Sri Lanka`s martial art angampora still in vogue

Updated: Jun 02, 2012, 08:54 AM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s oldest martial art, Angampora, is still being practised in traditional schools across the country.

The art involves unarmed combat where only `anga` or body parts are used to fight.

The exact period when the art first came into being is not clear, but clans that have carried on the tradition place it anywhere from 3,000 to 30,000 years old.

It is the oldest form of martial arts in the country.

Ajantha Mohoththara, who teaches angampora at his school, some 35 km from Colombo, told Xinhua that his forefathers were experts in the art, and handed down the technique to their male children for generations.

"According to Singhalese folklore, there are papyrus rolls that prove the art has existed since the beginning of civilization in Sri Lanka, nearly 30,000 years ago," he insisted.

He said nine hermits belonging to one of the country`s ancient tribes, the yaksha, created and documented angampora. Since then it has been adapted by clans and passed it on from generation to generation.

Angampora was particularly popular during the time of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka.

"Kings that were pleased by the services rendered by these clans would hand over large tracts of land as gifts. Our forefather was also given land," he said.

"When a clan settled in an area, they would train more fighters and form larger troops for battles under the king."

With the spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka over 2,600 years ago, Angampora received a religious balance with fighters having to follow religious and disciplined lifestyles.

As a result angampora fighters also became philosophers and pundits, often having close relationships with temples and becoming the leaders of their villages, he added.

The British, who controlled the island in 1818, banned the practice. Only a few families continued the practice at secret locations. This was a dark age for angampora, rued Mohoththara.