a gymnasium of specific dimensions with mud flooring.
  • This is an ancient traditional martial art form of Kerala, India.
  • Basis of all martial art forms like Karate, Kungfu was originally developed from Kalaripayattu.

Lathi Khela

  • Lathi Khela, stick play, is a very popular martial art, especially in north India.
  • A polished stick typically six to eight feet long and at times metal-tipped is used to ward off the enemy through various wielding techniques, steps and posturing.
  • At one time very popular in Bihar and Bengal (now Bangladesh), the sport has seen a decline over the years.
  • The wielder of the lathi is known as a lethel or lathial.


  • Gatka is one of the most popular and ancient martial art in the region of Punjab.
  • A wooden stick and a shield are usually used in the sparring match, and points are scored when vital spots in the body are touched.
  • Swords and shields are also used in gatka which is in fact training in the professional use of swords.
  • The Mughal Emperor Akbar, it is said, practised gatka with sword and shield.
  • Gatka is a martial art associated with the Sikhs of the Punjab region.


  • Thang-Ta, India’s popular martial art, is originated from Manipur.
  • The art developed from the war environment of the tiny state of Manipur in North-east India, which was an independent kingdom since the early Christian era.
  • Thang-Ta is performed in the Manipur state of India, where it is a cultural heritage art
  • Its traditional name is Huyen Langlon. Huyen Langlon means (Huyen means War and Langlon means Knowledge of Art) knowledge of War Art.
  • “Thang” and “Ta” are the main weapons of this art, so people commonly know the art as Thang-Ta.
  • In this art, movements of swords intended to ward off evil spirits are shown, while other dance moves indicate protection.

Mardani Khel

  • Mardani Khel is a weapon-based Indian martial art from Maharashtra.
  • It is particularly known for its use of Indian Patta (sword) and Vita (corded lance).
  • The early history of Mardani Khel as a distinct system is difficult to trace prior to the 16th century, but it is said to owe its development to the particular geographic conditions of Maharashtra.

Pari Khanda

  • Pari Khanda is a form of the sword dance, its steps and techniques are used in Chhau dance of Bihar.
  • It is a fighting technique created by Rajputs and is still practised in many parts of Bihar.
  • Pari means shield and Khanda means sword.
  • It is even practised in some parts of Jharkhand and Odisha.

Kathi Samu

  • Kathi Samu is one of the ancient martial arts that originated in Andhra Pradesh, and is practised by the royal armies.
  • Kathi means sword, and Kathi Samu is a martial art that involves fighting with swords.
  • This prestigious martial art employs various kinds of swords.
  • The place where Kathi Samu is performed is known as ‘garidi’.
  • Historically, the technique was patronised by the Kingdom of Vizianagaram, and Karvetinagaram.

Benefits of Practising Martial Arts

The benefits of practising or training martial arts are multifold, which are as follows:

(Video) भारत के प्रमुख मार्शल आर्ट | Martial Arts in india | Art & culture |Static Gk| study vines official

  1. Physical fitness is boosted as the whole body is exercised and the entire muscular system is activated. The training results in strength, stamina, flexibility, movement coordination etc.
  2. Mental Health is enhanced by an increase in self-esteem and self-control.
  3. Emotional and Spiritual well-being are therapeutic effects of martial arts learning.

Right to Self Defence

  • Sections 96 and 97 of the Indian Penal Code are supportive of self-defence.
  • It is officially reported that the common man when threatened can rise in self-defence.
  • The right to self-defence can be exercised in cases falling under the categories of theft, robbery, mischief and criminal trespass whether the movable or immovable property belongs to him or any other person.
  • The right to self-defence is subject to the restrictions contained in Section 99.

Other Popular Martial Arts

The martial arts commonly practised universally are:

  1. Kickboxing,
  2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  3. Muay Thai
  4. Taekwondo
  5. Karate
  6. Boxing
  7. Aikido
  8. Judo
  9. Sumo Wrestling
  10. Hapkido

Indian Martial Arts [UPSC Notes]:-Download PDF Here

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What is the name of the famous martial art of India? ›

Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu is a martial art that originated as a style in Kerala during the 13th Century AD. The word Kalari first appears in Sangam literature to describe both a battlefield and combat arena. The word Kalari tatt denoted a martial feat, while Kalari kozhai meant a coward in war.

Who is the No 1 martial arts in India? ›

Vidyut Jammwal ranked among top 10 martial artists worldwide.

How many martial arts are there in India? ›

8 Different Forms of Martial Arts in India.

Which is the best Indian martial art? ›

Kalaripayattu was introduced as martial art by a legend, sage Parasurama, who built temples. This art is used as a means of unarmed self-defence and a way to achieve physical fitness today.

Which is the oldest form of martial arts in India? ›

Kalaripayattu: India's martial art and the world's oldest - BBC Reel.

What martial art is taught in Indian Army? ›

Martial Arts

'Karate' is a recognized martial art of self-defence all over the world. It demands the highest degree of mental and physical discipline. The Officer Cadets are taught the basic kicks, blows, body feint and hand chops.

Who is the god of martial arts in India? ›

Introduced by Lord Parashurama, an avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu, Kalari, as the martial art is also known, combined the basic principles of psychology and physiology with the purpose of developing the whole person.

Which martial art is originated in India? ›

Silambam, Tamil Nadu

Originating in Tamil Nadu, silambam, is one of the oldest self-defence techniques out there. One can even find references of this ancient form of martial arts in the Sangam Literature. Silambam mainly involves stick fighting and was successfully used against the British army in the 18th century.

Which martial art is north India? ›

  • Lathi is an ancient armed martial art of India. It also refers to one of the world's oldest weapons used in martial arts.
  • Lathi or stick martial arts practised in Punjab and Bengal region of India.
  • Lathi still remains a popular sport in the Indian villages.
  • A practitioner is known as lathial.

Who is the No 1 martial arts? ›

1. Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee is ranked first among the top 10 martial artists in the world in 2021. Lee Jun-fan (27 November 1940 - 20 July 1973) was a Chinese martial art performer, star, film maker, martial art teacher, and philosopher.

Which country is No 1 in martial arts? ›

Japan — Aikido, Judo, Karate

Visit a dojo or reach out to a martial arts master to train where the forms originate and experience the culture of traditions that influenced it.

Which is the oldest martial art? ›

The correct option is C Kalaripayattu. Explanation: It is the oldest martial art in India originated in the state of Kerala in the 4th century A.D. Kalari is a Malayalam word that means School/gymnasium/training hall where Martial arts are practiced or taught.

What are the 10 effective martial arts? ›

If you are interested in learning more, read on!
  • Jiu-Jitsu.
  • Muay Thai (and Kickboxing) ...
  • Wrestling. ...
  • Boxing. ...
  • Judo. ...
  • Karate. ...
  • Combat Sambo. The next martial art on today's list is Sambo. ...
  • Taekwondo. Taekwondo is a Korean martial art founded by Choi Hong Hi and a couple of army officials and martial artists. ...

What are the top 5 fighting styles? ›

These five martial arts styles are ideal for teaching you what you need to know if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • #1 BJJ for Self Defense. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is great for self-defense because size doesn't matter. ...
  • #2 Muay Thai. ...
  • #3 Filipino Martial Arts. ...
  • #4 Krav Maga. ...
  • #5 for Self Defense MMA.
Jul 23, 2019

What are the 7 Skills martial arts can teach you? ›

These are seven essential life skills that Martial Arts teaches children to help them deal with difficult issues.
  • Focus.
  • Discipline.
  • Memorization.
  • Effort.
  • Goal Setting.
  • Respect.
  • Confidence.

What is Kung Fu called in India? ›

Kalaripayattu (IPA: [kɐɭɐɾip:ɐjɐt:ɨ̆]; also known simply as Kalari) is an Indian martial art that originated in modern-day Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast of India.

What is the name of martial art of Punjab? ›

Gatka originated in the Punjab in the 15th century. There has been a revival during the later 20th century, with an International Gatka Federation was founded in 1982 and formalized in 1987, and gatka is now popular as a sport or sword dance performance art and is often shown during Sikh festivals.

Which martial art is most powerful? ›

Some pro-level fighters regard Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as the toughest of all the martial arts. And if you compare it against the other combat sports, it's hard to argue with them. MMA draws on a number of different methods including kickboxing, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What is the strongest martial art called? ›

Muay Thai (Thailand)

Muay Thai is one of the deadliest martial arts forms and is commonly referred to as the Art of Eight Limbs. It was established in the aftermath of the Siamese Revolution in 1932. For striking, Muay Thai primarily uses outer body parts such as feet, elbows, shins, and hands.

Which is the coolest martial art? ›

Aikido. What is this? A true defense art, Aikido is largely about using an opponents strength, speed, mass, and weight against them, which makes it good for anyone, but particularly effective for smaller individuals who aren't bringing a lot of mass to bear.

What is the king of all martial arts? ›

1. Bruce Lee. The kung-fu king combined the cardiovascular capacity of an athlete with a bodybuilder's musculature. He performed finger-and-thumbs press-ups, inflated his lats like a cobra, leapt 8ft in the air to kick out a lightbulb and unleashed the legendary 1in punch.

Why Indian martial arts are not famous? ›

Yes, martial arts is primarily about dealing in violence. However, it is also about controlling violence as much as possible. And that is something which most people in India refuse to see, much less accept. And that creates a major barrier in making Indian Martial Arts popular within the country.

Which country is the mother of martial arts? ›

Since kalarippayattu is the oldest form of defence combat, it is called the mother of martial arts, only from India did other Asian countries develop their way of martial arts like karate, kungfu, and jiu-jitsu which was spread in China and other Far East places.

What martial arts does Indian Army use? ›

'Karate' is a recognized martial art of self-defence all over the world. It demands the highest degree of mental and physical discipline. The Officer Cadets are taught the basic kicks, blows, body feint and hand chops.

Was Kung Fu invented in India? ›

This monastery was the Shaolin Temple, built in 495 CE in the jungles atop Mt Song in China's Henan Province. Thus, Batuo was the first abbot of Shaolin. About 30 years later, another monk, Bodhidharma from Southern India, made his way to China and laid the foundations of Shaolin kung fu.

What is the 1 known martial arts? ›

Average Pageviews for Wikipedia Articles about Martial Arts
RankMartial ArtAverage Pageviews
1Krav Maga3019
4Mixed Martial Arts2289
45 more rows

Did martial arts originated in India? ›

The oldest recorded organized unarmed fighting art in the Indian subcontinent is Malla-yuddha or combat-wrestling, codified into four forms in the Vedic Period. Written evidence of martial arts in Southern India dates back to the Sangam literature of about the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD.

Is Shaolin from India? ›

It combines Ch'an philosophy and martial arts and originated and was developed in the Shaolin Temple in Henan province, Greater China during its 1500-year history.

Who brought karate in India? ›

Karate history can be traced back some 1400 years, to Daruma, founder of Zen Buddhism in Western India .

Did Chinese martial arts come from India? ›

Indian martial arts may have spread to China via the transmission of Buddhism in the early 5th or 6th centuries of the common era and thus influenced Shaolin Kungfu.

Who is the oldest martial art? ›

The correct option is C Kalaripayattu. Explanation: It is the oldest martial art in India originated in the state of Kerala in the 4th century A.D. Kalari is a Malayalam word that means School/gymnasium/training hall where Martial arts are practiced or taught.

What are the 4 main martial arts? ›

There are four main categories of martial arts — Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Brazilian — and there are a few styles within each category. There is also a category of martial arts called Mixed Martial Arts or MMA that uses a mix of techniques from other combat sports and martial arts.


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