The first stages of silambam practice are meant to provide a foundation for fighting and to condition the body for the training itself. This includes improving flexibility, agility, hand-eye coordination, kinesthetic awareness, balance, strength, speed, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular stamina.
Beginners are first taught footwork (kaaladi) which they must master before learning spinning techniques and patterns, and methods to change the spins without stopping the motion of the stick.There are sixteen of them among which four are very important.
Footwork patterns are the key aspects of silambam. Traditionally the masters first teach kaaladi for a long time before proceeding to unarmed combat.
Training empty-handed allows the practitioner to get a feel of silambam stick movements using their bare hands, that is, fighters have a preliminary training with bare hands before going to the stick.
Silambam's main focus is on the bamboo staff. The length of the staff depends on the height of the practitioner. Ideally it should just touch the forehead about three fingers from the head, typically measuring around 1.68 metres (five and a half feet). Different lengths may be used depending on the situation. For instance, the Chedikuchi or 3-foot stick can be easily concealed. Separate practice is needed for staffs of different lengths.
Thattu padom : Sequences that can be practiced alone or with partners.
Adi-varisai : Solo routines.
Kuttu-varisai : The main component, progressing from preset partnered forms to free-sparring.
Pidi-varisai : Locking, tearing and breaking techniques, targeted at the joints, muscle and nerves.
Nilaigal : Holding a stance for long periods, even several hours at a time. This exercise is commonly compared to an idol or statue.