Meeting a Thang-ta practitioner : Kanglei kick

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Meeting a Thang- ta practitioner : Kanglei kick

I met this inspirational Thang–ta teacher and was blown away when she threw a series of kicks, blocks and punches with or without using the swords. I saw her doing intense workout, stretching and applying self-defense methods. I still remember her unique moves, footwork, big leaps and quick turns. I saw the wear and tear on the joints and tendons. At first glance she looked petite, delicate, poised and fragile. I was pleasantly surprised by her endurance and strength. She had beaten bad guys who tried to tease her by using Thang-ta skills. I was so eager and excited to meet her because her stories were pleasing to the ears. She has been practising Thang- ta since she was eight years old, she would tell me the art of fighting is not about throwing punches blindly it depends on how swift you move and think; and that how a cool mind and speed are also important.

This Thang-ta teacher exemplifies discipline, respect and compassion. She is the type who pushed harder to beat an opponent. I observed her performing the chingkhei khurumba, khongrai mapum leiba, tagi sajel, ningsa kanglon, tingthokpi sajel and sevoti. She often used to mention that Thang-ta is a system of physical and spiritual exercise but also enables a perfect coordination of mind and body. These exercises performed by her were beautiful, elegant and graceful. It was inspirational, expressive and energetic.The tha machet saba khongpham ahum demonstration was rhythmic, flexible and packed with action. I noticed footsteps used in Thang-ta like khongpham hatnabi, pallandabi, khongfam manga are the most amazing moves.

he Manipuri martial arts "Thang Ta" (Swords And Spears), being called "Kamthi Chainaba" meaning 'Battle of the Kamthi or short swords'
The Manipuri martial arts “Thang Ta” (Swords And Spears), being called “Kamthi Chainaba” meaning ‘Battle of the Kamthi or short swords’ : From our Galleries sub site: Photo Copyright and Credit: Moirangthem Ranjit (Click to view more photos by M Ranjit)

One of the Thang- ta teachers told me once that the practitioners of this art rise to the occasion, they do what needs to be done, save people, have immense strength and is always prepared for emergencies. This art instils discipline, shapes human character and give meaning to life. It requires both physical and mental agility, balance and coordination. It is practiced for fitness, inner strength and self-belief. This is a venerable form of spiritual and physical exercise and this martial art system is very effective. The behaviour of the practitioners is corrected by the instructor and the objective is to control and defeat the opponent. Most of the teachers keep a low-profile and their ambition is to produce exceptional students. The teachers don’t teach a large group of people but focused on some dedicated students.There are advanced instructors who have produced outstanding students and they want to pass on the art.

My first introduction to martial arts began in our neighbourhood and I remember those cousins using unique vocabularies like kihon, kata, kumite ,sensei ,gi, chudan and gedan .The exponents used Japanese counting words ichi, ni ,san, shi, go, roku and the training hall reverberated with the sounds of these words. Some years ago Shotokan karate, Budokan karate , Kungfu , Thai boxing were quite popular in Manipur. And who will forget the Bruce Lee mania that hit Manipur and there were several stories about how people went crazy about his films. He was an iconic figure, many of the practitioners emulated him, there were stories of street fights a la Bruce Lee. His films were very popular and some guys pick up the fighting style from his films. Lee shoes were quite popular, people opted for this low priced shoes than to branded ones. Such was the popularity of Bruce Lee and his films churned out from Hong Kong. Punch downwards and chop with fist were taught by a local brother who was into several forms of martial arts. The style was all about pivoting on right heel to the right toes, toes pointing southeast and then turning right hand with the palm facing up, moving left across torso to right hand, left palm facing slantingly down and then changing right hand to a fist.As for the chop with fist style one has to pivot on left heel to the right with toes pointing south west by turning the torso then raise left hand above forehead with the palm facing out south and moving the right fist across torso to right waist level.

The beauty of Thang-ta is that it is apolitical, it’s not profit- earning, it is spiritual, it is uplifting and gives a sense of well-being. It’s all about self-discipline, the attention is focused on training and developing the skill and character of student. The notion of honour, respect , strictness and self-sacrifice are emphasized. It brings us closer to our ancestors and to our roots. Long live our Thang-ta practitioners!

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