SILAMBAM   Indian Stick Fighting






Silambam fencing from India

David Manuel Raj


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Arms & Armours in Bharat Kala Bhavan

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Yashodhara Agrawal


A Glossary of Arms and Armor

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The Way of the Warrior
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Howard Reid, Michael Croucher




The Way of the Warrior, Howard Reid, Michael Croucher.The book presents Indian, Chinese, Japanese and modern martial arts.

From the chapter 3, THE VILLAGE ART OF KALARIPAYIT, pages 48 and 49, the following lines that refer to Silambam are cited:



















Training with sticks

Practice with stick and staff, called Silambam in South India, is almost a separate martial art. Recently steps have been taken to establish sporting tournaments and competitions in order to encourage a separate stick art, but kalaripayit masters still teach it in traditional form as part of their syllabus.


Throughout Asia the staff and stick have always been popular defensive weapons. A stick, the traditional travellers's aid, is light and unconspicuous, and presents no immediate threat to another person. As a weapon, however, it is cheap and easy to acquire, strong and durable, and can be used in many different ways. A staff or stick provides an excellent defence against all but projectile weapons. Most staffs, even those made of rattan and bamboo, will stand up quite well even to sharp-edged blades; indeed, it is possible to knock a metal blade from an opponent's hand, or even to break it, using a stick or staff.


Sticks and staffs also make excellent training weapons. They are blunt, but inflict sufficient pain to deter apathy in the trainee. Cut to the appropriate lengths they can be made to represent knives, swords, spears, halberds and so on, which can be wielded with ease. They have special advantages in combat since they may be used to stun, immobilize or hurt an opponent without causing serious injury. It is for this reason that they are the chosen weapon of so many of the world's police force.



A few girls learn kalaripayit. This student, below, is practisin silambam stick-fighting, which she must master before being allowed to progress to weapons-training. An unsusual aspect of silambam is the habit of striking the ground before attacking the partner. This allows the strike to enter from below. It is also a feint tactic, aimed at confusing.



Indian silambam sticks range in size from about 15 centimeters (six inches) to a little less than two metres (six feet). Most students use sticks made from rattan, which is quite flexible, but advanced students use hardwood staffs.


The longer weapons are usually held with one hand grasping the centre and the other holding one end. It is a characteristic of Indian fighting, however, that the stick may be grasped with both hands at one end only, and wielded rapidly, so that blows are showered on the opponent. Blocking is often effected by holding the stick with each hand one-third of the way along its length.


Low stances and a rapid fire of blows and blocks typify silambam techniques. Single and paired stick forms are studied first, followed by free sparring, usually between master and student.





Based on the BBC television series.

First published in 1995 by The Overlook Press

Copyright 1983 Eddison Sadd Editions Limited

ISBN 0-87951-606-2












©Denis Brunet and the article's author, if specified. Last modified: 12 January 2005


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