Kalaripayattu, Kerala's popular ancient martial art - a legacy of 3000 years

Kalaripayattu, martial art of Kerala state. competitiveindia.com

Above image:  The training of Kalaripayattu an  ancient  martial art of Kerala state involves   rather holistic approach in which the mind and the body are trained in a systematic manner in tandem. Its purpose is  to help one develop control of his or her mind and  in tune with body movements with  weapons  playing secondary role. They act as an  extension of the body and help the fighter  achieve a high degree of perfection in both offensive and defensive combats. Normally, the first weapon used will be a stick and other weapons will be introduced as the training progresses. “Before beginning the routine training students  must  kneel and pray to the Almighty and to the floor of the gymnasium, making it a very spiritual process. The training emphasizes less aggression and more meditative approach. When  calm and composed you can dominate the opponent with quick reflection and discretion............................................ 

Kalaripayattu, martial art of Kerala state. comblogexpress.com

Kalaripayattu,  also called   Kalari, is an  ancient  martial art native to Kerala state, India.   Itn is believed to be the  oldest surviving martial art in India whose  history goes as far back as 3000 years.  The word Kalari means battle field.  This kind of marital art form is designed to confront enemies in the battle field with  suitable weapons and combative  techniques that have been passed on from generation after generations. With a pretty long legacy,  this old martial art - kalari is regarded as the  most scientific of all martial arts in the world.

Kalaripayattu,   a practical  old form of martial art  has certain techniques that seem to have  evolved over time and many new fighting styles have  been developed.   It involves   hand to hand combat  in a battle field.   Kalari has some fundamental   elements that Tae Kwon Do (weapons, for example) that could make it more effective in certain combat situations. 

 According to  Vadakkan Pattukal,   this type of martial arts must be learned for a worthy case and it is meant  for the advancement of one's own selfish interests or to dominate in a community. 

Kerala's martial art, Kalaripayattu. .shutterstock.com/

To become an effective Kalari specialist, it takes time. It is a time consuming process and you need commitments, concentration,  above all dedication with perfect  coordination of all. . A young student can learn the basic level skills within three months if he practices almost daily. To learn intermediate level skills, a student has to practice for six months.  As for  the advanced and senior levels it takes  at least one or two years to complete.  A number of South Asian fighting styles remain closely connected to yoga, dance and performing arts and kalari is no exception to it. . 

Kalari weapons, Kerala. in.pinterest.com

Kalari weapons, Kerala. in.pinterest.com

Kalaripayattu martial combat mode includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Warriors trained in this art  would use very light, and basic body armor, as it was difficult to maintain flexibility and mobility while in heavy armor.

This martial art form of Kerala makes you physically and mentally fit to face an opponent.  It was during the Portuguese colonial time after 1498 CE it gained much importance. The natives found their local weapons ineffective against the Europeans' artillery power.  When the East India company took control over part of Kerala, they banned the practice of this art in 1804 to check the guerilla type of attack against them  by the supporters of  Pazhassi Raja who  rebelled against the   British rule in Kerala. The Kottayathu War gave a serious head to the British army led by Arthur Wellesley (later Duke Wellington). Please refer to: https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2021/01/col-arthur-wellesley-and-his-defeat-in.html)   It led to the closure of many Kalari training centers. However, in the interior parts of Kerala,  some Gurus undeterred by such a setback,  continued to practice Kalarai and  they passed on the techniques to the next generation of people. 

In the later years in the 1800s stalwarts like Kottakkal  Kanaran  Gurukkal   preserved this art and breathed a new lease of life into it so that it could be useful to the posterity.   Presently one  S.R.D. Prasad Gurukkal is a well-known exponent of  Kallarippattu. He follows Arappukai style  which is synonymous with  this art. Son of legendary Chirakkal Sridhran Nair, Sri Prasad, a septuagenarian runs  Sree  Bharat Kalari  with about 100 dedicated students Also included are girls and kids who evince keen interest in this martial art.

The amazing thing about  Sree Bharat kaklari is here the training is free. A recipient of   Sangeet Natak Academy of the central government in 2015, way back  in 1981 he was featured in the National Geographic and in the documentary ''Way of the Malabar warrior.'' According many   practioners  Sree prasad is an expert in Otta, an effective  and complex weapon  made from seasoned Tamarind  wood. The subtle concept has been that this weapon represents  the chopped trunk of God Ganesa. The armed confrontation with this sort of weapon is symbolic of fierce battle battle between  wild animals like lion with powerful tuskers. 

Kerala state's martial art, Kalarpayattu(Kalari).mediaindia.eu

Like most Indian martial arts, Kalaripayattu  has unique  rituals and philosophies  based on   Hinduism.  The  art form is also  based on certain medical concepts  found in the ancient Indian medical text, the Ayurveda.  Practitioners of  Kalaripayattu  must have a fair knowledge of  pressure points on the human body and healing techniques that require the knowledge of  Ayurveda and Yoga.

The training in Kalaripayattu  is  according to the old Indian tradition of  guru-shishya system.   Kalaripayattu  has fundamental differences with other martial art systems  in the world in that weapon based techniques are taught first, and barehanded techniques are taught last. Incorporated in  Kalaripayattu.  are the techniques involving  elements of yoga tradition as well as finger movements in the nata dances.  There are two major styles  based on the regions in which they are practiced. They are the Northern style, or Vadakkan Kalari, and the Southern style, or Thekkan Kalari. But, they follow the basic concept. 

Kannur university, Kerala offers Diploma courses in Kalaripayattu  and the courses were designed by Guru Prasad.  The techniques are designed in such a way  the learners will  develop skills, physical flexibility  beefed up by gait  and  stamina. The  trainees are taught to look into the eyes of  opponents, a must during combat.  This will help the defenders to face the opponent with confidence.   The trainees also gain experience in  coordinating every element of  Kalari. 

Sree Guru Prasad published a book on ''Otta''in 2004, only book on Kerala's martial art '' Kalari.'' he was also a winner of Gurupoya Award in 2015. The Kalaripayattu Federation of India (KFI),  in Kozhikode, is another governing body of Kalaripayattu, as has been recognized by the Indian Olympic Association.  The Kerala Kalaripayattu   Association (KKA) in Thiruvananthapuram is also a governing body of the martial art which is recognized by the Kerala State Sports Council.  According to Guru Prasad learning martial art is a must nowadays as it improves agility and physical fitness and it is taught in his  center  regardless of castes, creed or religion and the trained person, particularly girls will benefit a lot in case they  face a tight  risky situation in the future.