Insight into art of stick-fighting


A silambam exponent (front) leading participants in a demonstration at the Sek Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi in Armenian Street, Penang. — Photos: GARY CHEN/The Star

A silambam exponent (front) leading participants in a demonstration at the Sek Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi in Armenian Street, Penang. — Photos: GARY CHEN/The Star

IT was an eye-opening experience for some 20 participants when they performed the ‘Nilaikalakki Silambam’ at the Seh Tek Tong Cheah Kongsi as part of the Penang Heritage Festival.

They were taught how to handle the stick as well as the striking positions of silambam, a traditional martial art from South India.

Penang Nilaikalakki Silambam president Amuthan Arjunan said usually it would take about two years to master the art as one has to be comfortable and well-versed in the handling of the stick.

“It involves a lot of mental strength and reflex action on how to move your body.

“The two-hour practice today is merely to get a ‘feel’ of the movement,” he said when met at the temple on Friday.

Participants learning the proper method of holding their bamboo staff during the Nillaikalakki Silambam class.
Participants learning the proper method of holding their bamboo staff during the Nillaikalakki Silambam class.

Some of the participants tried their best to hold on to their sticks but they slipped from their hands when they swung them back and forth.

“One can’t hold the stick too tightly because you may not be able to swing it.

“However, you also can’t hold it too loosely as it may slip from your grasp. The right grip is important,” said Amuthan on Friday.

Silambam is a weapon-based Indian traditional martial art originating from Tamil Nadu.

The word silambam refers to the bamboo staff which is the main weapon used while nilai means ‘posture’ and kalakki means ‘to interrupt’.