Kalaripayattu is immediately identifiable with the state of Kerala. This form of martial art is the ancient, holistic, physical discipline combining the dynamic skills of attack and defense and the power of the secret knowledge of the body. This system also includes a scientific system of healing and therapy based on allied disciplines like Ayurveda.
Kalarippayattu, which is still in existence, is the only form of the most ancient traditional systems of physical, culture, self-defense, and martial techniques.
Khaloorika’ in the Sanskrit language means a place where weapon training is practiced. It is possible that the word ‘Kalari’ was derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Khaloorika’. The word ‘Kalari’ came into use in the Malayalam language for all such institutions that gave training in martial arts. There are institutions all over the country imparting training in different though similar forms of martial arts. These institutions have different names (such as Akhad, Garadi) because of the prevalent language in different regions. All these terms have sprung from the Sanskrit term ‘Khaloorika’. In the case of the ‘Kalari’, the system of physical and weapon training imparted came to be called ‘Kalarippayattu’.
History of Kalaripayattu
Kalaripayattu is the oldest existing martial art form. It goes back to more than 2000 years ago and it is said to have preceded Chinese martial arts. It is also believed that the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma took the knowledge of Kalaripayattu with him from India to China.
Kalaripayattu as a form of martial art is said to originate from the Dhanur Vedic texts that include all fighting arts and is described in the Vishnu Purana as one of the eighteen traditional branches of knowledge. In the Kalaris or such training schools, training in this martial art form is imparted by Gurukals or masters
This martial art form is indigenous to the state of Kerala. According to legend, Kalaripayattu was created by the warrior saint Parasurama, who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Parasurama is supposed to have thrown his axe into the sea and it is said that the sea withdrew till that point where the axe had fallen. The land of Kerala was thus born. Parasurama then established forty-two kalaris and instructed twenty-one masters of these kalaris in Kalaripayattu to protect the land he created.
Kalaripayattu is a traditional psycho-physiological discipline born of Kerala’s unique mytho-historical heritage. It is also a scientific system of physical culture training. The earlier forms of this martial art combine local Dravidian systems of martial practice such as ‘varma ati’ or ‘marma adi’. There is also an influence of Aryan Brahman culture, which migrated southwards towards the west coast of India into Kerala.
There are two schools of the Kalaripayattu technique – the Northern and the Southern. The Northern tradition or school stresses progressing from body exercises to combat using weapons and finally to combat without the use of arms. The Southern school places emphasis on footwork, movement and the ability to strike at vital points.
In Kalaripayattu, there are four stages of practice.
A sequence of body controlling exercises to master balance in air and on the ground
Involves training in wooden weapons
Involves combat training using metal weapons
Self-defence with bare hands. The student learns how to tackle an armed person, using only his limbs, and also learns vital points and locks
Your mastery of certain poses known as Chuvadukal in Kalarippayattu will bring you a step closer to perfecting this form of marital art. Basically, the Chuvadukal are divided into two –
Taking a firm pose by firmly positioning the feet on the ground
The position assumed for a leap or for a careful move so as to avoid an attack or for making a sudden move backward etc.
These two types of Chuvadu are again classified into four –
- Vatta Kaal Chuvadu
- Neetta Kaal Chuvadu
- Kone Kaal Chuvadu
- Otta Kaal Chuvadu
These Chuvadu have to be thoroughly practiced first as they feature in all the exercises in Kalarippayattu, both in ‘Mey Payattu’ and in the ‘Payattu’ using weapons.