Manipuri martial arts to demonstrate at Khelo India Youth Games

Guwahati: Thang-Ta, a martial art from Manipur, will be showcased for the first time at the Khelo India Youth Games 2022 at Panchkula in Haryana.

However, the traditional martial art – Thang (sword) Ta (spear) – is not just about fighting. Artists are trained in sword fighting and sharit-sharak (unarmed combat). Their holistic development is ensured by: sajen kanglon (exercise), dangouron (spiritual arts), ningsha kanglon (breathing exercise), layeng kanglon (naturopathic education) and hirikonba (meditation).

As warriors, the performers also need gritty composure and deadly precision to win the fight, experts say.

The Khelo India Youth Games 2022 will be held from June 4-13, 2022.

Huidrom Premkumar Singh, who will lead and oversee the Thang-Ta matches at the Games from June 4-6, revealed that there would be nearly 140 boys and girls in the fray.

“Most are from Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, West Bengal, Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh,” said Singh.

While not much is known about this art form, its origins are believed to date back to AD 1404-1432 when, according to the Thang-Ta Federation of India, a king named Punshiba established a military division called Shingchep Meira Haijouroi.

By 1709-1748 AD this defense system was strengthened by King Pamheiba and every man, over the age of 16, was ordered to voluntarily serve the state for a fixed number of days a year and train in martial arts.

The men had to be skilled in the art of warfare as the attacks from neighbors increased.

“We share borders with Burma (now Myanmar) and invasions from surrounding states were also common,” Singh noted.

Tribal clans such as the Mangang, Luwant, Khuman, Angom, Khaba-Nganba, Moirang, and Sarang Leishang Them in the Manipur Valley also often fought among themselves, underscoring the need for strong defensive measures in all villages.

Singh, an art expert who is also the chairman of the World Thang-Ta Federation, has been instrumental in establishing Thang-Ta training centers and organizing championships in India and abroad.

“Except for performances in front of select audiences, no swords will be used in the Khelo India events and players will compete with cheibee or phunacheiwhich are leather-covered walking sticks,” Singh said.

The competition is in a circular arena with a diameter of 30 feet; with participants in angangba (red corner) and higok (Blue corner).

“They can hit any part of the opponent’s body above the belt. Use of chungoic (shield) is only allowed for self-defense. Kicking is not allowed,” he said.

A match consists of two rounds of two to three minutes each for boys and girls with one minute of rest. One central referee, six scorers, one timekeeper and one or two head judges are assigned for each match.

“There will be medal ceremonies every day and there will be separate performances for VIPs,” Singh said.

Also read: Shirui Lily Festival in Manipur: Tangkhuls Showcases ‘Tricycle Race Track’

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