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Silambam 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 Kannada word bamboo from which the English “bamboo” originates.
Silambam was such a powerful martial art that it was employed in warfare by most rulers of south India, adds Murugesan. “The soldiers of the Tamil ruler Veerapandiya Kattabomman used silambam to wage war against the British colonists,” he says, adding that there was a ban on it by the end of the 18th century
The demonstration began with basic movements with each sequence being referred to as a paadam (lesson). It usually starts with footwork, squats, and turns which in turn offer salaams (salutations) not just to the audience or teacher but also to the earth which has always borne the physical and emotional demands of the Silambam warriors. While the salutations may be of different kinds depending on the area wherein they are performed, the one thing that ties them all together is the thumping of the palm to the ground before reverentially raising the hand to the forehead in a tradition of extreme respect.
Mastery of footwork is a must before coordinating the hand movements. Only when that comes into synchronization are students even offered the kambu (stick). Although bearing resemblance to a moongil (bamboo) it is actually fashioned from a sort of hard reed. The curing is done by a water immersion and later pounded several times for the edges to seal. The insides are made up of a semi-porous cork-like material. While this kambu is lightweight and extremely flexible it is astonishing at how quickly it can turn into a stiff lethal weapon simply by the speed at which it is wielded. The teacher is very clear about the thought process behind this martial warfare. It is to be primarily used for self-defense with the added advantage of core body fitness. The traditional garb that is sported by the male and female participants comprise of clothing that are versions of sarees and dhotis, free-flowing around the limbs and tightly secured at the waist.