KUSHTI: Ancient wrestling style and training

What is Kushti?

The style of Indian wrestling, also known as Kushti and the person referred to as Pehlwan. Kushti, the traditional Indian wrestling takes place in “Akhada“. Akhada is a place for practicing Indian wrestling, in other words, the school of wrestling.

Kushti/Pehlwani is a form of wrestling from the Indian Subcontinent. In the Mughal Empire by combining native malla-yuddha with influences from Persian varzesh-e bastani. The words pehlwani and kushti derive from the Persian terms pahlavani and koshti respectively. It is likely that the word derives from the Iranian word “Pehalavi” denoting an Iranian people.

A pehlwan is a practitioner of this sport while teachers are ustads. Many southern Indian practitioners of traditional malla-yuddha consider their art to be the more “pure” form of Indian wrestling, but most South Asians do not make this clear distinction and simply view kushti as the direct descendent of ancient malla-yuddha, usually downplaying the foreign influence as inconsequential.

The ancient traditional art of Indian wrestling, known as kushti (‘wrestling ground with hallowed earth’), still thrives in wrestling gyms, or akhara, scattered around India.
Much like a gym, local men go to train at their akhara using a range of simple but effective equipment. Aside from intense bodybuilding, practitioners of kushti wrestling also traditionally emphasize a life of discipline and celibacy.

Training for tedious Kushti:

In Indian wrestling, physical training means building strength and develop muscle. There are some specific exercises that wrestlers should do on daily basis, Surya Namaskara, shirshasan,the dand and bethak. The freestyle type of Indian wrestling is one of the most popular and traditional sport from India.

The Rules of Kushti:

Wrestling competitions, known as dangal or kushti, are held in villages and as such are variable and flexible. The arena is either a circular or square shape, measuring at least fourteen feet across. Rather than using modern mats, South Asian wrestlers train and compete on dirt floors.

The floor is raked of any pebbles or stones before training starts. Buttermilk, oil, and red ochre are sprinkled to the ground, giving the dirt its red hue. Water is added every few days to keep it at the right consistency. Also, being soft enough to avoid injury but hard enough so as not to impede the wrestlers’ movements. Before every match, the wrestlers throw a few handfuls of dirt from the floor on themselves and their opponent as a form of blessing.

Despite the marked boundaries of the arena, competitors may go outside the ring during a match with no penalty. There are no rounds but the length of every bout is specified beforehand, usually about 25–30 minutes. The length of the match extends on the agreement of both parties. Match extensions are typically around 10–15 minutes.

A win is by pinning the opponent’s shoulders and hips to the ground simultaneously, although victory by knockout, stoppage or submission is also possible. In some variations of the rules, only pinning the shoulders down is enough. Bouts by a referee inside the ring. Along with a panel of two judges watching from the outside.

The state of Kushti in modern India:

Even in fast-changing India, the sport remains a wellspring of personal power, family pride, and regional identity. These days, not many people traditionally practice kushti, directly on mud floors, and many are more interested in practicing this form of wrestling using a mat or turf.

However, even though several prominent, government-run gyms have already switched to cloths. As well as catering instead for Olympic-style wrestling. Most of the akhara in the smaller villages and more traditional towns are still maintaining the old ways.

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