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Nillaikalakki, the only Silambam discipline in the world that maintains its authenticity as there are neither modernisation nor influences from any other martial arts but only Tamil traditional cultures which is well preserved in Penang, Malaysia. The art not only focussing on twirling of the stick but emphasising on complicated foot works to confuse the opponent. Nillaikalakki Silambam, an authentic traditional Tamil Martial Art which originates from Krunji Mountains of South India five thousand years ago which has extinct from India has found its new home in George Town, Penang, Malaysia after the Nillaikalakki 14th descendant migrated from Madurai, Tamil Nadu to Georgetown, Penang in 1936 during the British Colonial era.
Nillaikalakki is the only Silambam art in the world which has ancient Tamil custom based syllabuses divided into ten stages which begin with staff twirling method and ends in an advanced stage which includes various animal attacking manoeuvres. The Nillaikalakki art doesn't promotes sport and belting system combat but only traditional training and competition. Nillaikalakki Silambam is standing strong among other sport based silambam discipline because Nillaikalakki is the only art that has strong 5000 years Guru-Student lineage silambam system which being well safeguarded in Penang.
The art and association have been highlighted in many international websites and the most proud achievement for the art when CNN had featured an article titled “9 reasons to visit Penang that have nothing to do with street food’’ on 14th Feb 2017 which the Nillaikalakki Art has been mentioned.
The Nillaikalakki art is an ancient staff based martial art in a Guru- Student Lineage system practised by natives called Narikuravar. These natives were using staff made from bamboo found in hills as a weapon to defend themselves against wild animals and to display their skills during their religious festivals. Nillaikalakki is an advance Silambam art which has been enhanced by Narikuravar tribe from other older Silambam technique such as Karunadagam, Panaiyerimallan, Kallapatthu, Pooligal Adi, Kuravanji, and Thulukku which every respective art has its own characteristic.
The Tamil scholars and yogies who went to the Krunji mountains to meditate got attracted by the display of this high skilled staff technique of Nillaikalakki, and the art has became a part of these scholars' training, as they were taught by the Narikuravar. Since the art has been practised by yogis, sannasis and siddha medicine practitioners, Nillaikalakki training and classes have started to be conducted in a close group in ashram under these Tamil Educators.
As these Tamil gurus devoted to Lord Muruga, Nillaikalakki martial art is always been associated with the Lord and even the eight stage of the Nillaikalakki syllabus has been named Kanthan. The Nillaikalakki school of art has a very sophisticated syllabus that needs about seven continue years to be learnt.
Unlike other older version of Silambam arts beside staff handling, Nillaikalakki emphasis on the leg training and movement skills as a major technique in striking the opponent. These leg movement techniques act as camouflage in confusing the opponent during sparring.
Nilai meaning "posture", and Kalakki "is to disturb or disarrange", and thus Nillaikalakki bringing meaning "disturbing the posture' of an opponent. Nillaikalakki Art is a tactical art to win over an opponent or at a group fight by using revolutionary staff and leg techniques.
Etiquette of Nillaikalakki
Nillaikalakki Silambam is an ancient Tamil Martial Art which promotes Tamil culture and lineage system of Guru and Student mechanism. The respect for previous Grandmasters in the lineage and forefathers of Nillaikalakki is very important in this art. The Narikuravar tribe from Krunji Mountains is the founding natives of the art. The tribe is high worshipper of Lord Muruga and for this reason, Nillaikalakki art always been associate with the Lord Muruga. Thus, in every Nillaikalakki religious activities, prayer for Lord Muruga is always been included.
As forefathers of Nillaikalakki are Yogies, Ashramam Gurus and Medicine Practitioners, Nillaikalakki Silambam always been associated with spiritual journey and thus, students are encouraged to be vegetarian, abstain from smoking, alcoholic consumption and other immoral activities. There are no foreign martial art elements has been introduced in Nillaikalakki syllabus as way to preserve the originality of the art.
Nillaikalakki Ancient Competitions: 1. Silatgu Varusai 2. Sandai Maarutham 3. Thodu Murai 4. Korvai
Characteristic of seven ancient Silambam discipline: 1. Karunadagam: forcefull one step movement with full grip on the staff 2. Panaiyerimallan: fierce commitments in evasive and defensive movement 3. Kallapatthu: witty and gunning movement 4. Pooligal Adi: fierce and powerful striking movements resembling tiger 5. Kuravanji: wicked and lethal movement 6. Thulukku: staff twirling art with an etiquette form 7. Nillaikalakki: enhanced tricky, agility and swift foot movement used to defeat opponents
Lineage of Nillaikalakki
Gurukkal Mariapakiam, the 14th Descendant of Nillaikalakki
Gurukkal Mariapakiam who was born in Paramakudi, Tamil Nadu in 1906 was exposed to Silambam since his childhood as early as 5 years old. His first Silambam Master was Veerapathiran Padayachi who was coaching Karunaadagam Silambam technique.
Since then, Master Mariapakiam continue his journey in learning various discipline of Silambam such as Panayerimallan, Thulukku, Kallapathu, Pooligal Adi and Kuravanji from many Silambam masters. Besides, Master Mariapakiam also have exposed to other Tamil weapon Martial Art such as Vel Kambu Suthram, Madhu (deer horn), Vaat Veethchu, Soorul Kathi, Uruval Kambu Varusai and Vennilai Payerchi Kutthu Varusai/ Varma Varusai 12 (empty hand martial art) until his age of 20.
In 1928, Master Mariapakiam met an old Gurukkal Yogi Krunji Naadu Sanyasi, the 13th descendent of Nillaikalakki lineage. The young Mariapakiam who had knowledge and skills in various Silambam techniques had an argument with Yogi Krunji and invited him for a Silambam sparring. Mariappakiam who initially thought he will easily defeat the old master, surrendered to Yogi after being badly injured and could not keep up with the agility and swift footwork of Kurunji Nadu Sanyasi. Master Mariappakkiam confessed to Yogi that he has not seen the silambam art demonstrated by Yogi in his entire life and he was told that the art was known as Nillaikalakki Silambam.
Since then, Master Mariappakkiam has been learning the Nillaikalakki Suthram for three years from year 1928 till 1931 from Gurukkal Yogi Kuranvanji Naadhu Sanyasi. Yogi Sanyasi has then passed all the knowledge of Nillaikalakki and Master Mariapakiam has been made the 14th descendant of Nillaikalakki. Master Pakiam has been advised that he need to move forward to pass the knowledge of Nillaikalakki to the right students.
Grandmaster Anbananthan, the 15th Descendant of Nillaikalakki
In 1936, Mahaguru Mariapakiam the 14th descendant of Nilaikalakki Silambam was brought over to Penang, Malaysia during British Colonial era as a labor. In 1962, Master Anbananthan became the student of the Master Pakiam. On the Mahaguru's demise on 12th August 1986, Master Anbananthan became the 15th descendant of Nillaikalakki and Silambam leading authority in Malaysia. He maintains the lineage of Nillaikalakki and is regarded as one of the few living Masters teaching the traditional aspects of a Tamil art.
Grandmaster Anbananthan then founded Nillaikalakki Silambam Association (PENSILAM) which was registered on 25th February 1975 and became its first Chairman of the association. The NGO is the first registered Silambam association in Malaysia and eventually became the leading Silambam organisation in the world to preserve and promoting the Nillaikalakki art in Malaysia.
Now after more than 50 years of teaching Nillaikalakki, Master Anba has groomed many Silambam masters from local and international. Many other discipline martial artist from Silat, Wushu, Jujitsu, Kendo and many more have also trained Nillaikalakki under Master Anba’s coaching. Since Nillaikalakki Silambam has established its home in Penang, Malaysia, the art has eventually became the tradition heritage of Penang.
Grandmaster Anbananthan has leads his students to preserve this authentic Tamil and traditional martial art by coaching them not only the techniques of the Nillaikalakki art but guiding them the sophisticated methods into subconscious mind which essential for self realisation through martial art. Beside coaching, Grandmaster Anba is now leading his special team to conduct research on this ancient Nillaikalakki as a way to preserve this art in future. Now with his handful of Nillaikalakki dedicated students, Master Anbananthan believes that art of Nillaikalakki will continue to prosper.
Grandmaster Anbananthan Profile:
- 15th Descendant of Nillaikalakki Silambam Lineage.
- Chief Guru of Nillaikalakki Silambam.
- Received National Order of Highest HONOUR by Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak on 27 July 2015.
- Received Hall of Fame as Grandmaster of the Year by Federal International Of Grandmaster Association (FIOGA).
- Received 10th Duan by Federal International Of Grandmaster Association (FIOGA) (click here)
- Received Tokoh Seni Budaya Tempatan by National Cultural and Art Department (click here)
- Received ‘Grandmaster Special Award’ on 7th September 2012 organised by Majlis Pendekar Malaysia witnessed by YB Datuk Haji Ahmad Bin Haji Maslan (Timbalan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri) and Grandmaster Tan Sri Datuk Wira Haji Omardin bin Mauju, Pendekar Negara Malaysia.
- Received ‘Gagah Perkasa Award’ on 2004 from TYT Tun Dato’ Seri Utama (Dr.) Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Abbas, Governor of Penang organised by Department of Youth and Sports, Penang and Majlis Wajadiri of Penang.
- Received ‘Mahaguru Award’ on 23rd December 1996 from TYT Tun Haji Hamdan B. Sheik Tahir, former Governor of Penang organised by Department of Youth and Sports, Penang and Majlis Wajadiri of Penang.
- Co-Author of ‘The Martial Art of Dravidian India: Book 1’ on 2008.
The Nillaikalakki Syllabus
The Nillaikalakki school of art has a sophisticated 10 different stages of syllabus that needs about seven continue years to be learnt. The teachings are very well structured techniques, deeply articulated to each others using an intelligent strategies. This Nillaikalakki art training begin with the staff twirling method and ends in an advanced stage which includes various animal attacking manoeuvres.
The Nillaikalakki has no longer exist in India but now being well preserved by Grandmaster Anbananthan and his fellow students in Georgetown City located in Penang, Malaysia. Below are the 10 different stages of Nillaikalakki that a students are compulsory to learn in becoming a Nillaikalakki Satrian.
1. Otthai Vitchi Otthai Vitchi emphasis basic spinning techniques in one side in order to loosen and strengthen muscles and nerves. Otthai Vitchi consists of two stages i.e. Kil Otthai Vitchi and Mhel Otthai Vitchi and there are six sub trainings under each Otthai Vitchi.
2. Yiretthai Vitchi This second stage of the art is about staff spinning techniques on both side by turning the body forward and backward, incorporating rotating movements using both arms. This stage builds up the student's coordination skills. When twirling the staff, the practitioner must relax and breathe normally. Beside enhancing the twirling method of the staff, this exercise will be improving the balancing of the body which the students definitely need when progressing towards advance level.
3. Silatguvarusai Silatgu Varusai is one of the difficult training which students need to use the right breathing method to spin staff at 96 angles. This staff spinning uses various patterns of rotation will take about 30 minutes to complete. This spinning technics will consists all the method which have been learnt at ‘Otthai Vitchi’ and ‘Retthai Vitchi’.
4. Sandai Maarutham Once the student has mastered the ninety-six staff spinning with patterns, they will be taught ‘Sandai Marutham’ which uses the ninety-six patterns but incorporates striking movements based on four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four and ninety-six sets of attacking options. The previously thought spinning mechanism in Silatgu Varusai will now turned into striking motion.
5. Othukkal Murai After the students being exposed with staff spinning patterns and attacking methods, now defensive techniques in evading attacks by rotating staff will be introduced. Nillaikalakki is all about stick twirling and thus, even when evading and protecting oneself from an opponent, the evading staff technique will be in continuous rotating and twirling way.
6. 36 Pirivu Adi Kambugal Thirty six (36) sets of striking movements which each set consisting of 12 attacking movement with particular footwork of sequence are taught in this stage. 20 sets in 'Thulukku' style, 10 in 'Kanthan' and 6 sets of Narikuru method will be thought to the senior masters.
7. Kurivithu Adipethu The seventh stage of Nillaikalakki syllabus is training on striking of opponents’ vital points, which known as ‘Kurivaithu Adipethu’ (targeted striking). Only senior and selected masters will be reaching and learning this stage as this can be dangerous to others if misused by irresponsible students.
8. Kanthan This is followed by the 'Kanthan' at eighth stage, which teaches the tactical and tricky rhythmic staff and footwork movements with their skilful application to outsmart opponents.
9. Narikuru The ninth stage, "Narikuru" or known as Vel Kambu art is played with Spear embedded at the staff, where animated animal movements and various tricky attacking manoeuvres are being taught. These movements are the most difficult and beautiful of the art. Only the most senior and dedicated students are taught them. The fox movements in the ninth stage is unique and extremely difficult to copy without years of training.
10. Utchekketha Nilai On gaining mastery of the ninth stage, the student is ready for the final tenth stage, which known as ”Utchekattha Nillai" where all the earlier skills are tested by Grandmaster. As this final stage can be as intense as possible, during sparring between master and student, all the trick, patience and wisdom need to be used to go through this extreme dangerous environment.
Nillaikalakki Silambam Association
Nillaikalakki Silambam Association of Penang established on 25th February 1975, became the first registered Silambam association in Malaysia and eventually became the leading Silambam organisation in the world to preserve and promoting the Nillaikalakki art in the world. The association establishments has spearheaded efforts in safeguarding Nillaikalakki rituals and ancient training system.
Grandmaster Anbananthan who was the founder and first president of Nillaikalakki Silambam Association (PENSILAM) has leads his students to preserve this authentic Tamil and traditional martial art by coaching them not only the techniques of the Nillaikalakki art but guiding them the sophisticated methods into subconscious mind which essential for self realisation.
Now, the organisation has reached its 44 years of establishment in George Town, Penang hoping with the assistance of its students, the art will be getting more prosperous by involving more research and development on Nillaikalakki Art.