The Art of Wrestling
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This was shot inside in a little akhara (gymnasia) which is lost in the fields near Sakalhida, a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
It was early in the morning before sunrise in winter and there was no bright light inside, this is why this picture has some noise but somehow I felt that it was also giving a kind of dreamy touch and a timeless effect.
Those pehlwans (Indian wrestlers) are following an art of wrestling composed of stance, paintra, and moves and countermoves, daw and pech.
Many wrestlers describe at length the importance of a balanced stance, the positioning of arms, legs and head.
A balanced stance puts one in position to apply a move or counter an attack.
“Paintra is the fixing of the feet on the ground after having made a move or having countered an attack.
It is the art of standing in the akhara.
It is the point of entry into the act of wrestling and the prelude to every dangal.
One’s stance puts one in a position to attack or retreat. . . .
Every stance has an appropriate counterstance, and one must move in tandem with one’s opponent.
Eyes and stance move together.
Stance brings color to the akhara.
A wrestler who is as quick as a black hawk, can, with wisdom and vigilance, move from stance to stance and confuse his opponent.
He may attack aggressively or retreat passively, drop down on all fours, move from side to side and turn around.
All the time he has in mind the move he wants to apply and uses his stance to choreograph the attack.
In a stance, one’s forward leg should be in line with one’s bowed head so that the chin is straight above the knee, and one’s center of balance fixed.
If one’s stance is like a pillar then an attack will find its mark.
One should be able to shift one’s weight from one leg to another so as to feint and attack without faltering.
When you set your stance, the forward leg is usually the stronger.
With the feet neither too far apart nor too close together, the angle between the feet should be between forty-five and fifty degrees. . . .
One’s hands should neither be fully extended nor left limp at one’s side.
They should be bent at the elbow and held firm . . .
One’s feet and hands should be tensed so that one can be fast on the attack and firm in absorbing and turning a parry aside.
With one’s right foot forward and body crouched there should be enough weight in the forward lean to make for a quick attack but not so much as will imbalance the body and make it fall out of control (Ratan Patodi)”.
(“The Wrestler’s Body: Identity and Ideology in North India” by Joseph S. Alter)
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