Fighting is as ancient as man himself. This struggle to subdue another in combat, unarmed or armed, is
possibly a legacy handed down to us from our ancestors. This desire for domination sowed the seeds for martial arts.
The term martial arts, simply means 'arts concerned with the waging of war'.Many
of the martial arts we know today, originated from ancient war skills. In time, man's search for a more profound meaning of
life, led to the development of a higher level of fighting. Although the fighting arts in each nation differ from one another,
there is a common thread in the tapestry of martial arts - anonymity.
Large number of people are attracted to this art because of its self-defensive
potential. At one time, Judo was the main focus of interest, but since it became an Olympic discipline, it has tended to lose
its total image, and become a mere discipline. Karate, Kung-fu, and Du-Jutsu are the other arts which attract those who feel
themselves to be in need of an instant personal deterrent, and wish to be stronger, fitter, and more self confident. Some
of the martial arts forms are: 1.
This is one of Manipur's most ancient martial arts. The fighting equipment comprises a sword and
a shield, now modified to a stick encased in soft leather and a shield made of leather. The contestants fight a duel, and
victory goes to the person, who scores the maximum points. In ancient times, sword and spears were used by the contestants.
Victory in this martial art, depends more on skill, than brawn and brute force.
The competition is held on a flat surface, within a circle, with a diameter of 7 meters.
There are two lines of one metre length each in the circle, with a space of two metres between them. The 'cheibi' stick is
2 to 2.5 feet in length, and the shield is 1 metre in diameter.
2. Kalari Payattu
Kalari is the Malayalam (language spoken in Kerala) word, for a special kind of gymnasium,
where the martial art known as Kalari Payattu, is practiced. It had its origins in the 4th century A. D. Legends claim, that
the art began with the sage Parasurama, who possessed mystical powers. He built temples and also introduced martial arts,
which have influenced and shaped many other arts. The art reached its zenith in the 16th century, in the days of Thacholi
Othenan - a celebrated chieftain of north Malabar.
A Kalari Payattu demonstration includes physical
exercises and mock duels - armed and unarmed combat. It is not accompanied by any music or drumming, but is a silent combat,
where style matters the most. Kalari Payattu is practiced by women also. Unniyarcha was a legendary heroine, who won many
battles with distinction. Today, Kalari Payattu is a method of physical fitness, and an empty-handed means of self-defence.
Yet, it is tied to traditional ceremonies and rituals.
Kalari Payattu consists of various techniques and stages. Among them
Uzhichil, or the massage with the Gingli oil, is used for
imparting suppleness to the body, but only persons with a thorough knowledge of the nervous system, and the human body, conduct
Body exercises or Maippayattu includes the twists and turns of the body,
leaps and jumps, and poses, designed to gain control over various parts of the human body.
Sticks of Kolthari
This is the next stage where training in handling various
staves of wood or canes of different lengths are imparted. The long stick is kettukari and the short one, kuruvadi.
Otta - a Weapon for the 'coup de grace'
The otta is an 'S' shaped staff, with a knob at one
end, made of the toughest portions of the tamarind tree.These sticks, which are about 2 feet long, are specially suitable
for attacks on the nervous system.
Metal weapons or Anga Thari
Weapons of various metals are used in training and combat sessions,
like the sword, sword and shield, two types of knives, daggers, the spear and the 'urumi'. Various exercises are performed
with these weapons.
Puliyankam (Sword Fight)
Wielding the sword in an efficient manner, is considered
to be the peak of perfection in Kalari Payattu. Various methods in the use of the sword, as a weapon of offence and defence,
are being practiced today, but the most awe-inspiring of these, is the Puliyankam, where the combatants fight like tigers,
propelled by powerful fuels - extraordinary elan and agility.
The Spear Vs the Sword
In this combat, one contestant is armed with a sword and
shield, and the other with a spear. Due to the length of the spear, the swordsman faces a disadvantage, but if he knows how
to exploit all the weak points of the spear-man, and take advantage of all the opportunities, that come his way to get under
his opponent's guard, he can easily triumph over his opponent.
Barehanded Fight or Verumkai
In unguarded moments, there are some special ways of getting
out of a tight situation, by using one's hands or a piece of cloth or a rope. Locks and blows are in vogue. Attacks on the
nervous system by the edge of one's palm, are enough to paralyse the opponent. Various types of blows with different effects
are, therefore, practiced to perfection.
Character, fitness and sheer courage - these are the demands of
Kalari Payattu, which has about it a distinct spiritual and mythical aura. To succeed in this martial art, one needs plenty
of fire in the belly, energy, drive and fierce commitment.
The state of Tamil Nadu is considered to be the cradle of modern and
scientific staff fencing, popularly known in Tamil as Silambam. The Pandya kings ruling in Tamil Nadu promoted Silambam fencing,
as did their Chola and Chera counterparts. Silapathiharam Tamil literature, dating back to 2nd century A.D., refers
to the sale of silamabam staves, swords, pearls and armour to foreign traders. The ancient trading centre at Madurai
city, renowned globally, was said to be thronged by Romans, Greeks, Egyptians among others who had regular sea trade with
the ancient Dravidian kings. The silambam staff was one of the martial art weapons, that was in great demand with the
The use of the long staff for self - defence or mock - fighting was
a highly organised game in the state as early as the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. In the Vedic age, young men were imparted
training to defend themselves with staves, both as a ritual and an emergency. The staves wielded by ace fencers were given
distinctive names, and treated with reverence. Some records trace the origin of this art to a divine source - Lord Muruga,
and within the Tamil mythological framework, sage Agasthya is also credited with the genesis of Silambam. Silambam is believed
to have travelled from Tamil Nadu to Malaysia, where it is now a popular recreational sport and also a mode of self - defence.
Four different types of staves are used in this activity. One produces
a sonorous, swishing sound, another involves lighted balls of cloth at one end of the staves, called 'torch silambam', a third
is quite short in length nevertheless powerful, and finally a non - elastic staff that produces a clattering sound.
Today this rather simplistic art form is a mode of self defence used
by the common folk of Tamil Nadu.
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
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
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
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.
The contest begins with salutations to God, the competitor, the audience
and the guru. The result is determined on the basis of the number of touches made by one contestant on another. To
distinguish these touches, the ends of the staves are coated with a sticky powder that leaves behind a mark . The mark generally
counts as one point, but in certain areas, a touch above the waist counts as two points, while those made below get only one
point. In certain areas, the winner is one who makes a mark on his opponent's back, while in others, the contestant who makes
the first three touches on the other's body wins. The contest comes to a close, after a period of time fixed well in advance
of the contest, or when one of the contestants is dispossessed of his staff.
Silambam is fought on an even and hard surface, but never on a sandy
or slippery area. The arena of this activity is usually circular, the radius not less than 20 ft and not more than 25 ft,
when only two contestants are involved. The duration ranges from 6 to 10 minutes, which is divided into four equal quarters.
An interval of one minute is allowed at the end of the first and third quarters, while at the end of the second quarter an
interval of 3 minutes is allowed.