MODERN SRI LANKAN MARTIAL ART
Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not you go out and look for a successfull personality and duplicate it.
Sri Lanka Yoga Budo
The exact date of the origin of Angampora is not known. What is known however is that it dates back to the Anuradhapura era to the times of the ancient Sinhala kingdoms. In those days it was the fighting technique of the noblemen. Legend has it that the army that came under the command of Sapumal Kumaraya comprised fighters skilled in this martial art. Angampora continued with the Sinhala kings with the transition of the kingdoms towards the southwest of the country. However, with each new king emerged new gurus and as a result the pedigree of the gurus of Angampora got diluted.
The last of the Angampora gurus existed during the Kandyan kingdom. The sport, that had withstood the test of time, faced its biggest challenge during this era. The British, two years after capturing Kandy and gaining control over the entire island, passed a law to ban Angampora in 1817.
The penalty for anyone found practising the art was harsh. Those who breached this law were shot below the knee. Many gurus and students gave up the art in fear of punishment. The high status the sport had earned was lost and it was looked upon as the game of criminals and vagabonds. However, a few continued to practise this traditional art in secretive places. It’s from the remnants of this art that guru Karunapala passes onto his students today. After several years of informal training and practice guru Karunapala and Wickramasinghe, with the motive of further developing the sport, established the Jathika Hela Angam Shilpa Kala Sangamaya in 2001, the governing body for Angampora. That same year they applied for registration with the Sports Ministry. The Jathika Hela Angam Shilpa Kala Sangamaya has waited three years for a response from the Sports Ministry.
Every practice session begins with a session of meditation and an offering of pin (merit) to their guru. When a student first enters the class he or she has to light three lamps and make a pledge. “I can judge whether a student is mentally fit to learn the art by the manner in which the student makes the pledge. If I sense doubt or scepticism in the mind of the student and feel he or she cannot cope with the discipline I don’t take them into the class”, says Karunapala who adds that many fail this initial test. Students also have to produce a police report or Grama Sevaka report before gaining entrance to the school. All this is done to ensure that only people with a stable mind and good conduct can follow the training schedule of the art.
A variety of weapons are used in Angampora. One of the most lethal weapons is the ‘Velayudaya’, a whip like apparatus made of four double-edged flexible strips of metal. A practitioner uses a pair of this apparatus to obtain maximum effect. However, only the most experienced fighters use these weapons, as there is a risk of cutting oneself badly while lashing out at an adversary.
Then there is the combat sword. This thick instrument is custom made for the fighter. The length of the sword is similar to the distance between the fighter’s fingertips and his under arm. A smaller variety of sword, known as the ‘Keti Kaduwa’, is also used. This is used together with a small shield or ‘Paliya’, which is about the size of a standard wall clock.