by SS Guru Kirn Kaur Khalsa, Espanola NM
The insanity and darkness prevalent at this time and age reminds me how important it is for every Shakti to pursue self-defense and/or martial arts. Feeling battered emotionally from the recent massacre in Connecticut, and outraged by the horrific gang rapes in India, I’ve been thinking on how to approach the subject of the role of women and martial arts in relation to the Sant Sipahi, the warrior-saint.
It has not been easy to find stories of Sikh women, especially in the times of the Gurus, having much to do with martial arts training, apart from the remarkably few we are all so familiar with, like Mai Bhago for example.
Nevertheless, there are indeed snippets of women helping defend villages and forts, as well as coming up with ingenious self-defense tactics when confronted by dangerous situations. One such tactic was taking a handful of salt and tying it to the corner of a chuni, to be released into the eyes of a foe, thereby allowing time to escape.
The Siri Singh Sahib always encouraged and inspired women to take up martial arts and self-defense training. He used to say that if we ever got into trouble, the police would not show up in time to help us. I remember how in the days of KWTC (Khalsa Women’s Training Camp) in Espanola, he would often have us performing marching drills around camp, learning to listen and react instantly to commands, jogging to Ram Das Puri, doing strenuous obstacle courses, and practicing very aerobic kriyas.
I took this “hukam” upon myself and applied it to learning various martial arts (Gatka being my favorite). I always found two common threads weaving themselves through each modality. The first one was attitude. The second one was neutral mind.
Fearlessness and Courage
A projected attitude of courage, fearlessness and boldness is invaluable in any confrontation. I often think this is what the Siri Singh Sahib meant when he used to say “Fake it and you’ll make it.” I can personally attest that while sparring in Gatka matches, attitude is one of the key ingredients.
The second thread demands a neutral meditative mind, which is the signature of a warrior-saint. A warrior-saint seeks the temple within, the touchstone of divinity within herself, no matter what is happening on the outside. A neutral mind provides the equanimity necessary in the midst of angry conflict, thereby enabling one to diffuse threats and be a calming presence despite the situation.
Even though the sword has become an obsolete weapon of combat in this day and age, I have found that training in Gatka has provided invaluable training in PRESENCE, which requires a meditative neutral mind to be fully in the moment…to BE fully present, to the circumstances around you, without losing your head, or a limb for that matter.
This neutral mindfulness forces mind, body and spirit to work together and to exist in the present moment, free from the distractions and mental chatter of everyday life. One slip of this state of mind and the sword lets you know it immediately. Gatka training has given me the deepest respect for the power, discipline and skill required to wield a weapon, for in my hand I carry the power of life and death.
By definition a saint is a selfless giver; a pure devotee of God’s will. Likewise, by definition a warrior is someone who is highly skilled and trained in the use of martial power. In this manner, a warrior-saint would be a trained, potentially lethal martial artist with an altruistic, caring and understanding view of the world around him or her.
Where a trained soldier would act strictly under orders (sometimes even against his own reservations), a warrior-saint would act from a meditative and conscious state of fearlessness when confronted with challenges and situations that could be life-threatening and even lethal. A warrior-saint would practice compassion and forgiveness and at times even surrender. This distinction allows a Sant Sipahi the discipline and consciousness to act or not to act as each situation arises.
Violence against women has not subsided. It continues to be on the rise, although perhaps not in the same way as in the times of Guru Hargobind and the Mogul Empire. I am thankful that I have not had to face a life-threatening situation but I do know that thanks to my martial arts training and my warrior attitude I feel empowered and hopefully capable of handling a potentially nasty circumstance.
In contemplating what it means to me to be a warrior-saint, I think about these words of Paulo Coelho: “A warrior of the light is someone capable of understanding the miracle of life and of fighting to the last for something he believes in.
The warrior of light knows that he is free to make his choices, and he makes these with courage and with detachment. Everyone is capable of these things. And though no one thinks of himself as a Warrior of Light, we all are.”
In this day and age, to have the consciousness of a Sant Sipahi is to be a Warrior of the Light – to uphold righteousness courageously and truthfully.
As a woman, I strive to be a Warrior of the Light and shine brightly in every situation, from the most mundane to the most life-threatening. Thus, as 2013 starts, my intention is to live, breathe, embody and project Light, Strength and Courage, as a true Sant Sipahi does.
About the Author
SS Guru Kirn Kaur Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. She travels and teaches about the technology of Kundalini Yoga and the teachings of Yogi Bhajan on women and spirituality. She is married to SS Dharm Singh, is the mother of two daughters, a business woman and enjoys teaching sacred painting.