Last Sikh warrior looks for disciple

Nidar Singh Nihang, who lives in Britain, is looking for an apprentice to pass on the ancient martial art

Nidar Singh Nihang has devoted his life to the mysterious Sikh martial art of Shastar Vidya.

Having learned his skills from an 80-year-old Indian guru, he is now seeking an apprentice to keep the ancient art alive.

But he insists that any budding warrior wanting to follow in his footsteps must travel to his home -- inWolverhampton in England

The 45-year-old former factory worker is looking for someone to inherit both his unique knowledge and his armoury of amazing weapons.

He said, "Shastar Vidya is a part of my history and culture and without it we lose our character. It has changed history and produced great warriors and for it to die out now would be a tragedy."

He added, "Throughout the day, no matter what I am doing, Shastar Vidya is always on my mind. I am the last known remaining master and it is my mission in life now to find a successor to carry on this great martial art. If I die with it, it is all gone."

Life of a warrior
Nidar conducts a rigorous daily routine, awakening at dawn to recite ancient mantras followed by seven hours of writing and study.

After a late siesta listening to classical Indian music, the expert swordsman embarks on six hours of martial yoga and Shastar Vidya, before mediation and sleep.

In 1984, Nidar met Mohinder Singh, the last remaining master of Shastar Vidya, while working on his aunt's farm in the remote village of Shadipur in Punjab.

He said, "The master was from the next village. He saw my physique and asked me if I wanted to learn Shastar Vidya. He got me to attack him with a stick, but before I knew it I was on the floor. I thought it might be a fluke, but I did it over and over again and each time he threw me around like a rag doll. I was awestruck because I was 17 and he was in his 80s."

Nihang explained, "I stayed for 11 years, milking the buffalos in the morning and spending the remainder of the day training with my master and learning the philosophy. I then returned to Wolverhampton in 1995 to marry my wife. When my master Mohinder died later that year, I became the last Sikh warrior � now I am looking for someone to succeed me. I will teach them."

Work hard
Nidar gave up his day-job in a food factory in 2002 to become a full-time writer and teacher of Shastar Vidya.
He is now the ninth gurdev (teacher) of a school established in 1661, called the Baba Darbara Singh Shastar Vidya Akhara.

He lectures worldwide and teaches his pupils how to use swords, daggers and spears, most of which were used in historical battles.

Students of the martial art achieve master status, which can take decades, when they are deemed ready by living masters.

He said, "Without my teaching, Shastar Vidya would be on the brink of extinction."

"I have become a master after fully committing myself to the martial art -- at least 70 hours of training a week for almost 30 years," he added.

"My students show promise but are only at the first rung of the ladder. To become a master takes decades of dedication."

Beginnings of Shastar Vidya
The martial art of Shastar Vidya started with the dawn of the Sikh Empire in the 17th century, when the new religion was under attack from neighbouring Hindus and Muslims.

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