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hroughout history, humanity has designed and used ever more intricate and efficient weapons. Warfare has always led to innovation, but in some cases, this innovation has led to the creation of some very peculiar and questionable weapons. In this article, we will look at perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, namely the Urumi, a weapon that is both a whip and a sword but neither at the same time.

Martial arts

The topic of martial arts mostly brings forward images of people using their bodies in combat. Although, in most cases, this is true many types of martial arts exist wherein weapons are incorporated within their training. In our case, the Indian martial arts branch of Kalaripayattu has exactly this characteristic.

Kalaripayattu weapon demonstration. Wikipedia Commons

Kalaripayattu is not solely focused on the use of weaponry in combat. Those who choose to learn and practice this martial art have to go through countless hours of learning about the human body to understand how pressure points can be used to their advantage. This, as well as the teachings of Hinduism, which are incorporated within Kalaripayattu, make the martial art very hard to learn.

If this was not enough, once a student of Kalaripayattu is intimately acquainted with human anatomy, he can move on to one of the toughest challenges he could possibly face, a challenge reserved for only those who master all other tenets of martial art. The practice and mastery of the Urumi.

A weapon reserved for experts

The use of an Urumi being showcased to a crowd. Wikipedia Commons

The Urumi is a weapon that has many variants. The Indian variant is often comprised of a short hilt and a very flexible blade that measures around 150cm. These kinds of Urumis were most often used by martial arts practitioners in the northern regions of India.

Under the teachings of Kalaripayattu, this weapon would be used along with a shield. To safely and efficiently use this weapon, many years of practice would be required, as a small mistake could mean that the wielder could easily chop off a limb or, even worse, deal himself a fatal blow.

In the south of India, on the island nation of Sri Lanka, a similar weapon was developed under the same name but with different characteristics. In Sri Lanka, the Urumi was often comprised of a small hilt with up to 32, much smaller, flexible blades attached to it. These would often be dual-wielded by practitioners of Angampora, a branch of Sri Lankan martial art, as seen in the thumbnail of this article.

Many could say that these weapons are ineffective due to the amount of training it takes to wield one and the high risk of injuring yourself. Although these are valid criticism this view does not take into account the psychological damage done by such a weapon.

A highly trained user of such a weapon could not be able to defeat 10 combatants physically, but the fear such a weapon produced might allow an Urumi user to defeat these 10 combatants mentally. Although an old practice, many continue to learn how to wield this weapon. We can only hope that this tradition will continue, so we do not lose a precious part of Indian history.

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