The history of angam is unclear and fragmented, due to the fact that it’s vast history and evolution in to what it is today, had never been recorded on an official treatise. However it is a privilege that the technical aspects of angam had been documented by angam warrior clans of Sri Lankan history. All that we have are inconsistent records of instances in history where it has appeared but briefly, only disappear from the books of history leaving gaps as well as a lot of unanswered questions.
Angam is believed to have been a part of the ancient culture of Sri Lanka that dates back to over 33000 years. It had evolved from generation to generation, standing the formidable test of time, and once became an indispensable part of the Sri Lankan way of life.
For centuries the country went through most turbulent eras that required it’s rulers to muster defenses with the help of their fellow countrymen, to battle disturbances that came from foreign lands as well as dissention from within.
The monarchy maintained a reasonable army that consisted of full time soldiers, but the majority of countrymen were ready to answer the call to arms in the name of king and country. Hence Masters of Angam were scattered throughout the land under whom civilians who engaged in different trade such as farming, pottery, also trained in the martial arts for mental and physical discipline as much as to be able to protect their country in a time of need. Out of these schools several managed to be outstanding and make the books of history.
The earliest indication of Angam is believed to have been inherited through the vast knowledge of King Ravana who believed to have ruled over ancient Sri Lanka some 6000 years ago. One of the more recent indications of the art stems from the war torn legend of king Dutugamunu who reign in 161 BC. King Dutugamunu was believed to have had Ten Great Warriors who have impressive tales woven around their fearless exploits with their king, were believed to have been experts of Angam. Moreover, the king himself is believed to have been an expert in the art, and had been a warrior king in the front line of the battle that ensued the liberation of “Pihit Rata” region of Sri Lanka.
With the end of the Anuradhapura kingdom in 1017, it spelled the end of ancient Sri lanka and the beginning of the medieval timed period. Throughout this time there are only sketchy references to kings and warriors who have displayed skills in the art.
Later with the beginning of Colonial Sri Lanka that ensued after the visit of Lourenço de Almeida in 1505, its citizens were once again called to arms to defend their country against foreign invasions. With the increased activities of the portages e invaders, 16th century Sri Lanka faced more turbulent times. During this era, history boasts of many endeavors of Sri Lankan warriors who defended their territories through savvy war tactics such as guerilla warfare and the use of varied weaponry.
The fabled battle of mulleriyawa in 1562 stands testament how Angam became an invaluable weapon to fend off invaders at the hands of heroic Sri Lankan warriors. After years of insurgency, the foreign invaders managed to divide and conquer the island through trickery. This spelled fatal to the Sri Lankan martial art world, as its new foreign rulers, the appointed governor of Ceylon Robert Brownrigg banned and outlawed the practice of Agam. Extreme measures were taken that included imprisonment, persecution, and an order to shoot in the knees of any known practitioner of the art.
In the outset of such times, many (gurus) masters of the art, along with its avid practitioners went underground, and employed various methods of concealing the art in plain sight. One such attempt was within the rhythmic movements of Sri Lankan Traditional dance, where hidden within the graceful bend of a knee or the flip of a hand was a deadly and effective technique of Angam.
During it’s more prevalent years, Angam was taught by two main schools namely Sudaliya and Maruwalliya, and history speaks of a long standing rivalry between the two clans. Be that as it may this was on of the very few known fact of angam. Besides that there were clans such at Kotte Clan, Ritigala Clan, Warnasuriya Clan, Padiwita Clan, and many more clans who has taken after the names of families and region where the art was well preserved with its true form and purity.
With the effects of globalization that remained true to our little island country as well, May martial arts from around the world began to seep in t the pop culture that was rearing it head. Attracted to the more aesthetic aspects of such arts many youngsters packed gyms and city halls of different masters who taught a variety of foreign martial arts. With such turn of events the traditional Sri Lankan martial art became more of a legend and mentioned only in tales told of ancient times. The art was thus passed on to a select band of practitioners who practiced and preserved is in utmost secrecy sue to its deadly nature. This situation forced true masters and their descendants to rise to the occasion and show the world what is true Sri Lankan Traditional martial Arts