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"Ninjas" in Blue Robes

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It's an ancient north Indian fighting style that nearly died out in the 19th century, after the British Raj outlawed it and other indigenous martial arts. And right now, in a high school gym in England's Black Country, one man, clad in blue robes and trainers, is trying to bring shastar vidiya back from the near dead.

Nidar Singh Nihang, the Wolverhampton factory worker whose made it his life's work to breathe life into the dying art, learned the physical technique from an ancient Sikh master, or "gurdev," who was likely one of the last practitioners of the fighting style. But, he says, it was the British Empire's obsession with record keeping that enabled him to learn its past.

According to Chinese martial art legend, it was an Indian Buddhist monk who brought shastar vidiya to ancient China "“ at the famous Shaolin Temple, no less "“ in around 520 AD.

The battlefield tradition spread across Asia and the Asian Subcontinent, growing and flourishing throughout the centuries, until 16th century Sikhs of the Punjab region adopted shastar vidiya as their own and further perfected it. By the 1840s, as the British Empire stretched its greedy fingers across the continent, Sikhs used their technique to fight several bloody battles against the British, but ultimately lost. Colonial administrators quickly outlawed the fighting styles, drafting the Sikh warriors into their army and replacing their wicked serrated blades and swords with rifles. While those forms of martial arts inspired by the Indian fighting style have flourished and gone on to become worldwide institutions, shastar vidiya and others were forced or allowed to die out.

Now, Signh Nihang is making an open call to the world in an effort to save the tradition, inviting the world to learn about and perhaps even learn to practice. It's the first time in history such an open invitation has been made, and for good reason: If people don't start practicing shastar vidiya now, it could completely and finally die out.

"Most people who practice Indian martial arts nowadays are simply learning the toned down exhibition styles that were allowed by the British," he told the Independent. "Unless we start teaching the original fighting styles they will be extinct within 50 years. I want to find two or three sensible, intelligent and tolerant young apprentices who can pass on what I've learned to future generations."

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Food
Let Alexa Help You Brine a Turkey This Thanksgiving
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There’s a reason most of us only cook turkey once a year: The bird is notoriously easy to overcook. You could rely on gravy and cranberry sauce to salvage your dried-out turkey this Thanksgiving, or you could follow cooking advice from the experts.

Brining a turkey is the best way to guarantee it retains its moisture after hours in the oven. The process is also time-consuming, so do yourself a favor this year and let Alexa be your sous chef.

“Morton Brine Time” is a new skill from the cloud-based home assistant. If you own an Amazon Echo you can download it for free by going online or by asking Alexa to enable it. Once it’s set up, start asking Alexa for brining tips and step-by-step recipes customized to the size of your turkey. Two recipes were developed by Richard Blais, the celebrity chef and restaurateur best known for his Top Chef win and Food Network appearances.

Whether you go for a wet brine (soaking your turkey in water, salt, sugar, and spices) or a dry one (just salt and spices), the process isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. And the knowledge that your bird will come out succulent and juicy will definitely take some stress out of the holiday.

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Big Questions
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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