Kalaripayattu – An Indian Martial Art originated in Kerala

Kalari training in kerala
Kalaripayattu in kerala

Kalarippayattu (Malayalam ,pronounced is a Dravidian martial art from Kerala, India. Possibly one of the oldest fighting systems in existence, it is practiced in Kerala and contiguous parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well as northeastern Sri Lanka and among the Malayalee community of Malaysia. The word is spelled variously as kalari payat, kalarippayatta, kalaripayatt and many others depending on the dialect and romanisation system used.

Kalarippayattu includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Regional variants are classified according to geographical position in Kerala; these are the northern style, the southern style and the central style. Northern kalari payat is based on the principle of hard technique, while the southern style primarily follows the soft techniques, even though both systems make use of internal and external concepts.

Some of the choreographed sparring in kalari payat can be applied to dance and kathakali dancers who knew martial arts were believed to be markedly better than the other performers. Some traditional Indian dance schools still incorporate kalari payat as part of their exercise regimen.

Regional variations

There are several styles of kalari payat. The three main schools of thought can be distinguished by their attacking and defensive patterns.

  • Northern style Kalari
  • Southern style Kalari
  • Central style Kalari
  • Training of Kalari

Students begin training at approximately seven years old with a formal initiation ritual performed by the gurukkal. On the opening day of the new session, a novice (mostly Nairs in the olden days) is admitted to the kalari in the presence of the gurukkal or a senior student and directed to place their right foot first across the threshold. The student touches the ground with the right hand and then the forehead, as a sign of respect. He is then led to the guruthara, the place where a lamp is kept burning in reverence to all the masters of the kalari, to repeat this act of worship. He then offers the master some money as dakshina in folded betel leaves and prostrates himself, touching the master’s feet as a sign of submission. The guru then places his hands on the pupil’s head, blesses him and prays for him. This ritual – touching the ground, puttara, guruthara and the guru’s feet – is repeated everyday. It symbolizes a complete submission to and acceptance of the master, the deva, the kalari and the art itself.

  • The kalari
  • Meithari
  • Kolthari
  • Ankathari
  • Verumkai
  • Marmashastram and massage