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METRO WORKOUT

Horns for defence

It was an entirely new experience for PRINCE FREDERICK to observe a Maan Kombu workout



ACTIONS SPEAK… A ‘Maan Kombu’ demonstration in progress

Transmitting ideas to a neophyte is difficult. It gets worse if he can’t understand the instructor’s jargon. To be able to appreciate the nuances of ‘Maan Kombu’, I first have to buck through the language barrier. The art of w ielding Maan Kombu (deer’s horns) is a secret only Silambattam instructors know. They mostly come from villages, small towns and slums.

A. Manoharan, who is in-charge of the Chennai Corporation gym and playground at R.R. Colony, Jafferkhanpet, has taught hundreds of students but has never had someone as difficult to instruct as this reporter . I can say in my defence that it is a wholly new experience to me. Unlike instructors of internationally popular forms of martial arts I have done workouts with, Manoharan and his student Ramesh cut the talk. They just perform the art without uttering a word and I have to figure out how my body will benefit from each step. Their occasional jargon sails over my head.

An action where the horns held in both hands are swirled across the chest while moving back and forth, sideways and lifting the legs alternately, is called ‘bavala’ or a feint. During the course of the class, I learn that ‘Maan Kombu’ is an integral part of Silambattam, but is rarely used because of its deadly nature. Most of the steps are designed to block a stick attack with one horn, and attack with the other. Any serious attack with these horns can inflict mortal wounds. Horns are no longer made for this martial art and the ones in circulation belong to Silambattam instructors who got them many years ago. The ‘Maan Kombu’ set with Manoharan was handed down to him by his uncle 45 years ago. When Manoharan says they are the horns of a “surul maan”, I am not sure which animal he has in mind. Going by their shape, the horns are likely to have come from blackbucks.

Probably because deer or antelope horns can’t be used anymore without attracting punitive action, Silambattam instruction today has done away with ‘Maan Kombu’. Even Manoharan had not used the horns for long. He had to bring the dust-covered horns from his attic for the Metro Workout.

As Ramesh swirls the stick and Manoharan fends off each attack with a deft positioning of the horns, the two present a picture of dancers in action. In villages, it is common to have games where one competitor attacks with a stick while the other tries not to give away points with these horns. Such games make great workouts, because they don’t seem like one.

For details, call Manoharan 93828 21167.

Bottomline: ’Maan Kombu’ – a beautiful art form, a good workout, but ignored for reasons of safety and conservation.

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