Beside being called the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” by many, this tiny island has been called by many other names including “Serendib” meaning ‘Paradise’. The geographical layout itself speaks why the island may have been called ‘Paradise’. With golden beaches right round, the country has a wet zone to the west. A dry zone exists to the north and south and the mountains of the mid country give you the cool climes. Although the forest that has been covering most of the island has been considerably thinned down by man at present, the country is still proud of a number of National Parks which has a high Bio-diversity. These are a ‘must see’ for any visitor to the island with leopards, elephants and deer roaming freely in the parks.
The country has a recorded history of over 2500 years and stories of events passed down generations speak for over 3000 years. The mighty king Ravana, who is the only king spoken of prior to the recorded history began, was said to have some provinces in India too under his rule. Referred to as the golden age of Sri Lanka the good king was supposed to have built hospitals not only for humans but even for animals. “RAMAYANAYA” a book by the great Indian poet Valmiki  is based on the war waged by King Rama of India against King Ravana of Sri Lanka. It is interesting to note that as per the story King Rama’s brother prince Lakshman had come to Sri Lanka to learn the art of war from the mighty king Ravana.

The most famous battle in the history against the Indian invasions was the war between King Elara from India and King Dutugemunu of Sri Lanka in year somewhere between 161-137 BC  One may visit the ancient cities of ‘Anuradhapura’ and ‘Polonnaruwa’ and witness the glory of the past of a great nation. The island remained an independent sovereign nation until the western nations armed with guns of the new world commenced the invasion of the east in their quest for spices, wealth and land.

In 1505 a ship commandeered by Lorenzo De Almeida, a Portuguese, battered by a storm accidentally happened upon the island. It is stated that when Lorenzo reported that he has found ‘Serendib’ that they had a special celebration in Portugal. Thus commenced the  struggle for over 100 years by the Portuguese to colonize Sri Lanka. During this dark period for Sri Lanka the Portuguese advances into the island were time and again stopped with dire consequences to the invading armies. They could only hold some areas along the sea coast. Such was the invincibility of Sri Lankans. Finally in year 1656 with Portuguese power dwindling world over due to the rising of the Dutch naval powers, they were forced out of  Sri Lanka.

However the Dutch immediately took the place of the Portuguese and the people of the island were confronted with a new enemy. Thus the struggle to retain the sovereignty of the island continued for around a further 125 years with the Dutch until the British came along somewhere around 1782.

When the British too failed time and again to defeat the King’s armies and take proper hold of the island, they turned to other strategies to unsettle the power of the last kingdom which was in the city named ‘Senkadagalapura’ ( present ‘Kandy’ ). In the year 1815 on March 02 the British with the support of some treacherous locals who held high office in the king’s council managed to take charge of the whole island by treaty.

A splendid document is the said famous ‘Kandyan Treaty’. It promised the governing of the country to be as per the traditions that prevailed. However history proves that the promise was merely restricted only to the document. As mentioned earlier the prohibition of practicing our martial art was one of the first things that appear to have happened immediately after the British started to rule the country. Thus for the next 133 years i.e. till 1948 when the island was granted independence by the British Empire, a systematic campaign has been carried out to eradicate  the great traditional martial art which was the national pride of the Sri Lankans. However even after independence the expected revival of the art cannot be observed as the prohibition imposed by the British was continued by the new rulers. Finally in the year 2002 only steps were taken by the Government to recognize ‘Angam Kalawa’ as part of our heritage.

History of Angam

Sri Lanka, a country with a rich history that goes back for over 3000 years tells us of great sports that were enjoyed by the kings who ruled this wonderful land. Unarmed combat among champions had been the pinnacle of all events.   In the past ages, where the law of “survival of the fittest” prevailed, this tiny nation had to hold its own, mostly against the mighty India. The kings of India many a time thought to have this “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” to decorate their crowns and invaded the island. But invariably, each time, they were driven back. Such was the invincible might of the fighting techniques practiced by the people of Sri Lanka and they called it the ANGAM  SATAN KALAWA (fighting art named ANGAM ).

History reveals that under the directive of the kings in the ancient SRILANKA there were many ANGAM CLANS. Out of them “ SUDALIYA” CLAN and “MARUWALLIYA” CLAN which were formed in KANDY era were very famous. They were highly supported by the kings. But there were some other clans which practiced ANGAM  in other areas that had schools to provide the fighters to the king and the country required. Ex- Kotte Klan, Ritigala Clan,Warnasuriya Clan and heads of the  Angam schools held distinguished office in the king’s council.

However this great island fell under the British rule in 1815. It is important to mention here that was not after defeat by war, but due to falling pray to conspiracies planned by the British. Immediately thereafter the martial art schools appear to have been neutralized. Practice of martial art was prohibited and any who defied were persecuted.  Thus began the era in which, an art that protected the people of the island for over 2500 years, was being forced to oblivion.

Our ancestors who knew the value of this great martial art, in a last bid to save the knowledge, have then turned into secretly preserving it within the families. Although part of the knowledge was still lost, this fortunately had saved Angam Kalawa totally being lost to the future generations. We are lucky to have teachers, still among us, who have the knowledge to pass on techniques in unarmed combat, grips, stick and sword fighting and techniques of a variety of other weapons.

Historical References on Angam

  • MAHA WANSHAYAThis mentions about ANGAMPORA fighting which was used in the battle of king ELARA and KING DUTUGEMUNU.IT specially describes the fighting styles of GHOTAIMBARA AND THERAPUTHTHABAYA.
  • MAHA WANSHAYA: This mentions that king PARAKRAMABAHU enjoyed a martial art display done by his soldiers in 12th century.
  • CHULA WANSHAYA: This mentions that king 4 VIJAYABAHU enjoyed a fighting display of his army.
  • RAJAWALIYA: This mentions how KONAPPUBANDARA (1 WIMALADHARMASURIA) defeated a Portuguese swordsman by using ANGAMPORA.
  • MAGHA SALAKUNA KAWYA: This mentions about a fighting academy named as “AGE MADILLA” in Kandy in 15th century.
  • JUGAN HANDERSAN: This writer who served for Dutch in 1669 has mentioned about SRILANKAN fighters in his book on SRI LANKA.
  • DR.JOHN DEV: HE has mentioned about the “SUDALAIYA”CLAN and “MARUWALLIYA” CLAN who practiced ANGAMPORA.HE has specially mentioned about the deadly fights done in “URA LIDA” (Gladiator fighting arena)
  • H.C.P BELL: HE merely describes about a fighting clan which was started by a lady named “GALABODA KUMARIHAMI”.Then he reports about the battle of MULLERIYA.

There are many more  folk stories about this in various TEACHING CLANS around the island.