There was a tradition amongst rural Punjabi children whereby they would graze cattle in the open countryside accompanied by dogs. In doing so, they would look out for each other, remaining ever vigilant against wild animals, cattle thieves, bandits and criminals. Out of necessity, from a young age, the children were taught the skills of awareness and self-defence at both an individual and group level. A Sikh historian comments on how the famed Sikh commander Nawab Kapur Singh revelled in such war games in his childhood:
"Kapur Singh's play when a child was inclined towards increasing battlefield training. His beloved play was to gather the young boys of his village and divide them into two parts. One army he led himself, and the other considering the enemy army, he attacked with aggression and skill. It was not short of real combat. He would attempt to surround the enemy players and when they came under his control, he would make them his prisoners. It is said one day that whilst training for combat, a young man from the opposing side, filled with aggression, struck him with a sword. He, with fate was unable to take it upon his shield and it struck his shoulder; with this the shoulder was cut with a deep wound. At first the surgeons of that time thought that Kapur Singh would not recover from this wound, but, after a long treatment the wound healed and he attained a new birth."
(Baba Prem Singh Hothi, Nawab Kapur Singh, (Lahore Book Shop, n.d.), 19)
From these traditional methods of self-defence are culled the Shastar Vidiya self-defence techniques and tactics for children. It has to be stated that today's training is not as vicious as the ancestors; safety, particularly of children, is of paramount concern when training in Sanatan Shastar Vidiya.
All children should grow up loved, nurtured, safe, happy and confident. Sadly however, this is not always the case; due to the fact they having long hair / topknots, Sikh children, especially boys appear different from other children the world over and are subjected to bullying and harassment. Amongst the Sikh warriors, there exists advice and technical instruction for their children in order to ensure a high degree of self-confidence, self-respect, and awareness. This allows children to think themselves out of trouble and situations; as a last resort, utilising techniques to defend themselves and others, both individually or in groups.
It is accepted that children are most likely to fight other children during the ages of 6-10. As such, they are taught purely non-offensive techniques, including blocks, grip releases, etc.; at all times, children are constantly reminded that fighting is wrong. From the age of ten onwards, children are taught a degree of pre-emptive offensive techniques alongside the defensive techniques. Throughout instruction, children are reminded of the great responsibility that comes with learning Sanatan Shastar Vidiya. The confidence of the child is constantly nurtured with sound advice and encouragement. They are encouraged to confide in their parents, teachers or a trusted elder when facing troubled times, such as bullying, intimidation, etc.
For children, the training is instructive but is made as enjoyable as possible. Rather than competitiveness, Sanatan Shastar Vidiya nurtures cooperation and camaraderie among children. The need to care and look out for one another is seen as paramount; this was the case in the ancient Punjabi villages. Today, all can benefit from these traditional Shastar Vidiya child-centric self-defence principles. As the principles are engrained, the children grow up confident, caring, happy and streetwise. Parents are always encouraged to involve themselves in the teaching.