Ghulam Muhammad, also known as The ‘Great Gama’ and Gama Pehalwan was probably the greatest wrestler to ever walk the surface of the earth. With an undefeated career spanning over five decades, the legend of Gama Pehalwan was built in the mud pits and akharas of pre-independence rural India. Such was his fame and popularity that even Bruce Lee drew inspiration from him.
Born in Amritsar on 22nd May, 1878, Gama came from a wrestling background. His winning streak started when he was just 10 years old as he went on to defeat every wrestler who challenged him. A stalky wrestler who was just 5 feet and 7 inches tall, some wrestlers even made fun of him, but he spared none of them.
Gama used to do five thousand squats and three thousand pushups everyday, and his daily diet included 10 liters of milk, six desi chickens, and a pound and a half of crushed almond paste made into a tonic drink.
At age 17, Gama Pehalwan challenged the then champion Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala. Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala hailed from Gujranwala which became a part of Pakistan after. Rahim Baksh was roughly 7 feet tall. Gama was a mere 5.7 feet. They had a wrestling bout. It was a clash of the titans. Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala had passed his prime. But still he gave the young Gama Pehalwan a run for his money. And this bout proved to be a draw.
By 1910, Gama had defeated all prominent Indian wrestlers as the doors of the western world opened for him. He went on to defeat world champions like Stanislaus Zbyszko, Frank Gotch, and Benjamin Roller. In many cases his bouts lasted for only a few minutes, some even ended in less than a minute’s time.
Gama had trounced around international wrestler in two days. And then Stanislaus Zbyszko who was among the best wrestlers in the world, he had a bout with him. This was a long bout. And Zbyszko’s condition was so bad that he was in the defensive position for almost 2.5 hours. But later Zbyszko didn’t take the ring. And then Gama was declared the winner.
Gama then returned to India and facedRustam-e-Hind Raheem Bakhsh one more time. And this time, the match wasn’t a draw.
This time, Gama won.
Gama also facedZbyszko one more time in Patiala and this time, he won in 42 seconds. In an illustrious career spanning almost 50 years, Gama remained undefeated. Till date, he’s the only wrestler in the history of the world, who was never defeated by anyone.
After the Partition in 1947, Gama moved to Pakistan. Although Gama did not retire until 1952, he failed to find any new opponents. He died in Lahore on 23rd May 1960 after a prolonged illness. He was suffering from asthma and heart disease.
His legacy was picked by legends, including Bruce Lee, who was an avid follower of Gama’s training routine. Lee learnt ‘The Cat Stretch’ from Gama, which was a version of push-ups based on Yoga. Lee also performed baithaks, inspired by the Great Gama.