Parents forming a beeline to enrol their children to these classes are often a common sight in major cities.
Parents forming a beeline to enrol their children to these classes are often a common sight in major cities.

Wielding the stick with elan: Silambam, Kathi Samu get due recognition

However, Kiran’s love for Silambam, the passion to pass on the skills to others and take forward his guru’s legacy motivated him to continue as an instructor all these years.

GUNTUR: When one thinks of martial arts, the first few forms that come to mind are Taekwondo, Karate and Kung Fu. Parents forming a beeline to enrol their children to these classes are often a common sight in major cities. However, 42-year-old Bandla Kiran Kumar has been striving to ensure that India’s oldest forms of martial arts, Silambam and Kathi Samu, get their due recognition.

Silambam, a martial art that originated from Tamil Nadu, uses a bamboo staff as a primary weapon, while Kathi Samu, an ancient marital art from Andhra Pradesh, uses different kinds of swords. A native of Guntur city, Kiran has been teaching Silambam for the past 10 years. For a long time, people were unaware about stick and sword fighting, and hence opted for other marital arts like Taekwondo, he observed.

“However, now awareness on these Indian combat forms has increased, resulting in a rise in the number of children and even older people signing up for classes over the past couple of years,” Kiran said. It was not an easy task to educate people about Indian martial arts, he recalled and explained, “I used to conduct several camps at various schools across the city to introduce children and their parents to the combat form and instill interest in them. With the rising need for self-defence, especially for girls and women, this art is coming back to life.”

Sharing her experience, 15-year-old K Rani said, “I was so fascinated with the rural sport when the instructor showed me some moves to ward off any attacks by mischief-mongers. That was when I decided to switch from Karate to Silambam. Practising Silambam can be exhausting. It not only helps with physical fitness, but also inculcates discipline. It helps students remain alert and aware of their surroundings, and channel their energy in a positive manner,” Kiran noted.

When the popularity of the martial art began to fade, many trainers started taking up different jobs. However, Kiran’s love for Silambam, the passion to pass on the skills to others and take forward his guru’s legacy motivated him to continue as an instructor all these years.

“I had taken up a part-time job at a printing press to support my family, but continued to teach Silambam to students. Over the past two years, awareness on the martial art increased, and as a result now as many as 50 students attend my class regularly. On the insistence of parents, various schools in the city have introduced stick-fighting as a part of sports. This, too, has helped in many students learning it. So, I quit my job and completely dedicated my life to teaching Silambam, he said with a sparkle in his eyes.

Several of Kiran’s students, B Aksaa Keerthana, B Sandhya Rani, V Susmitha, V Sai Koti Dheeraj, B Chetan Sai, O Sandhya Sri, A Venkata Durga Rao, A Tejaswini and A Vamsi Krishna, have won gold medals at the State and national level competitions. They now have set their sights on international competitions being held in Bengaluru. Further, the instructor suggested that competitions should be held frequently to make Silambam famous and encourage youth to learn the indigenous martial art.

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