The Kotwala School taught some 400 holds that took several years of full-time training to master, and required enormous physical strength and dexterity.
There are two theories connected with the school’s origins. The first credits Amar Singh of Gohar Kot with the school’s establishment. ‘Kot’, meaning a fort, is a reference to the ability of the school’s practitioners to stop their opponents in their tracks. The second theory is that the school was founded by Ustad Illahi Baksh and was actually named Kotwale Kot, a Punjabi expression for rampart, and was so named as its arena was adjacent to the rampart of the Lahore Fort.
This famous school produced such greats as Ghulam Pahelwan (1860-1901) (titled ‘Rustum-i-Jahan’ or the Rustum of the World) and his younger brothers, Kalloo (1863-1925) and Rehmani (born 1865).
Rahim Baksh Sultaniwala (1864-1942) of Gujranwala was Ghulam’s star pupil, and Hamida Pahelwan Rehmaniwala (1908-1953) was the son of Rehmani.
Equally renowned were the celebrated brothers Gama (1878-1960) and Imam Baksh (1883-1978).
The six Bhollu Brothers (the sons of Imam Baksh) and Arjan Singh Dhoti were also great exponents of this school.
Many of these men were direct descendants of the wrestling families of Kashmiri stock who were forced to migrate sometime in the middle of the 19th century to the major cities of West Punjab, namely Lahore, Amritsar, and Gujran¬wala. The primary cause for their migration was the oppressive policies of Maharaja Gulab Singh of Kashmir. With the end of British rule in India and the partition of Punjab in 1947, the predominantly Muslim area of West Punjab (with the exception of Amritsar) fell within the newly formed country of Pakistan.