Kalarippayattu the revered physical culture
and traditional martial art form of Kerala (a region in South India) is
believed to have orginated in the early 4th century CE.
characterized by using strikes, kicks, grappling, and weaponry, as well as
healing techniques incorporating them with rigorous and disciplined training
under the strict guidance of a Guru (Teacher). This practice is
essential for learning this art which once had immense impact on the
socio-political institutions of medieval Kerala.
The name "Kalari" has been derived from the
Sanskrit word khaloorika, meaning
"the place where the art of wielding weapons and the moulding of body is
imparted." "Kalari" in common parlance means "gymnasium" and "payattu," "the
wielding of weapons and physique" and this is the physical space where the
art is practiced.
A good practitioner
will be able to feel any movement around him and in no time he will be
conscious of that moment to defend himself. There is a saying in
Kalaripayattu that, the body is your eye and the mind is your weapon. When
his level of Prana increases, he will be able to develop psychic powers. By
this he can stabilize his opponent through choondu marmas. The aim of kalari
payat is to have a good physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual
strength, than just killing another being. Its more than a self defence.
Bodhidharma was one among the famous person who utilized it.
Meithari is the beginning stage with rigorous body sequences involving
twists, stances and complex jumps and turns. Twelve meippayattu exercises
for neuro-muscular coordination, balance and flexibility follow the basic
postures of the body. Kalari payat originates not in aggression but in the
disciplining of the self. Therefore the training begins with disciplining
the physical body and attaining a mental balance. This is crucial for any
person and not necessarily a martial aspirant. This first stage of training
consists of physical exercises to develop strength, flexibility, balance and
stamina. It includes jumps, low stances on the floor, circular sequences,
kicks, etc. An attempt is made to understand and master each separate organ
of the body. These exercises bring an alertness to the mind, and this
alertness helps one understand some of the movements and processes of the
self defense sequences that are taught at later stages.
Once the student has become physically competent, he/she is introduced to
fighting with long wooden weapons. The first weapon taught is the staff
(kettukari), which is usually five feet (1.5 m) in length, or up to the
forehead of the student from ground level. The second weapon taught is the
cheruvadi or muchan, a wooden stick three palm spans long, about two and a
half feet long or 75 cm. The third weapon taught is the otta, a wooden stick
curved to resemble the trunk of an elephant. The tip is rounded and is used
to strike the vital spots in the opponent's body. This is considered the
master weapon, and is the fundamental tool of practice to develop stamina,
agility, power, and skill. Otta training consists of 18 sequences.
Once the practitioner has become proficient with all the wooden weapons,
he/she proceeds to Ankathari (literally "war training") starting with metal
weapons, which require superior concentration due to their lethal nature.
The first metal weapon taught is the kadhara, a metal dagger with a curved
blade. Taught next are the sword (val) and shield (paricha). Subsequent
weapons include the spear (kuntham), trident (trisool) and axe (venmazhu).
Usually the last weapon taught is the flexible sword (urumi or chuttuval),
an extremely dangerous weapon taught to only the most skillful students.
Historically, after the completion of 'Ankathari', the student would
specialize in a weapon of his choice, for example to become an expert
swordsman or stick fighter.
Only after achieving mastery with all the weapon forms is the practitioner
taught to defend themselves with bare-handed techniques. These include arm
locks, grappling, and strikes to the pressure points (marmam).
This is considered the most advanced
martial skill so the gurukkal restricts knowledge of marmam only to very few
students whom he trusts.It is claimed that learned warriors can disable or
kill their opponents by merely touching the correct marmam (vital point).
This is taught only to the most promising and level-headed persons, to
discourage misuse of the technique. Marmashastram stresses on the knowledge
of marmam and is also used for marma treatment (marmachikitsa). This system
of marma treatment comes under sidha vaidhyam, attributed to the sage
Agasthya and his disciples. Critics of kalari payat have pointed out that
the application of marmam techniques against neutral outsiders has not
always produced verifiable results.
Techniques (atavu) in kalari payat are a combination of steps
(chuvatu) and stances (vadivu). There are five steps and northern styles
have ten postures (Ashta Vadivukal). Each stance has its own style, power
combination, function and effectiveness. The eight postures of kalari payat
are based on animals.