Tamil Nadu - Sports - 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 Malaysia. It is closely related to kalaripayat, particularly the southern style, which was created in the neighbouring state of Kerala. 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 Unarmed silambam, called Kuttu Varisai, utilizes stances and routines based on animal movements such as the snake, tiger 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 staves of different lengths. The usual stance includes holding the staff at one end, right hand close to the back, left hand about 40 centimeters 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 kidamuttu kuravanchi, kalyanavarisai , 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.


Silambam supposedly originated in the Kurinji hills, present day South Indian state Kerala almost 5000 years ago. The Narikuravar of the area are said to have used aves called chilambamboo in battle a to defend themselves against wild animals. They would also perform solo stick-fighting demonstrations during Hindu religious festivals. The art wa tronized by the ancient Chola, Chera and Pand ngs of South India during the Sangam period. The Maravar pada of Travancore kings used silambam in their warfare against enemies.

Ancient conta ween Tamil Nadu and Southeas ia brought silambam to the Malay Penin uring which time the word am came to refer to th as well as the weapon. Many Southeast Asian martial arts w influenced by silambam including silat and Krabi Krabong.

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

The soldiers of King Veerapandiya Kattabomman ) 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 n western military training which favoured fire-arms over traditional weaponry. T 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 Mala ay. Mahaguru Sri S.Arumugam, founder of the Malaysian Silambam Society in gor, was recognised as grandmaster of silambam by the famous Donn F. Draeger. Sensei Jamal Measara, Chief Instructor of German Karate and European Karate Federation from West Germany awarded the highest rank 10 Degree to ahaguru on behalf of his association.


Beginners are taught footwork 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 ich four are very important. Footwork patterns are the key aspects of silam uttu Varisai. Training in Kuttu Varisai allows the practitio o 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. The ultimate go f the training is to defend against multiple armed opponents. In silambam as well as Kuttu Varisai, kaalad he key in deriving power for the blows. It teaches how nce and retreat, in range of the opponent without lowering one's defence, aids in hitting and blocking, and it strengthens the body immensely enabling the person to receive non-lethal blows and still continue the battle. The whole body is used to create power.

When the t 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 arm onents.

Silambam prefers the hammer grip hand facing down behind the weak hand which faces up. The strong hand grips the stick about a distance hand's width and thumb's length from the end of the stick and the weak hand is a thumb's length away from the s and. eak hand only touches the stick an uide its movement. Silambam stresses ambidexterity and b es the preferred hammer grip th are other ways of gripping the staff. Because of the way the stick is held and its relatively thin diameter, blows to the groin are very frequent and difficult to block. Besides the hammer , sliambam uses the poker grip and ice pick grip as well. Some blo hits are perfo g 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 the they can initiate all attacks with only a movement of the wrist. In fact, most silambam moves ar ed from wrist movement, making it a key component of the styl w gets speed from the wris 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 heer 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 fight. Locks can be used to disable the enemy or simply capture their weapon. Techniques called pu are used to counter the locks but these must be executed b g caught in a lock. Silambam also has many different types of avoiding an attack like bloc and evasive moves such as sitting or kneeling, moving out, jumping high, etc.

Against multiple attackers, silambam exponents do not held out their sticks as they do in single combat. Instead they assume one of the numerous stances which makes it difficult for opponents to predict the next attack.

An expert silambam stylist will be familiar with Varma Kalai pressur and knows where to strike anywhere in the body to produce fat row 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 hich means "challenging and successfully hitting".