just in case anything was missed
WJKK WJKF Soormeh!
I was so happy to see this thread come back around! Gatka has got a lot to offer, and I kind of wanted to make sure that a lot of the original questions got answered. I am neither an authority on Sikh religion nor Gatka, so please forgive me if I say anything incorrect.
Here we see a lot of previously "martial" arts go the route of "display" arts, losing the martial (i.e. fighting) aspect. Do you find your art is developing the same way?
I think something to remember is (a la silat) gatka has not always been available to non-sikhs, or certainly certain techniques may not have been available. Most gatka stuff i've checked out certainly emphasizes the 'martial spirit' and I think most practitioners would take disagree with that categorization. There is also some conflict between practitioners of Gatka vs SV.
Is there any schism internally from members who feel the art is getting too soft or getting away from its more war-like roots?
I actually just read about a standing challenge issued by an instructor somewhere in the UK (london?) because he felt that (because of some of the concerns raised here) that his training methods were superior (i.e., more sparring, taking the art on a more functional level). and that the other instructor should more or less put his money where his mouth was.
Do you allow women to participate, or is it against your precepts?
One of the most important concepts to Sikhism is basic human equality (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or religion). It is not uncommon (at least in the states) to see a woman who is not just training, but even instructing.
How young are most members when they start? Does training simply start at "conversion" to Sikh?
Not uncommon to see demos by very young people. Maybe 10-12 is the youngest I've seen?
First of all I find the idea put forth by the Guru that Many paths lead to salvation that I have read is included in Sikh beleifs. Is it taught as a fundimental beleif in Sikhism or is it somthing that is just mentioned in passing.
Again, I'm no expert. I can tell youthat Sikhs worship the same God as Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Sikhism (in my limited knowledge) is more about keeping personal devotional practices than focusing on whether another relgion is 'right' or 'wrong. They reject racism, sexism, classism (back when the caste system was still central to India's sociopolitical structure) in favor of a 'come together' type approach.
Second Sikhs follow the 5 k's. My question is about the "Kirpan" or the symbolic carrieing of a knife for self defense. What type of knife do you carry?
Different people carry different things. It's pretty standard to have a fixed blade, in a sheath, often adorned with symbols of the religion. I've seen them quite small and / or locked or welded into the sheath (for people who must still carry them as part of the 5 Ks, but who may have to board a plane or enter a secured facility), or as large as a full-on sabre. Remember, too, the Kirpan is to be carried 24 hours a day. I believe it is also not just for self-defense, but also to defend those unable to defend themselves.
remember, too, that to fulfill the requirement to carry Kirpan you have to carry at least 1 blade. ;) (italics mine)
Again, this is only from my personal studies, so if I have said anything incorrectly, please forgive me.