Development of many arts living to date took place during the transitional time that humans faced from the Stone Age. In initial stages, people studied the instinctive behaviour of animals and learnt a lot about self-defence techniques as well as recovery methods, for instance plants they eat after being attacked by another animal. Similar practices were followed in learning other arts such as astrology and medicine.
As a result of fear, ego, craving, desire, etc., they found different means of protecting themselves. The careful study of animal behaviour led humans to get insights into fighting styles. As these ancient fighting styles reached the peak, humans went in search of powers beyond physical strength, experimenting different ways of living styles concentrating on spiritual development. These spiritual developments led these fighters to be very powerful and almost invincible.
Legendary King ‘Ravana’ is said to have been skilled in many areas such as medicine, astrology, magic and martial arts. Ravana who reached peak spiritually, used these skills and powers fairly to manage the kingdom and to defeat his enemies. There are a number of fighting styles & different arts dating back to the era of ‘King Ravana’ and Angampora is one such refined art of fighting. It is also the oldest fighting art that concentrates not only on attack but also on defence.
Angampora is a fighting style that has been practised and protected from generation to generation over thousands of years. However, this ancient martial art saw its downturn during the time when Sri Lanka was under colonial rule as colonists acted to eliminate this ancient rich art by killing skilled and well-trained Angam fighters and destroying the books written on Angampora. However, some Angam fighters who escaped from the colonists managed to protect this art for future.
During the Kotte Kingdom, King Seetawaka Rajasinghe gathered Angam troops from all over the country to counter foreign invasions. One of the key points that we should identify is that the two clans that protected this art practicing as rivals but fight together against enemies of the country. These two clans known as ‘Sudaliya’ & ‘Maru-Walliya’ dedicated their lives for ‘King’s Service’. Hewa-Hata, Uda Palata, Deltota, Ratmale and Karana regions were served by the ‘Maru-Walliya’ clan while Harispattuwa, Udu-Nuwara and Yati-Nuwara up to Matale were taken care of by the ‘Sudaliya’ clan.
The 1818 revolution in which Angam fighters were engaged was one of the activities that threatened the British rule in Sri Lanka. Angampora fighters were invincible and this could be described as a situation where hi-tech weapons of the English were useless in the attempts to counterattack. It is said that army of the English colonists were slain in a matter of minutes.
Angam fighters are able to jump too high and attack the enemy in such a way that the enemy cannot imagine how to fight back; the jumps performed at these fights are known as ‘Ata isbak’ (jumping 8 ft) & ‘Dolos-isbak’ (jumping 12 ft). The British knew that this fighting style would be a huge threat to their colonial rule in the island. Accordingly, they did not hesitate to introduce a new law prohibiting the practice of Angampora that required anyone found guilty of involving in Angampora to be shot below the knees.
Elements of Angampora
Angam – Using only the body to attack, counter and defend
Ilangam – Use of Angampora weaponry to attack, counter and defend
Maya Angam – Use of Mantras & incantation in handling enemy threats (attack, counter or defend)
Essentials to be an Angam fighter
Good health – Angampora fighting style considers good health as one of the most important factors. As a fighting art based on Buddhist philosophy, it is insisted that the Angam fighters be strong both physically and mentally.
Knowledge on Buddhism – Knowledge on the ‘Five Precepts’ taught in Buddhism, lifestyle based on the Buddhist philosophy, discipline & temperament, and principles. This is prescribed essential in order to render an Angam fighter well-disciplined and courteous.
Permission from the parents – Once recruited, total responsibility of the new individual will be taken by the master.
Horoscope compatibility – According to the tradition, the individual’s horoscope is read to see what his future looks like.