Silambam goes chic!

OLD ART, NEW CHARM: Silambam is becoming popular as a fitness activity. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

Atop the single-storey terrace in the middle of Goripalayam, 25-year-old Kalaiselvi and 18-year-old Sangeetha strike their swords with seething rage. At lightning speed, they both swirl and strike again and this time on the metal shields they hold in their left hands. With numerous such graceful agile moves, the girls throw a gripping show. They fling the swords in style, catch them with ease and finish it off with a final Veera vanakam! That’s Silambam for you.

It appears city youths are showing an increasing interest in Silambam these days. M. Shahul Hameed, State secretary of Silambam Sports Association, who runs Simashan Institute of Martial Arts at Goripalayam, says majority of them come to learn voluntarily while some are aware of the benefits of learning Silambam and some learn it for entertainment and fun.

“It takes intense mental concentration, physical fitness and rigorous practise to perform a continuous sequence of Silambam,” points out Shahul, adding that it is a wholesome activity that sharpens the alertness level of the mind and improves joint and muscular coordination.

Shahul has been running the school for nearly three decades but he finds more enthusiastic takers for the art only now, in the recent years. From school-going children to middle-aged and the elderly, Silambam is learnt by everyone. “But I see a renewed interest among high-school and college students and young people,” says Shahul, whose students have bagged several prizes at many State-level tournaments. “Earlier”, says Shahul, “Silambam was widely known as Silambattam, a folk performance art.” “Only during annual day functions of schools and colleges, trainers like me would be called in to teach the students some dance sequence,” he notes.

Umair Sharif who has been teaching Silambam at the Race Course for the past 10 years, says young women are taking to Silambam these days. “Few years back, only Karate and Kung fu were popular. Silambam is slowly catching up among those who learn martial arts as hobby,” he says.

Like Yoga, Silambam is probably the new found chic workout among the city’s youth. Kalaiselvi, a young professional doubles as a Silambam trainer during evenings and weekends. Her love for the art is over a decade old, she says. “I started learning it when in school. Though initially I chose Silambam simply as a hobby, I developed a liking to it. Also, the martial art classes helped me maintain health and fitness apart from making me feel bold and equipped. That kept me going,” she says. Kalaiselvi conducts periodical classes for girl students in Lady Doak, Meenakshi and Madura Colleges.

Sangeetha, a 12th Standard Student of Mahatma School has won in over half a dozen Silambam Competitions at the District and State level so far. “I started learning Silambam as an extra-curricular activity, but now it feels good that I know an art form that’s over 3,000 years old. The sport has helped me keep physically fit and improved my scores in academics also.” Shahul informs that it’s an added advantage to know Silambam as it is counted under Sports Quota and helps in getting placed in Police and Military recruitments.

Elangovan, 24, an engineering graduate who hails from a family of Silambam exponents conducts weekend classes at Meenambalpuram and Valar Nagar for residents and general public. Elangovan’s father, Anbu Sekar of Madakulam has been teaching Silambam for the past 35 years. His school ‘Kalaisamy Vastad Balupillai Pehelwan Silambam Academy’ is named after his great grandfather who was a Silambam champion. “Silambam is a good way to channelize the energy of the youth. Leaning something antique and part of our rich heritage instils a sense of belonging towards the art,” he says but feels the cultural richness of Silambam has not penetrated the masses. “Only if we create proper awareness, the sport will reach national and international levels,” says Anbu Sekar.

“Traditionally Silambam has been considered a sport for men and nowadays it’s heartening to see women too joining the sport,” points out Elangovan. The month-long Silambam camp that he conducted in association with INATCH Madurai recently, had enthusiastic college girls as participants, he says. Karthika, who regularly attends Silambam classes says, “I see Silambam as a self-defence option especially for women. It enhances my sense of security.”

Sridhar Nedunchezhian and Thangapandian are young friends who also conduct weekend Silambam classes at Anaiyur and Pandi Koil. “We started classes a year ago and we get around 20 to 30 participants every week. Many seem to have shed the idea that Silambam is only for the villagers to learn. We see quite a few city people doing Silambam as a regular fitness activity,” says Sridhar.

Silambam facts:

Silambam is an ancient Dravidian warfare and finds mention in Sangam Literature such as Silapathikaram

Kalari payattu, Kuthu Varisai and Vaalveechu are considered more evolved offshoots of Silambam

The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu has recognised Silambam as a sport and introduced it in School education. Since the past five years, state-level Silambam Tournaments are being conducted.

Currently, there are three kinds of Silambam being practised – Por Silambam (warfare), Silambattam (folk dance) and Potti Silambam (sport). There’s much difference between the Silambam taught and followed in rural areas and cities. During competitions, Silambam is also performed with fire rings and chains

It shall take many years of formal training to master Silambam. However, training classes are designed as 15-day or month-long modules to teach the basics.

There are seven basic moves and four basic stick rotations that are permuted and combined to invent new moves.

Apart from the kambu (stick) made of either bamboo or perambu, which is popularly associated with Silambam, the martial art is also performed using a varied range of weapons such as Surulvaal, sword, velkambu (spear), maan-kombu (deer horns) and small knives.

Health benefits of Silambam:

Silambam is a good form of cardio workout that improves blood circulation and heart function.

Burns calories, helps in weight reduction and shaping of body.

Relieves mental stress, laziness and fatigue.

Improves body flexibility and reflexive movement of joints and muscles.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 4:07:49 PM |

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