Kiwi Sikhs take to ancient martial art for protection

Gatka, a traditional Indian martial art using wooden swords to emulate weapons, has seen a resurgence in New Zealand as a response to a spate of aggravated robberies.

It was started back in the 17th century in what became north-India, created as a way for Sikhs to protect themselves from violent oppression.

Now it's becoming popular in New Zealand once more, with some dairy owners taking to gatka to protect themselves and their stores.

In the last year, police crime statistics show there's been a 3.9 percent increase in theft, robbery and unlawful entry with intent or burglary.

With surging tobacco prices and an increase in financial hardship, it's likely the crimes will only increase.

But the Sikhs are now fighting back.

"The very common problems nowadays, there are many attacks on the grocery and dairy shops," dairy owner Harsimran Singh told Newshub.

"A few days back there was a news [item] - where the boy in a petrol station, he tried to save the petrol station and made those robbers run away from there.

"He used the same technique [as gatka] - even though he didn't have a weapon, he had a cricket bat or a hockey [stick], and he used the hockey [stick] like a sword."

At their temple in Takanini, fighters train to uphold justice and defend the weak. Even children learn to protect themselves from bullies and violent attacks.

"Gatka is really important, because you learn self-defence, and if anything goes wrong you can protect others as well," one young Sikh fighter told Newshub.

The fighters travel all around New Zealand to show off their fighting skills, using a huge variety of weapons - knives, swords, flails and spears.

And they're keen for everyone to learn.

"If someone is hitting someone, or a weak person, we need to stand for them," Mr Singh said.

"And if someone comes with a weapon or something like that, you need to know how to survive in that kind of situation."