Preserving An Ancient Technique Unique To Sri Lanka

“Angam” or “Angampora”, is an ancient martial art form believed to be unique to Sri Lanka. 

Banned during the period when Sri Lanka was under British Rule, Angampora is believed to have been in practice as far back as three thousand years ago.   This form of martial art uses both hand-to-hand fighting, (Angam) and Illangam, where indigenous weapons such as knives, staves and swords are used.

A noted feature in this form of combat is inflicting pain on pressure points of the opponent to inflict pain or paralyse him.

Candidates wishing to be trained in this art are expected to be highly disciplined, and must pledge to use the technique only for self-defence, or to protect ones family or the country.  While soldiers were well versed in this form of martial art, it is said that farmers, makers of pottery etc. too underwent the training, and were prepared to respond whenever they were needed to defend the country.

There are said to be three main components; gataputtu (locks and grips), maru kala (attack on nerve points) and pora haramba (strikes and blocks).  While maru kala inflicts serious injury on the opponent, gataputtu is used to lock the hands, head or legs of the opponent.  Pora Haramba, involves around 18 offensive strikes and seven defensive forms.

Prior to training, which takes place in the Angam Maduwa, a structure made with clay and ground coconut fibre, a student must meditate, offer merit to the Master and light three lamps, to the Buddha,  God Kataragama and God Ravana. Perfecting the movement of the feet is extremely important, and is amongst the first skills, known as mulla panina, taught to students.

While it is said that there were various clans that adopted this form of martial art, the two notable schools were Sudhaliya and Maruwaliya.  Members of these two schools would often fight each other in the presence of the King.  Of late, there have been attempts to revive Angam, though Master Ginihuluge Karunapala,(featured in this essay) laments the interest amongst  the younger generation.  Hailing from a family that has practiced Angam for three generations, he fears that this form of combat, that survived the ban by the British, would soon be lost forever.