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Posted on Friday, August 18 - 2006

" I watch two elderly gentlemen in a sparring contest. The now famous state­ment "He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee" made about leg­endary boxer Mohammed Ali in Johnny Wakelins hit single in the 70's 'Black Superman' rings in my head. I continue to watch the two sixty something m..."

I watch two elderly gentlemen in a sparring contest. The now famous state­ment "He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee" made about leg­endary boxer Mohammed Ali in Johnny Wakelins hit single in the 70's 'Black Superman' rings in my head. I continue to watch the two sixty something men, each dressed in a white padded skinny and traditional 'Diya Katchiya', as they size the other up; floating like butterflies. I wait for the sting...it comes...so sudden that it takes me by surprise. One throws a quick punch. The other gracefully avoids it and entangles his adversary's hand in a lock, wraps his other arm around the assailant's neck and wrestles him down to submission. The two men then get up and smile at me. I have just been witness to the oldest and probably the only form of authentic Sri Lankan martial art: Angampora.

The two men giving the demonstration are two old hands at the sport. They are master Karunapala, who runs a school for Angampora in Mirihana and Rienzie Wickremasinghe. They both have practised and taught this ancient art for over five decades, and are determined to ensure that it does not die out or is subject to distortion in anyway. Both also hold the title of 'Panikkirala', the highest grade in Angampora, equivalent to the black belt in karate. Where did this art originate? What are the fundamental principles its practi­tioners follow? What future does it have? With these questions in mind Sports Weekly inquired about the masters and practi­tioners of this ancient and elusive art. The findings amazed us.

Its History: The exact date of the origin of Angampora is not known. What is known however is that it dates back to the Anuradhapura era to the times of the ancient Sinhala kingdoms. In those days it was the fighting technique of the noblemen. Legend has it that the army that came under the command of Sapumal Kumaraya comprised fighters skilled in this martial art. Angampora continued with the Sinhala kings with the transition of the kingdoms towards the southwest of the country. However, with each new king emerged new gurus and as a result the pedigree of the gurus of Angampora got diluted...


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