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Fahim Uddin Fahmi
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Pahelwani, or ‘Kushti’ as it is also known, is an ancient and traditional form of wrestling of Punjab, the ‘Land of Five Rivers’ (divided between Pakistan & India). It is believed to be one of the oldest martial arts in existence. For centuries, the wrestling lifestyle has enshrined the essence of man. In the confines of the carefully prepared earth wrestling pit (‘akhara’) and under the expert guidance of Pahelwani masters, variously called ‘guru’ or ‘ustad’, the pahelwan achieved self-discipline through physical fitness, as well as identity and purity of the body, mind and spirit. It is a synthesis of an indigenous Hindu form of wrestling called ‘Mal-yudh’, the ancient discipline of Yoga, and a Persian form of wrestling brought into the Indian subcontinent through the gateway of Punjab by the Indo-Persian and Mughal dynasties.
A practitioner of Pahelwani is called a ‘pahelwan’. This term is derived from the Persian ‘pahlavan’, which means champion or warrior. It was particularly used to denote those warriors who excelled on the battlefield. The greatest pahlavan recorded in the annals of the Persian tradition was the legendary warrior-king, Rustum. Until now, champion pahelwans in Pakistan are honored with the title ‘Rustum-i-Pakistan’ (Rustum of Pakistan).
In feudal times, competitive wrestling matches were often fought to the death. Over a period of centuries, Pahelwani was modified into a competitive sport; safety rules were implemented, dangerous techniques prohibited and formal training methods established. One of these standardisation measures was the introduction of the square (sometimes circular) earth-filled pits or akhara, measuring approximately 20 x 20 feet, for training and competition purposes. In medieval times, maharajas and wealthy landowners supported a stable of professional pahelwans who matched against one another – the victor receiving a solid silver or gold mace and a king’s ransom in prize money. The four indigenous Mal-yudh styles dominated wrestling in the subcontinent until the 17th century when the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (reigned 1658-1707) sponsored an outsider, Ustad Nur-ud-din Pahelwan. Since then, three schools—Nurewala, Kaloowala and Kotwala—have produced most of the sport’s finest competitors.
The art of Pahelwani is comprised of stance (‘paintra’), and moves and countermoves (‘daw-pech’). Paintra is the art of standing in the akhara. It is the point of entry into the act of wrestling and the prelude to every competitive wrestling bout (‘dangal’). It is the fixing of the feet on the ground after having made a move or having countered an attack. A pahelwan’s stance puts him in a position to attack or retreat. Although stance is of pre-eminent importance, the art of Pahelwani also entails the careful execution of the hundreds of moves and countermoves called daw-pech, a litany of feints and parries.
A skilled pahelwan’s objective is to achieve an economy of effective motion. From his perspective, every single move, glance, shift of weight and moment of motionlessness ought to be classifiable into some aspect of a paintra or daw-pech. He must also be able to read ahead and anticipate his opponent’s moves by examining the geometry of his stance. Because every move can be answered with a whole range of countermoves, no two bouts are ever the same. No move is predictable or established as inevitable given the configuration of previous moves; structured improvisation is the key.

Pahelwans are taught moves and how to put moves together in chains of motion, but it is only through practice that the most expert learn the art of improvisation. An accomplished pahelwan is capable of reading the pure grammar of movement most clearly, and is able to take advantage of his opponent’s misreading or his carelessness. He can interrupt a movement to his advantage and translate it into something for which it was not intended.
In their day, champion pahelwans were devastating because they trained hard, ate big and possessed superior technique, power and fighting hearts. Many of the best professional pahelwans were born into wrestling families; a son followed in the footsteps of his father and started to wrestle as soon as he was able to walk. As Pahelwani was the child’s one and only pursuit, and as he learnt young and kept his body supple under good teachers, who were to be found in great numbers, the akhara system produced extraordinarily efficient and scientific wrestlers. The pahelwan, though very much a part of society, considered himself a man apart. When he entered the akhara, he left behind him the mundane for a world of tranquillity and authority. He would adhere strictly to the moral principles of continence, honesty, internal and external cleanliness, simplicity, and contemplation of the Divine, an attribute that he shared with the ascetic fakir or sadhu of the Muslim and Hindu worlds respectively. The diligent pahelwan strove towards the ideal of perfect health. To achieve this he had to release himself from the world. In this perfect state of self-realization (‘jivanmukti’), ignorance was banished as spiritual consciousness and wisdom developed. At this level, a pahelwan was unaffected by emotions of any sort; he had no concern with the sensory world of pain and pleasure, suffering and greed.
Central to the development of a pahelwan’s moral and ideological framework was physical training (‘virayam’), the focal point of his daily routine. This entailed the repetition of specific exercises and the continual practice in actual wrestling.
Stress was placed on stamina and strength rather than beauty. If a pahelwan became a very large man he was given additional exercises to improve stamina and to harden his body. For instance, he was made to turn the shaft of the Persian wheel (the traditional device used to draw water from wells), a task usually performed by a couple of bullocks or camels. This type of exercise done for a length of time was prodigious hard work.
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#actionmonday by +Adrian Buturca

#plusphotoextract by +Jarek Klimek

#Pakistan #POTD #Wrestling #Conditioning
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World champion wrestlers: Gama Pahalwan and his brother, Imam Bakhsh Pahalwan. Published by Shyam Sunder Lal Agrawal, Kanpur, circa 1930s.

Gama’s younger brother, Imam Baksh, was born in 1883 in the state of Datia where his father was a court wrestler. After his father’s death in 1886, the brothers were raised by their maternal uncle, Ida Pahelwan, who taught them the basics of the art.

Imam Baksh and Gama both received patronage in various royal courts. They wrestled in the court of Rewa for four years until the maharaja’s untimely death forced them to return to Datia. Imam Baksh spent several years at Indore, often accompanying the maharaja in his hunting excursions.

Imam Baksh was part of the troupe of Punjabi pahelwans that visited London in 1910. He wrestled in forty matches, winning them all in under three minutes. He beat the Swiss champion John Lemm in 12 minutes, and a British wrestler named Pat Connolly in ten.

Back in India he comfortably defeated Hassan Baksh Multani at Allahabad. He drew with Ghulam Mohi-ud-din in 1914 at Kohlapur, a repeat result of their 1909 bout at Lahore.

During a wrestling tournament at Kohlapur in 1918, he received the coveted title of Rustum-i-Hind from his brother, who went into unofficial retirement. Imam Baksh had justified his status by beating Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala at the tournament.

During the same tournament, a 19-year old wrestler called Goonga Pahelwan caused an upset when he defeated Imam Baksh’s brother-in-law, Gama Kalloowala. Imam Baksh felt an even greater shock in 1924 when he tasted his only defeat at the hands of Goonga.

Having paid the price of underestimating a challenger, he made certain not to repeat his mistake. In their next two encounters, Goonga was crushed convincingly; in their last match in 1935, the younger pahelwan fought back to secure a draw. After avenging his only loss, Imam Baksh continued to defeat the best including Hassan Baksh and Kalia Pahelwan. At the age of fifty, he pinned Edward Kraemer in under a minute; the German had previously beaten Goonga with relative ease.
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Gama and Imam Baksh featured on a brochure for a wrestling tournament held at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay, 1940.

The promoter of this event was Prince Ranji or Ranjit Singh, who studied under Gama from 1930-1931. He made an extensive tour of Europe and Amercia, wrestling under the names ‘Prince Bhu Pinder’ and ‘Prince Ranji’. He participated in the first mud-wrestling match ever held in America, held in Seattle in 1937.
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The Great Gama 

Fahimuddin Fahmi (Author of The great Gama رستم زماں گاما)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18193383-the-grat-gama?from_choice=false&from_home_module=false.
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Gama Pehlwan 

Fahimuddin Fahmi (Author of The great Gama رستم زماں گاما)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18193383-the-grat-gama?from_choice=false&from_home_module=false.
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