Silambam or Silambattam (Tamil: சிலம்பம் அல்லது சிலம்பாட்டம்) is a weapon-based Indian martial art from Tamil Nadu, but also traditionally practiced by the Tamil community of Sri Lanka and Malaysia. … It derives from the Tamil word silam meaning “hill” and the word perambu from which the English “bamboo” originates
Silambam is a martial art form that originated approximately 5000 years ago in Kerala. Silambam was practiced in the 1700s in the courts of Kings like Puli Thevar and Maruthu Pandiyar. It was mainly used as an asset in combat skills, and soldiers mainly relied on it to fight the British army.
The first stages of Silambam practice are meant to provide a foundation for fighting and to condition the body for the training itself. This includes improving flexibility, agility, hand-eye coordination, kinesthetic awareness, balance, strength, speed, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular stamina.
Beginners are first taught footwork (kaaladi) which they must master before learning spinning techniques and patterns, and methods to change the spins without stopping the motion of the stick. There are sixteen of them among which four are very important. Footwork patterns are the key aspects of Silambam. Traditionally, the masters first teach Kaaladi for a long time before proceeding to unarmed combat. Training empty-handed allows the practitioner to get a feel of Silambam stick movements using their bare hands, that is, fighters have a preliminary training with bare hands before going to the stick.
Gradually, fighters study footwork to move precisely in conjunction with the stick movements. In Silambam, kaaladi is the key to deriving power for attacks. It teaches how to advance and retreat, to get within range of the opponent without lowering one’s defense, aids in hitting and blocking, and it strengthens the body immensely enabling the fighter to receive non-lethal blows and still continue the battle. The whole body is used to create power.
In the main stance, the staff is held at one end, right hand close to the back, left hand about 40 centimeters (16 inches) away. This position allows a wide array of stick and body movements, including complex attacks and blocks. When the student reaches the final stage, the staff gets sharpened at one end. In real combat the tips may be poisoned. The ultimate goal of the training is to defend against multiple armed opponents.
Unfortunately this Dravidian art form – Silambattam is not being practiced now widely. Because of this, in future the next generations may not even know about Silambattam. Being people of Tamilnadu, we really have to protect this art and enlighten ourselves and our future generation about Silambattam.