Some basic facts about Silambam
SILAMBAM is a stick fighting, traditional south indian martial art. This style supposedly originates from the Kurinji hills, in Kerala, 5000 years ago, where natives were using bamboo staves to defend themselves against wild animals. Then the techniques were taken out, and perfected.
The only support to this theory are a few terms used in the school, such as Narikuruvai, a special footwork, meaning something like "the revenge of the native". Or the two-hand position on the stick which is named "the new bud", as compared to a few techniques where the stick is held at the butt, named "the old style".
What is for sure, this style is a traditional one, and definately unseen and unheard off (even though this argument is over-used these days). The techniques are very coherents, quite efficients, and physically very demanding. You also need some understanding, that is, just stop swirling that stick like crazy, then sit down and ask yourself what are you really doing down here. So, if you train every day, the school should take about 7 years to complete. After that, you can begin.
The name Silambam: Silam means "hill", and bam is a shortcut of "bamboo" (a marhat word), silambam therefore translates as "the bamboo from the hill", as the first sticks were made out of a kind of filled, yellow bamboo. Nillaikalakki (meaning "breaking the posture") is the name of the school itself.
The current master is Master Anbananthan, living in Penang, Malaysia, who learnt it from late Master Mariapakiam, who came from India after WWII.
The stick we use in Silambam is 1.68 meter long (5.5 feet), diameter between 1.5 and 2 inches, weight ranging from 1 to 1.5 pound. For training and sparring, rattan staff is perfect, it is supple, does not break easily even if you smash like crazy. But hard-wood staff can also be used, as heavier sticks to gain strength. Moreover, a little blade can be added, acting like a short spear, with the same techniques. The hands are at one butt, like the pictures below showing two different guards:
Some of the striking characteristics of this silambam style: flowing stick movements (f.ex. video1, video2, video3), techniques coherences, and a very sophisticated footwork (see this video as an example). I will come back on the subject later. It is also designed for group fight, hence a lot of direction shifts and other techniques that might be too luxuous for duelling.
Other weapons are later learnt, like spear, double short-sticks, metallic whip, double deer-horns (called Madu, one in each hand, see the picture), sword, club. But the techniques rely on the long stick's. No empty hand in Silambam, this is something different.
©Denis Brunet and the article's author, if specified. Last modified: 23 January 2005
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