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59/365 – Silambam

Silambam or silambattam is a weapon-based Dravidian martial art from Tamil Nadu in south India but also practiced by the Tamil community of Sri Lanka and Malaysia. In Tamil, the word silambam refers to the bamboo staff which is the main weapon used in this style. Other weapons are also used such as the maduvu (deer horn), kathi (knife), vaal (sword), stick (kali or kaji), dagger (kuttuval), knuckle duster (kuttu katai), and whips with several flexible and metallic blades (surul pattai).. Unarmed silambam, called kuttu varisai, utilizes stances and routines based on animal movements such as the snake, tiger, elephant and eagle forms.

The length of the staff depends on the height of the practitioner. It should just touch the forehead about three fingers from the head, although different lengths are used in different situations. It usually measures roughly 1.68 meters (five and a half feet). The 3 feet stick called sedikutchi can be easily concealed. Separate practice is needed for staffs of different lengths. The usual stance includes holding the staff 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.

There are numerous sub-sects in silambam like nagam-16 (cobra-16), kallapathu (thieves ten), kidamuttu (goat head butting), kuravanchi, kalyanavarisai (similar to quarterstaff), thulukkanam, and so on. Each is unique and may differ from one another in grip, posture, foot work, method of attack, length of the stick, movement of the stick etc.

History
The references to Silappadikkaram in Tamil Sangam literature dating back to the 2nd century refer to the sale of silamabam staves, swords, pearls and armor to foreign traders. The ancient trading centre at the city of Madurai was renowned globally and said to be thronged by Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians among others who had regular sea trade with the Tamil kingdoms. The bamboo staff, one of the first weapons used in Indian martial arts, was in great demand with the visitors.

The soldiers of Kings Puli Thevar, Dheeran Chinnamalai, Veerapandiya Kattabomman and Maruthu Pandiyar (1760–1799) relied mainly on their silambam prowess in their warfare against the British Army. Indian martial arts suffered a decline after the British colonists banned silambam along with various other systems. They also introduced modern western military training which favoured fire-arms over traditional weaponry. The stick lost much of its combat superiority and some of silambam’s vast techniques and styles were lost. During this time, silambam actually became more widespread in Southeast Asia than India. It is still practiced in Malaysia today, and demonstrations are held for certain festive occasions.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silambam

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Categories: General Knowledge, Sports
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