Sanatan Shastar Vidiya is the ancient battlefield science of India, of which Gurdev Nidar Singh is the last living grandmaster. Tried and tested on the battlefield through history, it has a unique understanding of combat and body mechanics, including an entire science of how to stretch, strengthen and activate the body’s fascia to generate a type of non-muscular or “internal" energy. In this seminar, Gurdev Nidar Singh will teach you how to generate this internal energy, and how to use it to enhance the power, stealth, and efficiency of armed and unarmed combat techniques. Building on the last San Francisco seminar, Gurdev will this time focus on the Nandi (bull) combat form, which specializes in close quarter combat and stand up grappling. He will cover Nandi’s unarmed techniques, show how Nandi uses heavily curved swords, and teach its unique manner of training fascia. As always, Gurdev will also cover new Martial Yoga exercises and explain their numerous health benefits.
The seminar will once again be held at In Motion Center in Oakland. A Note from Bernard Langan "The Indonesian Martial Arts I teach have strong influences from Indian Arts - Kalari Payattu, Varma Adi - a Tamil based point striking system and Hindi Grappling systems. I did some training in Kalari Payattu for my own cross research. Since 2015 I have been training, hosting and studying Indian Martial Arts and Martial Yoga with Gurdev Nidar Singh. Shastar Vidya shares some similar structures with Kalari - originally an Hindu art it was adopted into the Nihang Sikhs regiments. It has a well developed system of Martial Yoga and has retained its combative effectiveness, I prefer Shastar Vidya to the Kalari I have been exposed to."
From Guro Jeff Finder a friend and seasoned Filipino Martial Arts Instructor who has attended several seminars. " I've long had a deep curiosity about martial arts from India, which has the longest history of such. Yesterday I had the great privilege and pleasure to meet Gurudev Nidar Singh,the last known teacher of the ancient battlefield art of Shastar Vidya. I've heard of him for some time, mostly through online posts for British seminars in conjunction with Tuhon Pat O'Malley. Gurudev has just begun teaching seminars here in the U.S., and all I can say is, if you have the chance to go to one, GO! What I found was someone deeply educated in the culture and history of his art, who could explain applications ranging from dueling to battlefield formations (and India has fielded some of the largest armies throughout history).
What truly impressed me in the seminar was the focus on fundamental principles of movement which underlie the techniques, starting with how to stand, shift weight, etc. Lest this sound boring, let me assure you it was not, as Gurudev presents his material with plenty of anecdotes and humor. These basic concepts are different than most martial arts, based on the necessity for efficiency of movement in battle armor in the intense heat of India. Thus efficiency, using internal principles found in Yoga, is paramount to overcome deadly fatigue while maximizing both speed and subtlety of movement. A key principle is using minimal muscular force, instead drawing speed and power from shifting body mass through use of gravity and internal alignment, keys that experienced martial artists in particular should appreciate. Another principle, which Aikido and Aikijutsu practitioners in particular will appreciate, is the use of spiraling energy.
Not only was Gurudev's instruction very specific, but he proved the point through the high level of energy he demonstrated all day, from start to finish, including demonstrating various forms of movement from within the system. Using a heavy stick, he moves as well as the best escrimadors, then proceeds to show applications using various swords and daggers. Indian weaponry is perhaps the most varied and sophisticated of the ancient world, allowing for simultaneous use, for instance, of two knives at 90° angles in one hand in conjunction with a sword in the other, taking the concept of espada y daga to a whole other level. Additionally, this is a comprehensive art, also including weaponry such as firearms, making it relevant to the modern world.
He is on a mission to spread this art before it disappears. All I can say is, the martial art community has an unprecedented opportunity to experience and learn from a practitioner of one of the world's great martial traditions before it dies out, as have so many other ancient warrior arts Having been involved in the martial arts community for some 4 decades, I've met a lot of excellent practitioners and instructors. Occasionally one stands out as exceptional, and this weekend I met such at the Shastar Vidya seminar given by Gurdhev Nihar Singh.
An imposing figure, he doesn't just fit the image of Sikh warriors, he walks the walk. For starters, his high level of energy never wavered during 12+ hours of instruction over two days, testimony to the internal strength developed in this method. Each day when I arrived before the starting time, he was already fully engaged with students, and when I left at the end of the day, he was still doing the same. His skills were readily apparent as he repeatedly demonstrated with sticks and live blades while circled by students, both slowly for our edification and at speed for true understanding, yet with absolute control and awareness of his surroundings. His speed is eye-opening, and not just for being a large man, testimony to the unfettered efficiency of his movement.
What was truly impressive to me was the format presented. It is easy to teach techniques, but there are only so many ways in which a human can move, and those are well represented in numerous martial arts. What separates a good instructor from a great one is the ability to break down movement into finite elements, like a physicist studying sub-atomic particles. What Gurudev shared were the internal components of his Shastar Vidya system, in effect giving away the keys to the kingdom. Such knowledge is not easily won, however, and the ability to manifest such skills represents decades of hard training.
To help us understand the difference between our ordinary understanding of movement versus what he was trying to impart, he would have students hold him or lay hands on him throughout the day so we could feel first how something felt using muscular energy, then the difference as he relaxed and used internal energy to physically move others. This was no chi energy quackery but absolute dominance without external effort, techniques evolved over centuries by armored warriors to sustain themselves in combat in the intense heat of northern India.
As the last known practitioner of this art, Gurudev is on a mission to spread and preserve these teachings. Are there other arts with similar internal depth? Even if so, these are skills only the elite will truly appreciate. The rest of us will observe in awe and struggle to comprehend.