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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.

Kalarippayattu is 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 (മെയ്ത്താരി)
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.

Kolthari (കോല്തരി)
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.

Ankathari (അങ്കത്തരി)
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.

Verumkai (വെറുംകൈ)
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.

Stances (Vadivu) Steps (Chuvatu)
Gajavadivu Elephant stance Vatta Chuvatu

Circular steps

Simhavadivu Lion stance Aakka Chuvatu

Inside steps

Asvavadivu Horse stance Neekka Chuvatu

Moving steps

Varahavadivu Wild boar stance Kon Chuvatu

Corner steps

Sarpavadivu Snake stance Ottakkal Chuvatu

One leg steps

Marjaravadivu Cat stance    
Kukkuvadivu Rooster stance    
Matsyavadivu Fish stance    
Mayuravadivu Peacock stance    
Weapons used

Pirambu/Sharira vadi



Short stick

Kurunthadi/Cheruvadi/Muchhan Stick Otta Curved Stick
Lathi Long stick Gadha Club/Mace
Paricha Buckler Katar Knife/Dagger
Vettukathi Machete Kuntham Spear
Urumi/Chuttuval Flexible Sword Churika Short Sword
Val Long Sword Ambum Villum Bow And Arrow
Venmazhu Axe Trisool Trident



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