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Hailing from Kashmir, this South Asian martial art involves two individuals squaring off each other with a sword one hand and a shield in the other. Believed to mean ‘knowledge of war,’ Sqay has grown into a competitive sport that is widely practiced across various states of India.

Vague Beginnings & Decline of Sqay

Sqay

Although the exact beginning is uncertain, Sqay can be traced as far back as 4000 BC, where the Kashmiris were believed to have used the sword-fighting style to fend themselves from wild animals, along with hunting for food. It has been noted that back in 3889 BC, a vicious storm had once claimed the nation of Kashmir. Leaving behind nothing but destruction, the remaining survivors were left to survive using Sqay.

It wasn’t until the king of Kashmir ‘Puran Karan,’ when Sqay was applied and taught to the soldiers of Kashmir for warfare purposes. Over the decades, it eventually became a requirement for all soldiers to be trained in Sqay. In fact, one of the earliest evidence of Sqay were seen in Persian writings in Kashmir. Starting from the colonial period, the ancient martial art began to slowly fade and the lack of effort made by the government left Sqay to dwindle away into the past.

Vague Beginnings & Decline of Sqay

A Sqay competition will typically involve three areas students must partake in – loba, mathol, and khawankay. Due to the danger of using a real sword, practitioners are equipped with a stick paired with a shield. Students are expected to wear the official blue uniform with the belt wrapped around the waist. 

  • Loba – In this part of the competition, fighters spar with one another within a 6-meter space and are awarded points depending on their form and technique throughout the fight. Winners are determined based on the amount of points attained. Whoever has the most points at the end of the match gets the victory. If a fighter attains 36 points before the bout ends, he/she is immediately declared a winner. During a sparring match, individuals are permitted to strike the arms, legs, and upper body but uncovered areas are restricted. If a fighter happens to strike an area that is prohibited, the referee deducts 3 points. A fighter loses 12 points if there is a second offense, and is disqualified for a third. 
  • Mathol – Much like TaeKwonDo, students are evaluated on how effectively and clean they break an object. Stones or wooden blocks are usually used for the objects. While the quantity of objects is important, form and technique are also things that are put into consideration when evaluating. Scored out of 10, each student is given three minutes to break as many objects as possible. Speed plays an important factor, but precision, accuracy, and effectiveness are also vital aspects to a clean break.
  • Khankay Sqay is one among many martial arts that require students to be evaluated on their form. These forms are preset routines that an individual is expected to naturalize into their body, so they can be executed with fluidity without thought. Students are typically judged on posture, timing, and stance. 

Modern Day & Beyond of Sqay

Sqay

Around the 1980’s, the International Council of Sqay was established. With the help of the Sqay Federation of India, little efforts continue to be made for the revival of the ancient martial art. Having spread across many states of India – Bhutan and Nepal to name a few – the sword-fighting style from Kashmir continues to push through, in hopes to finally be globally recognized in the martial art world.

The transition from fighting to competitive sports has helped sway gain a bit more appeal. International competitive events such as the Asian Sqay Championship are just a few places where the youth of Kashmir have a chance to shine the light on their country’s native martial art.

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