Malaysia recently emerged runner-up in the World Silambam Federation's (WSF) 1st Silambam World Cup tournament held in Kulim, Kedah.

Astro Ulagam had a chance to catch up with the Persatuan Silambam Daerah Klang, which won a total of 18 medals - 6 golds, 1 silver, and 11 bronze, in the event which took place from October 3 to 6.

India emerged the overall champion.

A total of 105 students represented Malaysia in the tournament, which was also joined by athletes from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

Fifteen of the students were from the Klang Silambam club and the medals won were under various categories.

According to V Uthayakumar, who heads the Persatuan Silamban Daerah Klang, this is his students' second victory after placing second in the 4th Asian Silamban Championship, held last April in India.

They garnered 7 gold medals then.

Uthayakumar, 32, who has dabbled in Silambam for more than 20 years, said it was a "practical" form of martial arts.

"Some martial arts focus on the use of limbs, while some others, weapons.

"Silambam emphasizes on both the use of limbs and weapons for self defense. This is why it was widely used in India in wars, in the ancient times," said the engineer with the Public Works Department (JKR).

He conducts his classes twice a week, on weekends, at several spots around Klang.

Reception has improved

Asked about the reception by the Indian community towards their traditional martial arts, Uthayakumar said it has "improved."

"For example, I had 120 students in October last year, and now I have 250 students.

"This shows that Indians are more aware of Silambam and its unique values," he said.

Uthayakumar and his team also hold demonstrations at temples and events around Klang, and that helps with the exposure towards the sport, he added.

On the "criteria" to join his classes, he quipped: "There's nothing much, as long as a person is not really sick, and has interest to learn."

"Even those who are not in top shape, can join and we will make them healthy."

There are no age limitations for the lessons as well, with his students ranging from the age of 3 to 32.

Learn to defend self

M Sharanjitkumar, 18, is one of the gold medallists from the Persatuan Silambam Daerah Klang.

He won two medals in the combat and freestyle categories.

Having picked up the martial art since he was just 8, the teenager is now a senior-brown belt holder.

"It was a tough tournament in Kedah, especially the combat category where I had to first spar with an opponent from Perak, and then from India.

"I'm excited about the win and hope to perform even better in two tournaments upcoming in November and December," he said.

It is important for youth to pick up self-defence nowadays, he stressed.

"Now, violence, such as snatch thefts and attacks are rampant.

"Thus, it is important for everyone, especially the youth, to pick up martial arts.

"Not to attack but to defend oneself," he said.

Photo source: V Uthayakumar