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Angampora is the native martial art of Sri Lanka that exhibits smooth, flowing but deceptive movements. Its techniques include basic grappling and submission maneuvers; however, one notable feature of this art is its fast footwork and flowing jumps that are likened to a butterfly. A beginner is first taught basic warm-up exercises. Later, a student is taught more specialized exercises which are connected to the art. Once a student is found competent in performing these specialized exercises he or she progresses to the actual art of combat. Weapon exercises are also included in their training curriculum.
“Ange” means “body”, “pora” signifies “combat”. The art was practiced in fighting displays both with and without weapons: “Angan saramba” or haramba were the various branches of the fighting sciences taught at the centres for military training of the Maravalliya” or Maruve, and Sedaliye clans. Each centre was divided into the “Saramba or Haramba Salava” dealing with “Aangan haramba” and the Ilangan Maduva” or” Ilangama” for training the musicians and dancers who accompanied each clan in procession or in war. There were also the Vasala saramba salava” and “Ilangam Maduva” reserved for princes.
The Mahavamsa shows that up to the 6th or 7th centuries, Sinhala heroes and warriors were termed “Yodhya”, a corruption of the Indian term “Yadhajiva”. Towards the end of the 16th century it had become restricted in usage to mythical giants and was replaced by the title “Panikki Rala”. In Malabar this is derived from Pani=work and the masters of martial and gymnastic schools were termed “Panikkers”. Considerable interchange of teachers in fencing occurred between Ceylon and Malabar. In Ceylon these sciences are now extinct, with ancient records pertaining to them being restricted to a feq painted cloth, frescoes, sculpture and folk songs.
In Ceylon the term “Panikki Rala” was originally conferred upon members of these martial schools who had distinguished themselves in the gladiatorial arena, but later the title became applicable to anyone of outstanding courage and prowess in any form of physical activity. Usage examples in this sense included the noosing of elephants, and the gathering of rock bee honey.