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by Lavanya Sharma, 12 years, Delhi, India

 Origin of Silambam

Silambam is martial arts of India originated in Tamil Nadu   approximately 1000 BC, it’s also mentioned in Tamil Sangam Literature 400 BCE.

It was mentioned in the writings of siddhar (enlightened sage) Agastya. Agastya practiced Kundilini yoga and meditation eventually compiled three texts on palm leaves. One of these texts was the Kampu Sutra (Staff Classic) which was said to record advanced fighting theories in verse. These poems and the art eventually formed the basis of Silambam.

The soldiers of Kings Puli ThevarDheeran Chinnamalai had Silambam army named ‘thadii pattalam’, Veehrapandiya, Kattabomman, Chinna, Maruth and Periya  Maruthu(1760-1700) relied mainly on their Silambam prowers in their warfare against the British Army.Silambam suffered a decline after the British colonists banned Silambam along with various other systems. It was revived later after Independence Today, Silambam is the most famous and widely practiced Indian martial art in Malaysia .

Types of weapons

Silambam’s main focus is on the bamboo staff. The length of the staff depends on the height of the practitioner. Ideally, it should just touch the forehead, typically measuring around 1.68 metres.

Other lengths used are for instance, the sedikuchi or 3-foot stick can be easily concealed. Separate practice is needed for staffs of different lengths .Following are some of the weapons used in Silambam.

·       Silambam: staff, preferably made from bamboo

·       Maru: a thrusting weapon made from deer horns

·       Aruval: sickle, often paired

·       Panthukol: staff with balls of fire or weighted chains on each end

·       Savuku: whip

·       Vaal: sword, generally curved

·       Kuttu katai: spiked knuckleduster

·       Katti: knife

·       Kattari: native push-dagger with a H-shaped handle. Some are capable of piercing armor. The blade may be straight or wavy.

·       Surul kaththi: flexible sword

The Training

The ultimate goal of the training is to defend against multiple armed opponents.

The new warriors are first taught the footwork (kaaladi) which they must excel before learning other important techniques. There are in all sixteen techniques .The master’s kind of teach kaaladi for a long time before training the weapon fighting ,as training empty-handed or without any weapons help’s the new warrior to get a feel of Silambam stick movements using bare hands.

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 defence, aids in hitting and blocking

Besides the hammer grip, Silambam  uses the poker grip and ice pick grip as well. Some blocks and hits are performed using the  poker grip. The  ice pick grip is used in single hand attacks. The staff is held like a walking stick and just hand gets inverted using the wrist..


In battle, a fighter holds the stick in front of their body stretching the arms three-quarters full. From there, they can initiate all attacks with only a movement of the wrist. In fact, most Silambam moves are derived from wrist movement, making it a key component of the art. The blow gets speed from the wrist and power from the body through kaaladi. Since the stick is held in front, strikes are telegraphic, that is, the fighter does not hide their intentions from the opponent. They attack with sheer speed, overwhelming the adversary with a continuous non-stop rain of blows. In Silambam, one blow leads to and aids another. Bluffs may also be used by disguising one attack as another.

·       In addition to the strikes, Silambam also has a variety of locks called poottu. A fighter must always be careful while wielding the stick or they will be grappled and lose the fight. Locks can be used to disable the enemy or simply capture their weapon.

·       Techniques called thirappu are used to counter the locks but these must be executed before being caught in a lock.

·       Silambam also has many different types of avoiding an attack like blocking, parrying, enduring, rotary parrying, hammering, kolluvuthal (attacking and blocking simultaneously) and evasive moves such as sitting or kneeling, moving out, jumping high, etc. Against multiple attackers, silambam exponents do not hold out their sticks as they do in single combat. Instead, they assume one of the numerous animal stances which makes it difficult for opponents to predict the next attack.

·       An expert of Silambam will be familiar with varma adi or marma adi (pressure points) and know where to strike anywhere in the body to produce fatal or crippling effects by the least use of power. In one-on-one combat an expert would slide the stick to opponents wrist many times during combat. The opponent may not notice this in the heat of battle until they feel a sudden pain in the wrist and throw the stick automatically without knowing what hit them.

·       When two experts match against each other one may challenge the other that he will hit his big toe. Hitting the big toe can produce crippling effects on the fighter, making them abandon the fight. This is called solli adithal which means “challenging and successfully hitting”.

·       Students who have completed the training syllabus by learning every form are considered qualified to teach. The time it takes to complete differs from one style to another. For example, the nillaikalakki style requires around seven years of training while other styles may have no articulated syllabus.

UN Recognition

The committee of United Nations Assembly recommends Silambam Asia for United Nations status for representing Asia Continent. Occasion held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on January 21, 2019.


United Nations grant Special Status for Silabam Asia United Nations Meetings

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