Generally the term Gatka is used as a synonym for Indian martial arts in particular it is a martial art of the Sikhs in Northern India. Actually Gatka means a stick that is used to exercise sword-fighting. In the 19th century Gatka was a slang expression that was used for stick- sword- and bar-techniques. Many of the techniques which are practiced today are forms which underwent European influences and are variants of the original Indian martial art Shastar Vidyaa (shastar = weapon vidyaa = science).
Shastar Vidyaa is part of the Vedic tradition that can trace its origins back to ten thousand years. Yoga meditation and the medecine of Ayurveda share the same roots. Shastar Vidyaa is the entirety of the knowledge from hand-to-hand combat up to the fight on the battlefield. Together with Buddhism it spread all over Eastern Asia and thus formed the basis for the Chinese and Japanese martial-arts.
Unlike other Asian martial arts there is no founder who could be named. However there are a lot of masters one of them was Krishna Maharaja. It is supposed that he developed the sixteen principles of the Vidyaa. The epic of the Mahabharat that tells about a conflict in the Vedic period (about 600 b.C.) is full of links to Krishna Maharaja and his abilities on the battlefield. In the Mahabharat Shastar Vidyaa is mentioned for the first time. Other masters of Indian martial arts were Ram Chander and the Rajput-kings who developed for centuries a culture concerning the knowledge about Shastar Vidyaa.
The knowledge about his martial art however was nearly completely dissolving and was reduced to tradition and dogma when the Muslims conquered India. But at this time a memorable incident took place. Fifty-two of the last princes of Rajastan were captured by the Muslim conquerors. In order to free them the Sikh Guru Hargobind coming from the Punjab region was asked for help. As he himself often was in conflict with the Muslims he began to establish an army that could finally free the Rajput-princes who taught him and his Sikh-army as a sign of gratitude their knowledge about Shastar Vidyaa.
The Gurus spent their life praying and in their knowledge about the importance of the harmony between humans and the earth. Some religions believed in the principle of non-violence to an extent that they even were not only not ready to fight for their own set of beliefs but they simply ignored the enemy and let themselves be killed. The Gurus however demonstrated that some form of defence indeed was necessary to keep the harmony on Earth. It is known that Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji (6th Guru) and Guru Gobind Singh Ji (10th Guru) were not the only Gurus that were ready to fight actively for their religion. As a matter of fact also Guru Angad Dev Ji (2nd Guru) a passionate wrestler taught his fellow citizens to keep their body fit during their whole life.
The tenth master of the Sikhs Guru Gobind Singh led Shastar Vidyaa to its culmination point. Taking the mental tradition of his nine successful Sikh-Guru-predecessors he created the basis for the Sikh Dharma. Before that the Sikhs possessed only one holy book called Adi Granth. To this Guru Gobind Singh put two more Granths the Sarab Lo Granth and the Dhasam Granth that described the Vidyaa martial art.