Techniques and Style
Beginners are taught footwork (kaaladi) 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 which four are very important. Footwork patterns are the key aspects of silambam and kuttu varisai (empty hands form). Traditionally, the masters first teach kaaladi for a long time before proceeding to kuttu varisai. Training in kuttu varisai allows the practitioner to 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 goal of the training is to defend against multiple armed opponents. In silambam as well as kuttu varisai, kaaladi is the key in deriving power for the blows. It teaches how to advance and retreat, to get 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 student 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 armed opponents.
Silambam prefers the hammer grip with main 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 from the strong hand. The weak hand only touches the stick and to guide its movement. Silambam stresses ambidexterity besides the preferred hammer grip there 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 grip, sliambam 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 style. 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 (with the stick), kolluvuthal (attacking and blocking simultaneously) and evasive moves such as sitting or kneeling, moving out, jumping high, etc.
There are may different styles of silambam practiced today. They are:
- Nillai Kalakki
- Kuthu Kuravanji
- Komberi Mookan
- Paniyeri Mallan
- Minnal Veeran
- Minnal Vettu
- Naga Pasanam
- Thuluk Kanam
- Kida Muttu
- Kalyana Varisai
- Tomman Kuthu
- Paravai Vilayaatu
Benefits in Silambam
The enthusiasm shown by youngsters to learn this art is also on a rise in the recent years, not just in rural areas but also in cities.
"Silambam" is a good physical exercise. It not only enhances your physical fitness but also helps in promoting friendship and teaches a person patience, self discipline and politeness, and encourages love towards fellow humans," Though women have begun to come out of the closet, not many happen to be from the middle class section of society. Mostly the upper class women in urban areas are aware of their rights and asserting their individuality. A middle class woman perhaps still fears social backlash or is afraid of losing family support. Nonetheless, the Indian woman has taken up multiple roles as an entrepreneur or an entertainer, as a leader or an employee. Thus the women who learn Silambam art can develop self confidence, courage...