Pictures by Reza Akram, Written by Yasas Ratnayake
Looking at the apex of a mountain from miles away on level ground, a man envisions what the view from those soaring heights would be. Likewise, the student of Angampora too begins with a monumental vision and a grueling journey to look forward to. The art of Angampora is complex. It is challenging. And it is a catalyst that turns humans into superhumans.
All this may seem exaggerated to the modern man. Why should one put oneself through an arduous and grueling process of self discipline and metal challenges? Our ancestors saw Angampora as a lifestyle and upon initiation; the aspiring inductee envisioned a journey towards physical and mental perfection. When he steps into the training ground, or Angam Maduwa, for the first time, he will be treading a path that had been trodden for centuries and millennia.
This path will take the trainee through mastering the body and its movements and culminate in a profound understanding of the mind and hidden facets of spirituality that are yet unknown to society at large. The word “Angampora” means the combat using different facets, or Anga, of knowledge. Learners must aspire to master the 3 core areas of Angampora:
- Angam (Hand to Hand Combat)
- Ilangam (Weapon Combat)
- Maya Angam (Arcane Combat)
Angam or hand to hand combat comprises striking maneuvers (Guti Haramba) and grappling maneuvers (Pora Haramba). Advanced training in these areas include the knowledge of pressure point attacks (Maru nila shaasthraya), clinical attacks that can debilitate, stun, blind, and kill opponents. Striking and Grappling maneuvers are further expand to 7 combat styles that are inspired by the movements and demeanors of nature’s deadliest predators:
- Leopard Style (Koti Adi)
- Tusker Style (Ath Adi)
- Bear Style (Valas Adi)
- Cobra Style (Nai Adi)
- Eagle Style (Ukus Adi)
- Lion Style (Sinha Adi)
- Gurula Style (Gurulu Adi; Gurula is a mythic bird creature in Sinhalese folklore)
Weapon combat in Angampora, or Ilangam, is fascinating and is a treasure trove in its own right. Our ancestors employed many deadly and unique weapons for millennia. Fighters choose a weapon to master, while training in other weapons as a customary practice. There are 5 standard weapon types that are used in Angampora, and 21 derivatives of these weapons. Most of these derivatives are unique to Sri Lanka.
- Long weapons (Dhikkaayudha)
- Short weapons (Kattayudha)
- Blunt weapons (Mottaayudha)
- Piercing weapons (Kunthaayudha)
- Projectile weapons (Chakraayudha)
Weapons such as the Kastane (sword), Angam Kattha (Large Angam Sickle), Maru-wala (Death rope), Ankirinnya (Antler Knuckles), and Ethunu Kaduwa (Multi Bladed Flexible sword) are some of the few weapons that are used in Angampora that are unique to Sri Lanka. Trainees practice for years to master a particular weapon; and only an Angam fighter that has reached a level of mastery in the art are able to wield weapons such as the deadly flexible sword.
Maya Angam is a mysterious and intriguing facet of Angampora that defines it from other martial arts as we know. This area of Angampora requires years of dedicated practice to learn and master. Practitioners undergo rigorous meditation exercises and learn arcane spells and mantras to create effects that defy modern conventions. Mantras in Angampora are recited in an ancient tongue called Unnya and only a small minority of practitioners are capable of mastering Maya Angam.
A person who masters Maya Angam is one who has immersed him or herself in an arcane and esoteric practice for years. They are said to be capable of doing fearsome and mysterious things such as permanently blinding opponents and inducing severe paralysis on foes with the use of herbs, secret mantras, and combat maneuvers. A student who steps into the world of Maya Angam undertakes a solemn promise to only use this knowledge in times of dire emergency and self defence.
We will be exploring more aspects of Angampora in the weeks to come. Await more in depth articles of hand to hand combat, weapon combat, and Maya Angam. We will also be exploring Angampora history, spirituality, rituals, dance, and more areas that have not been explored before!