Historically, the Silambam warrior used mainly three weapons for combat: the spear, sword and arrow. Today, ancient weapons of war have evolved into weapons of display, with skilled exponents of the art employing swords, knives, animal horns, fire and bamboo sticks to dazzling effect.
Traditionally, Silambam is passed down from master to student through years of rigorous daily practice. Young disciples remain under the constant guidance of their guru, as they work to achieve physical balance and the perfect mastery of body and space. Initially, all students are introduced to the art of Silambam through Kuthuvarisai, a martial art that uses only the bare hands and foot movements, and they must become proficient in this before progressing to the use of weapons. The aim is to achieve physical perfection through the practice of ‘Tharai Padam’ (floor lessons). These exercises work on increasing stamina and energy, toning muscles and strengthening the nervous system. A student may practise in this way for at least six months before progressing to Silambam itself.