|This article does not cite any references or sources. (June 2011)|
|Place of origin||India , Pakistan & Bangladesh|
|Country of origin||India Pakistan Bangladesh|
Lathi (Hindi: लाठी, Bengali: লাঠি) means stick and also refers to a martial art based on cane-fighting. The word is used in Hindi, Bengali and various other languages. The lathi typically measures 6 to 8-foot (2.4 m) and may be tipped with metal. It is commonly used as a crowd control device by the Indian Police and other South Asian law enforcement agencies. A lathi-wielder is known as a lathial or lethel or lathait.
Following their conquest of India the Mughals introduced zamindar, which refers to intermediary landed elements with various levels of inheritable land rights. Lathial groups were sent to forcefully collect taxes from villagers. The zamindari system continued during British rule and wasn't abolished until after India's independence in 1947. Rich farmers and other eminent people in today's Indian villages still hire lathial for security and as a symbol of their power. Disputes in villages, when settled illegally, still involve lathi battles, but this is no longer common and has largely been replaced by legal methods or, rarely, shootouts. Although lathi remains a popular sport in Indian and Bangladeshi villages, urbanisation has led to its decline as a rural martial art.
Lathi wielders must be able to fight using sticks of different lengths and thicknesses. Matches are generally one-on-one, but the art also includes routines for fighting multiple opponents. Most Indian styles of stick fighting, such as silambam, use the base chakra as their energy centre. The low centre of gravity results in the techniques being performed mostly with the knees bent. In lathi however, the centre of energy is the heart chakra, and practitioners fight in a more upright position. This is believed to align the body with the earth's gravity field, encouraging energy flow to the heart and healing the body of chronic ailments or structural problems.
In law enforcement
The British colonists introduced the lathi as a weapon for the Indian Police. This gave birth to the lathi-charge, a military-style rush that uses lathi to disperse crowds. Lathi are now often used to control riots and also as a secondary weapon. In modern times, the lathi is the primary weapon of the Indian riot police along with helmets, shields, tear gas and other methods. Policemen are trained in highly co-ordinated drill movements which can leave many of the rioters crippled. This drill has been quite controversial among human rights activists so in many places the police do not follow the drill but hit in such a way to disperse the crowds. Security guards and police officers often carry a lathi along with or in place of firearms. They prefer lathi for their ease of use and comparative safety and only resort to firearms in situations when lathi cannot be used efficiently.
- Donn F. Draeger and Robert W. Smith (1965). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International.