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Angampora: The Glorious, Traditional Sri Lankan Martial Art

Angampora is an ancient martial art that originated in Sri Lanka. Its lethal techniques and harsh discipline make it out to…

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It's been more than a million years since the first human was born, and since then they've had to face a gazillion challenges in this rapidly changing world.
While learning the methods of survival, they discovered that adapting to a social group is the most basic one. Why?
We figured that staying in packs allows us better chances of survival. But it wasn't the socialising that assisted in survival, it was something else.
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As time passed, more social groups were formed. Each group appointed a leader to look up to. Due to various political, cultural, social and economical reasons the leaders craved for more power, and it resulted in fights between these communities. The people needed unique techniques to defeat their enemies and hence Martial Arts came into being.  
There are hundreads of martial arts in the known world and Angampora, the traditional martial art devised by ancient Sri Lankans is known to possess some of the most lethal, highly disciplined techniques in the world.
What is Angampora, and how did it come to being? Here's a brief annotation for you.

The Origins of Angampora

Photo Credits : Dhammika Heenpella

The origins of Angampora are scattered throughout history. It's believed to be older than 33,000 years along with the story of Kataragama Mahasen, the brave Angampora warrior of Yakkha tribe. Later at the time of Maha Ravana who was born to the same tribe, Angampora was vastly expanded. It became more popular as it was introduced to Buddhist civilization.

Throughout the time of King Dutugemunu, the ten giant warriors of his army (Dasa Maha Yodhayo) used Angampora techniques in the battles against the Warlord Elara.

Gotaimbara was one of the ten giants, and he had a separate conflict with Ritigala Jayasena, a powerful member of Yakkha tribe. Gotaimbara tried to flirt with Jayasena's beautiful wife which led to a huge fight. According to Mahãvamsa, Gotaimbara had decaptiated Jayasena by a single Angampora kick to the neck. 

The Gurukula

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The parties who taught Angampora for latter generations were called Gurukula. They arose during the Kandyan period as the need and the importance of Angampora was increased due to British imperialism in Sri Lanka. There were two main Gurukula in the country; Sudaliya and Maruwalliya.

A new administrative system was developed and the senior members of Gurukula were given titles. Mohottala, Sudaliya Muhandiram, Maruwalliya Muhandiram are a few of them. 

The Kings also supported the improvement of Angampora by offering Nindagam (villages granted for officers in King's service to carry out work in the name of the king). While some of the Sudaliya Nindagam were located at Matale, Harispaththuwa, Siduruwana, Udunuwara and Yatinuwara, the Nindagam belonged to Maruwalliya were established at Hewaheta, Udapalatha, Delthota and Rathmale. 

The Art of Fighting

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According to the contemporary experts in Angampora history, there have been six subject areas related to Angampora Education. 

They are:
 Angampora (Unarmed combat), Ilangampora (Armed combat), Maya Angam (Black and white magic), the Art of Dancing and Drumming, Herbal Medicine and Astrology. 

Over the span of time, some of these areas have been lost but the most parts of it have been preserved well by the passionate masters.

The term Angampora refers to physical combat, and is essentially the martial use of limbs, but no weapons. It's categorized into three types; Pora Haramba (offensive and defensive techniques), Gataputtu (grips and locks) and Maru Kala (Vital point attacks). 

Pora Haramba

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Pora Haramba has eighteen offensive strikes that can do serious damages to the opponent, and seven defensive techniques to avoid punches from the opponent. Dik gutiya, Athul pahara, Piti pahara are some of the popular offensive techniques in Angampora.


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In order to disarm the enemy, make him weak or to kill, the Gataputtu strategy is used. This includes putting grips, locks on opponent’s body parts like hands, legs, and head etc. Diyaballu GatayaKathira Gataya, Pimburu Gataya, and Wanda Gataya are few of the many Gataputtu methods. A proper Angampora warrior should know all these, as well as the techniques to redeem from them.

Maru Kala 

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Maru Kala is the most important technique in Angampora. It is advanced and not everyone gets the opportunity to learn it, as this subject includes the study of crucial nerve point strikes. Such strikes require a certain amount of power and speed, and a fighter who is excelled at Maru Kala can cause great pain to the opponent, make him paralysed, incompetent, swoon or give a quick death. 

Therefore, a few selected people who are trustworthy can study this, and they should swear a special oath by the name of Lord Buddha and Maha Ravana to not to use these techniques against anyone, unless it’s absolutely necessary. They also can’t teach Maru Kala to anyone with low qualities. 


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Ilangampora, the art of armed combat is consisting thirty two weapons (Dethis Ayudha) and divided into four main categories; Curved weapons, Circular weapons, Long weapons, and Blunt weapons.
An Angampora student should at least practice for two years before they learn Ilangampora, as it requires a great dedication and discipline.

During that training period trainees got to practice with wooden swords at baby coconut trees, or banana trees. The archery training is done using targets drawn on trees, and swinging coconuts.

The Legacy of Angampora

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In 1815, an agreement (The Kandyan Convention - Udarata Giwisuma) was signed by the British and Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom to forfeit all claims made by the King Sri Wickrema Rajasinha to the throne of Kandy. The dominion was vested in the sovereign of the British Empire, and thus began the Legacy of Angampora.

 The British already feared the power of Angampora, and once they received authority over the Kandyan Kingdom they started massacring the fierce Angampora fighters of that time.

Few members of main two Gurukula were able to survive this bloodbath, and continued practicing Angampora while teaching the later generations. The descendants of such families still live in Karathota, Ritigala and Awissawella areas.

Angampora isn't just an ancient martial art that originated in Sri Lanka, but a symbol that portrays our cultural value as a country and serves as a reminder of our fearless nation. It should be given a platform of professional status in the country, so this thousand year tradition can be preserved for future generations.
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