29 November, 2022 |


Kalaripayattu- The Mother of all Martial Arts

Amidst the festivities of Diwali this year, Thiruvananthapuram hosted the inaugural edition of the National Martial Arts Mela. While the event included a plethora of dazzling performances, the resplendent jewel in its crown was Kalaripayattu, one of India’s most ancient martial arts.

History Originating in the state of Kerala, Kalaripayattu is believed to have been created by none other than Lord Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu, with the central tenet that knowledge of the discipline should be used to promote worthy causes, not selfish ones. The art has been and continues to be one of the distinguishing aspects of Keralite culture: historically, almost every Keralite, irrespective of caste or gender, received Kalaripayattu training as part of their education from the ages of 7-18.

Northern Kalari Modern Kalaripayattu is generally recognised as having two principal styles, the Northern (Vadakkan Kalari) and the Southern (Thekkan Kalari). The former considered the original form of Kalari, emphasises flexibility and elegance. Only after a trainee masters, the flexibility exercises are they taught offensive and defensive techniques, typically in a four-stage process consisting of Meipayattu (training stances), Kolthari (wooden weapons), Angathari (metal weapons) and Verum kai (barehanded combat).

Southern Kalari As opposed to its Northern cousin, the southern style of Kalari is more combative, preferring hand-to-hand combat and footwork over flexibility. Influenced by regional martial arts such as the Tamil Varma, it involves a combination of hand-to-hand combat moves (Chuvadu) and stances (Vadivu). After a student is experienced in hand-to-hand combat, they may move on to weapons and finally to Marmam or pressure points.

Death Touch The most experienced Kalari students were occasionally taught the art of Marmashastram, which deals with strikes of nerves or pressure points. Incredibly, it is believed that skilled Kalari warriors can kill with a single touch! Marmam is remarkably similar to another martial art technique, Dim Mak (Death Touch), which originated in China. Both disciplines target the body’s ‘vital points’, where the life force is believed to be concentrated.

Health benefits (takeaways): While it is true that Kalari, as stated in the previous paragraph, can be deadly, martial art is a two-edged sword with many benefits to physical and mental health. Not only does practising it improves flexibility, agility and bone and muscle strength, but it also improves blood circulation, strengthens the heart and lungs and improves posture.

Kalari is highly beneficial from a psychological standpoint as well. Not only does the martial art emphasise dedication and focus, its motto meyy kanavanam itself refers to the virtues of concentration and self-control. Furthermore, practising Kalari also improves one's patience and awareness of the environment.

Conclusion As one of India’s oldest surviving martial arts, Kalaripayattu has a unique place in our nation’s ancient and rich cultural fabric. Fittingly, it still enjoys phenomenal popularity today, being endorsed by figures as diverse as Kajal Aggarwal and the Central Industrial Security force.

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Picture Credits - Kerala Tourism

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