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Lathi khela (Bengali: লাঠি খেলা) is a traditional Bangladeshi martial art which is a stick fighting practiced mainly in eastern India and throughout Bangladesh. A practitioner is known as a lathial.
Stick fighting has an ancient history in South Asia, tracing back to the region's aboriginal inhabitants. Rich farmers and other eminent people hire lathial for security and as a symbol of their power. Duels were used as a way to protect or steal land, among various other possessions, and a proverb said in various South Asian languages states that "whomever wields the lathi keeps the cow". During zamindar time groups of lathial were sent to forcefully collect taxes from villagers. Lathi training was at one time even included in the Bratachari system of education.
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Lathial group performed various acts like Baoi Jhak (group fight), Nori Bari (mock fight with sticks), Fala Khela and Dao Khela (mock fight with sharp weapons) and Chhuri dance to music, in the presence of hundreds. These groups may also learn the arts of dao khela (knife fighting) and fara khela (sword fighting), both of which are preserved today in the form of mock-fights. Matches are generally one-on-one, but the art also includes mock-group fights or baoi jhak. In lathi the center of energy is the heart chakra, and practitioners fight in a more upright position.
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