Introduction to Silambam Nilaikalakki
SILAMBAM is a traditional stick martial art from South India. South India has a rich culture of many thousands years, at least inheritated since the Dravidian empires. The nowaday Tamil culture and people still have highly valuable gems to share, amongst them is Silambam. Though fighting with sticks is universal, it has reached there a summit in technics intricacy, complexity and efficiency.
Silambam is the name in Tamil for a practice encountered throughout the whole South India. It supposedly comes from Silam or Silambu, meaning hill in Tamil, and Bamboo, a Marhat word. Hence Silambamboo, shortened to Silambam, roughly meaning "Bamboo from the Hills", as sticks were usually made out of a special kind of filled, yellow bamboo found there.
We can point that the style hereby presented originates from the Kurinji Hills, presently in the Kerala state, which also consolidates the reference to hills.
NILAIKALAKKI designates the style presented here. Nilai meaning "posture", and Kalakki "to disturb/shuffle", and altogether "disturbing the posture" (of the opponent).
This school has a very sophisticated syllabus that needs about seven years to be learned. The salient parts of it are the very well structured techniques, deeply articulated to each others, a lot of footworks, the fluency of play, and some fighting strategies.
It can be seen both as a healthy practice, like a Yoga, with beautifully flowing techniques, and as an efficient, combative system.
Silambam is a traditional martial art, given by Masters, or Gurus, to Disciples. Through this lineage is transmitted a lot more than just stick wandering, but qualities like disciplin, presence, knowledge, humility, peace, brotherhood, and even more subtil things.
There are no graduations or exams, the two available states being Student or Master, you simply have to know in which one you stand. When the Master recognizes the Student has mastered the curriculum, only then he gives the red scarf to acknowledge him as a Master. Hence no "black-belt syndroms"!
There is no competition either, the techniques are not learned blunted. It would injure the opponents as the hits would automatically reach their targets. There are sparring practices, however, but done on a progressive manner.
©Denis Brunet and the article's author, if specified. Last modified: 7 December 2006
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