Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bamboo Staff Combat

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 (deer horn), kathi (knife) and vaal (sword). 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 (16 inches) away. This position allows a wide array of stick and body movements, including complex attacks and blocks.


Silambam incorporates a range of techniques.

a) By swift foot movements, large spheres of control can be established.

b) Both hands can be used to wield the staff.

c) Precision, force and momentum can be developed at head, shoulder, hip and leg level.

d) The cut, chop, thrust and sweep can be used to achieve mastery.

e) Development of a reflex defensive action, by concentrating on and anticipating the moves of the opponent and perfecting various kinds of feints in stroke play, can absolutely demoralise an adversary.

The player must also be able to ward off stones hurled by a crowd, and disperse an unruly mob by a range of strokes like 'monkey hits', 'snake hits', 'hawk hits' and 'spring hits', which must be inflicted in quick succession. This activity involves some amazing footwork, staff - swinging, pivot - jumping and stroke play. From a purely defensive art, Silambam has become a combat exercise.

Silambam is a three - type contest.

a) A fight to the finish, when one of the players is dispossessed of his staff.

b) Total number of ' touches ' one combatant makes on the other ( indicated by appropriate markings on the body ).

c) Skill shown in protecting a pouch of money ( kept at or in between a contestant's feet ).

The contestant succeeding in leaving a mark on the forehead of his opponent is adjudged as the victor in the contest.


The contestants wear langots of various colours, sleeveless vests, turbans, canvas shoes, and a chest guard which is a part of the traditional attire of Palmyrah tree - climbers. Wicker - work shields also form an essential part of the gear.


Silambam ring is a circle of 24 feet (7.30 feet metre) diametre. Playing will have to play inside the circle.
Warning ring : Inside the outer ring, one inside ring is drawn at a distance of 1 feet. This inside ring is called warning ring. The purpose of the ring is to alert the players and to warn them that they are nearer the outer ring.

Penalty for coming out of the ring: While playing, the players can bring one leg outside the ring. But if they bring out both the legs from the ring, two minus marks will be awarded to them. This will be repeated everytime, if the player comes out of the ring.

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