Sometimes known as Indian Wrestling or Pehlwani this form of wrestling dates from the 5th century B.C. Although indigenous to South Asia this form of grappling is thought to be originally influenced by Persian wrestling styles. In Pakistan, Kushti teachers are known as Ustads and in India (specifically amongst the Hindus) they are known as Guru’s.
The focus of Kushti as is common in other forms of wrestling is to pin both of your opponents shoulders to the ground. In practical terms, this pinning of your opponent exhibits positional dominance. So if one were to view Kushti training in terms of self defense or MMA competition, Kushti teaches the player take away your opponents striking weapons by closing the distance and bring him to the ground where he can be helplessly pinned and vulnerable to strikes from a dominant top position whereupon the only option for the pinned opponent is to escape from the bottom or be knocked unconscious.
Strength exercises are very important in Kushti. traditional exercises involve the use of large stones stone rings and clubs known as “joris.” Body weight exercises are also commonly used the two most important being the push up and the squat known as the Dand and Baitak respectively. These two exercises are done for hundreds of repetitions and form the foundation of the Kushti wrestlers training regime. Another popular strength building exercise is rope climbing which is essential in building the pulling strength required in Kushti wrestling.
Here is a short video showing some of the particular training methods to Kushti wrestling.
The training area in kushti is known as an Akhara and training sessions in traditional camps are typically 4-6 hours per day. Traditional wrestlers typically live and eat at the camp. A very strict diet is emphasized with certain foods being encouraged for their strength building properties, namely, milk, almonds and ghee. Spiced food as well as tobacco and alcohol is highly discouraged.
Kushti wrestlers have had a history of success competing in the Olympics and and in commercial bouts in the west. Many modern wrestling experts inclduing the renowned Karl Gotch have traveled to South Asia to learn Kushti techniques and train methods. Indeed many modern forms of wrestling such as shoot fighting and catch wrestling borrow throws and submissions from Kushti.
Here is a video with Kushti in action. As is common the use of a dhol (south asian drum) accompaniment is used similar to the use of music during Muay Thai bouts.
Here is another short documentary about life in a Kushti camp. Other than Muay Thai, Kushti is the only martial art with extremely rigorous workloads and gritty surroundings where fighters lives revolve around their sport.
And to finish off with on a lighter note, a somewhat humorous video of a Englishman in Lahore trying out Kushti.