Kalaripayattu also known as Kalari is one of the most famous forms of Indian martial art which originated from Kerala. Kalari is one of the oldest forms of martial arts; its origin timeline is dated to the 3rd century BCE. Kalari is also referred as “The Mother of all Martial Arts” in the book of Arnaud Van Der Veere. The concept of Kalaripayattu is based on the ancient battlefield weapons (like sword, sphere, maces, dagger, bow and arrow) and combative techniques which are only found in India. The primary aim is the ultimate coordination between mind and body. The training of the Kalari begins with the traditional oil massage of the whole body. Kalaripayattu includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Kalaripayattu’s actual movement and technique originated from observing 8 animals which are lion, boar, cobra, elephant, tiger, horse, rooster and buffalo. Each animal represents a distinct pose or stance corresponding style, function and power.


History of Kalaripayattu:-

The word Kalaripayattu is derived from the Sanskrit word Khalurika which means “battlefield”, “threshing floor” or “military training ground”. As Kalaripayattu is the oldest form of martial art the evidence for the existence of the Kalari was in the form of palm leaf manuscript. The manuscript consisted of a drawing of fighters and the manuscript was found in Kerala, it is possible that it is several hundred-year-old. Dhanurveda is one of the oldest Indian texts which is based on Military Science that tells us that Kalari is one of the 64 art forms which exist in Indian Mythology. Difference between a martial art fighting style is its focus on self-discipline, respect and strong connection to greater spiritual power. Martial arts shows people how to retain these values even in the midst of battle so as not to slip into mindless brutality.

Bodhidharma is believed to have been born in Madra India. After his teachers passed he went to China to spread the teaching of Buddha in China as this was his masters last wish. Upon arriving in China in the area of shao he met the monk where he began to teach them the style of meditation or dhyana only to discover the monk did not possess the stamina of body. Then he taught them the breathing technique and Kalaripayattu and fighting exercise to help the monks to increase the Prana in their bodies. Prana is the vital energy which is present in all living bodies also known as Chi, Qui or ki. Practice of Kalaripayattu and the technique of meditation was brought by Bodhidharma to China. So Bodhidharma was given the title of “Father of martial arts”. Then Shao monk created the Shaolin temple to practice martial art known as Kung Fu.

Terminologies used in Kalaripayattu: -

  • Abiyassi: – Person who practices kalari.
  • Drishti: – Single physical point at which one focuses during practice.
  • Surya Namaskar:- It is a form of yoga which is used to warm up the body.
  • Kalugal: – Leg swings which are practiced to create flexibility for the back and legs.
  • Vadivu: – Animal posture can be performed both static and moving. These postures are performed by observing or mimicking the animal. Every posture represents an individual animal.
  • Weapons: – There are many weapons used in Kalaripayattu such as sword, mace bow and arrow. Some names of weapons are given below.
  • Kettukari: – Long Stick
  • Cheruvadi: –Short Stick
  • Katara: – Dagger
  • Kuntham: – Spear
  • Val: – Sword
  • Paricha: – Shield
  • Otta: – Horn Shaped Stick
  • Urumi: – Flexible Sword

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Characteristics of a Kalari practitioner are: -

  • Discipline
  • Respect for the Guru
  • Regular practice
  • Strong body & mind
  • Patience
  • Humility
  • Humanity
  • Self effort and courage
  • Search for peace
  • Respect for tradition
  • Patriotism

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