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Martial Arts in Focus: Kashmiri Sqay

(SQAY competitors, photo via farm6.staticflickr.com)

Sqay is a traditional South Asian martial art originating in the former state of Kashmir. According to the International Council of Sqay, the history of the martial art can be traced to the earliest days of Kashmir history. The practice evolved in 4012 B.C., used in self defense and hunting. Sqay has existed for thousands of years in Kashmiri culture despite the tides of natural disaster and war over the course of thousands of years. The martial art serves as a way for Kashmiri people to connect with their ancestry and participate in competitions unique to their heritage. Here’s how sqay competitions are conducted:

Under the ICOS rules, competitors are chosen by weight and age in competition, sparring in a 5/6.5 meter square. Competitors use a leather, synthetic fiber sword (tora or tura) measuring is 2-2.6 feet long depending on the age group. It is paird with a leather shiled (bargula) measuring 9-19 inches in diameter. Sparring opponents wear a chest and head guard for protection.

The contestants start the match by bowing, and the referee calls the match to start with the word “Legyasha.” A bout ranges in time from 3-5 minutes depending on the age group. An additional 2 minutes of time can be added in need of extra time, and sudden death decides a tie breaker after extra time. The emphasis of competition is on controlled, precise, and superior technique rather than physical prowess. According to icsqay.com the rules of competition are as follows:

“Actual physical contact is strictly limited and is not required for scoring. Light contact is permitted on the body only very light contact is permitted on the face and head. Points can be awarded for controlled techniques having a force within to in of the target surface excessive physical contact always result in disqualification.”

“1-A dre (12 points) is awarded for a blow that strike with good form, good attitude, and strong vigor, constant alertness of mind, proper timing and correct distance.

2- A dha (6 points) is awarded for a blow that is less correct but still effective, for example the opponent is moving away from the below, the below is slightly off target, the below is delivered from an unstable position.

3-A yaw (3 points) is awarded for a Tura strike which will be perfect on target with pull back at right time.”

The arms, legs, head and upper body are all legal targets. Only strikes with the blade of the sword and the foot below the ankle are allowed. The eyes, groin, hips, knees, and uncovered areas of the skin are off limits. As such, the referee can give penalties as a warning (muko) of 3 points. A repeated offense results in a deduction of 12 points (dasi muko) and a further repeated foul will result in disqualification. The first competitor to reach 36 points is declared the winner of the match.

Learn more about sqay at icsqay.com and find more competition videos on youtube.com