Kalarippayatt- Martial Art of Kerala

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  1. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Kalarippayatt, Martial Art
    of Kerala
    by Phillip B. Zarrilli [​IMG]

    At the start of the sixteenth century, Duarte Barbosa, one of the earliest Portugese
    to arrive in Kerala, a state in southwest India, provides a description of Kalarippayatt
    (meaning "place of exercise," referring to the technical system of training in its entirety.

    Kalari by itself means gymnasium or fencing school.) which although quaint is never-
    theless still an apt account of this indigenous martial art system:
    The more part of the Nairs, when they are seven years of age, are sent
    to schools, where they are taught many tricks of nimbleness and
    dexterity, there they teach them to dance and turn about and to twist
    on the ground, to take royal leaps and other leaps, and this they learn
    twice a day as long as they are children, and they become so loose
    jointed and supple that they make them turn their bodies contrary to
    nature; and when they are fully accomplished in this they teach them
    to play with the weapon to which they are most inclined, some with
    bows and arrows, some with poles to become spearmen, but most
    with sword and are ever practising
    ... Longworth Mansel Dames, ed.,
    The Book of Duarte Barbosa, Vol. II.

    Initial Western reaction to Asian martial arts often takes the form of awed statements at the mastery of sheer physical technique. What Barbosa does not mention about Kalarippayatt, and what is often not recognized as lying beyond the amazing "royal leaps" of such systems, is the highly integrated fusion of mental/visual concentration with the physical technique. Psycho-physical integration is the coordination of concentration, energy flow, and physical technique. Kalarippayatt, still taught today by a few gurukkals (teachers) in Kerala, could be part of any Western training program. Kalarippayatt leads to muscle tone but not to hyperextension. The leg exercises,first singly and then in combinations, develop various skills; flexibility through gradual extension of the muscles; balance through centering and subtle body weight shifts from one exercise to another; and control through mastery of the complex leg movements themselves. The sequences further develop total body control as well as stamina, concentration, and focused energy flow. There is a total flow of energy choreographed in continuing movements through use of the feet, legs, back, hands, arms, head and eyes. The weapons system continues to build upon the preliminary mastery of the body, integrating exercises, poses, steps, jumps, kicks into immediate reflex responses demanding absolute visual and mental concentration. Kalarippayatt demands daily practice, persistence, and encouragement. Progressing at his own rate, the student is encouraged and assisted by the teacher in overcoming the particular physical problems, tension points, and blocks to visual focus/concentration. As a system in which the student must preliminarily perfect a predetermined sequence of physical exercises and weapons techniques, Kalarippayatt at first appears restrictive. But through the gradual mastery of the form itself the performer's mind and body are freed into newly-found balance, control, and flexibility combined with directed energy flow. Even in its early stages of training, Kalarippayatt has an intrinsic interest for the student that comes, quite simply, from the challenge of mastering day-by-day his own body as well as advancing through a graded system. Background Kalarippayatt has been basically the same since the twelfth century. It synthesizes elements of the ancient all-Indian sciences of war (Dhanur Veda) and medicine (Ayurveda), at the same time transforming these through its own indigenously developed techniques of weapons use, exercises, and massage. At the height of its influence from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries-Kalarippayatt was a regular part of the education of Nair youth (the Kerala military caste), who began training at the age of seven. But the system was not restricted to the military caste. Its practice quickly proliferated across caste and religious boundaries with some Muslims, Christians, and Tiyyas (low caste Hindus) becoming well known graduates of their local community's kalari.

    The martial art was so integral to medieval Kerala society that aspects of the system were woven into cultural life in such widely diverse performance forms as Kathakali dance-drama, Teyyam ritual, Christian Cavittu-Natakam dance-drama, Kolkali stick dance, Parisakali and Velakali sword and shield dances, and the Namboodiri Brahmin Yatrakali ritual-dramatic performance. Popular heroes and heroines trained in Kalarippayatt became the subjects of folk songs, some of which are still sung in the fields today. (These folk songs, the Northern Ballads, provide romantic stories for many Malayalam films. A 1977 film, Unniarca, is a typical glorification of late medieval heroes and heroines which distorts the practical function and austere beauty of Kalarippayatt.) The influx of European colonialists attempting to monopolize Kerala's rich spice trade brought increasing dependence upon firearms. The Kerala warriors, trained in a system designed for individual combat or duels, resisted the waves of Europeans struggling for control. With the advent of British supremacy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Nairs were prohibited from training in their traditional disciplines, practicing their traditional role as warriors, and from carrying arms. It was only through the care of several gurukkals that the practice of Kalarippayatt was saved from extinction in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today the art is taught by a few teachers. Students today range from eight to sixty years, though the majority are between sixteen and thirty, and are drawn from a wide variety of socioeconomic positions in society. In spite of the worldwide attention focused upon Kathakali, the form most directly influenced by Kalarippayatt, the martial art has remained relatively unknown outside of India. Kathakali, which evolved during the seventeenth century, drew directly from the martial art its physical training of the body, unique system of massage with the feet (uliccil), distinctive battle choreography, and emphasis on the heroic rasa. The first actors of the dance-drama form were the kalari trained Nair warriors. These actor warriors transformed Kalarippayatt body exercises, positions, floor patterns, etc. to fit the unique esthetic style and body position of the evolving dance-drama: the splayed knees, use of outsides of the feet, etc. (While the vigorous physicality of Kathakali is drawn from Kalarippayatt, its esthetically intricate use of hand gestures (mudras) and facial gesture is drawn from Kerala's Sanskrit temple-drama, Kutiyattam.) Naturally, the Kalarippayatt system was designed to produce the proficient warrior.

    The maxim, "the weapon is only an extension of the body" (still told to students today), illustrates the close connection between preliminary physical training and advanced weapons practice. The primacy of physical culture is asserted from the first day of training when the student is introduced to an "alphabet" of leg exercises. Weapons training only comes after the student has gained proficiency in physical technique. The degree of advancement is closely monitored by the teacher who judges each student's progress in balance, control, flexibility, stamina, and immediacy of reflexes. Development of the proper mental attitude is just as important as physical mastery. Kalarippayatt has no highly articulated philosophical system. While the art is not selfconsciously yogic, mystical, or meditative, it does foster an attitude of reverence and respect for the individual's body/mind, for the tradition, for the deities who are believed to guard and protect the individual, and for the gurukkal's knowledge. At its best, the practice of the system nurtures in the student a fusion of mind and body, developed through concentration of attention, strict visual focus, and the individual's striving for mastery of the form's complexities; a sense of humility when the student realizes the skill, patience, and perseverance needed to become a master of the form; and a sense of well-being coming from the inner strength based on the individual's awareness that he need fear no one. The teacher must have the innate ability to perceive the student's attitude that provides the foundation for progress in the system. If the teacher thinks that the student might misuse certain techniques, he will refuse to impart some of the more "secretive" elements of the system. Reverence and respect are absorbed more from the environment in the kalari and the teacher's approach to the discipline than from the
    system of instruction per se.

    The Kalari Building

    The cocoon-like kalari, enclosed against monsoon rains, drafts, and the tropical rays of the sun, provides a marked contrast to the outside world. The kalari raditionally serves the function of both training center and temple. The deities of the kalari play an integral part in the daily life of both teacher and students. In palm-leaf family manuscripts, strict requirements are set down regarding the site, dimensions, and construction of the kalari. In the past there were two types of kalaris, the payatt kalari, for practice and training, and the ankam kalari (somewhat larger), for mock fights or duels. Although kalaris varied in exact size, all were to be twice as long as wide, with the height of the roof the same as the width. All kalaris were to be built by digging 1 kol (21/2 feet) into the ground. The earth dug out is used to build up the walls to a height of approximately five feet, or until the earth is used up. Except for the three-foot-wide opening on the eastern side, which consists of a stairway leading down into the enclosed practice area, the kalari is contained on all four sides by the earthworks. The roof is constructed from plaited coconut-palm leaves, supported by a bamboo framework. The kalari's pit-like construction provides a draftless atmosphere with a constant temperature. The deities of the kalari range in number from seven to as many as twenty-one, depending upon the gurukkal's family tradition, or the community's local traditions. The presiding deity of the kalari, kalari bhagavati (the deity of war), is located in the kannumula or southwest corner of the kalari, where she is lodged on the puttara, a raised platform of seven tiers . Other deities often include nagabhagavati (serpent god), ganapadi (elephant god), the pitham or tripod (representing past gurus), and antimahalan and vettaykkorumakan (incarnations of siva).

    The ritual life of the kalari centers around daily worship of the deities, as well as special observances on days auspicious for the particular kalari. The gurukkal is revered as the direct representative of the deities, the living embodiment of the entire line of gurus represented by the pitham. As custodians of the art of war, the gurukkal is entitled to the same respect as the deities, a tradition popularly believed to extend to the teachers of the Dhanur Vedic tradition, such as Drona (the Pandavas' teacher in the Mahabharata). The integral link between ritual life and daily training is even found in the physical exercises. The first body exercise sequence taught-the first sequence constructed from the beginning exercises-is the puttara tol . When performing this exercise the student is worshipping the deities with his body, a physical manifestation of the reverence for the traditions of the kalari, the line of gurukkals, and the protection from injury given by the deities. (The puttara tol sequence is essentially the same pattern used for mutual "salutes" prior to any combat sequence in the kalari (or in duels) with otta or sword and shield. The practice of mutual salutes illustrates the feudal nature of duels in Kerala.)

    Kalari Cikitsa: The Medical System

    As the kalari gurukkal is priest, so is he healer or physician. Traditional training of the gurukkal includes specialization in indigenous medical preparations and techniques for preventive health care and treatment. Built on the all-Indian Ayurvedic medical system, kalari cikitsa is an indigenously developed branch of treatments for kalari related injuries such as bruises, bonefreaks, wounds, etc. As physician the gurukkal treats injuries to the body's marmas (vital spots), a system ultimately applied in combat-thrusts, blows, cuts are aimed at these most vital spots of the opponent. (The concept of marmas is developed in classical Ayurvedic practice through the surgical methods of Susruta, as recorded in his Samhita, the major source of Ayurvedic knowledge of surgery and anatomy. Marmas developed as a concept of regional anatomy which overcame the defects of an inadequate system of dissection. Susruta defined the marmas as "Firm unions of mamsa (muscles), sira (vessels), snayu (ligaments), asthi (bones), or santhi (bone-joints)... and these naturally and specifically form the seats of life (prana)." (Ancient Indian Medicine by P. Kutumbiah. There are usually 107 marmas listed. In Kalarippayatt 64 of these are considered the kula or most vital marmas and therefore play a role in martial training.) Treatment includes first aid for kalari or battlefield injuries, methods of extended care, and the special system of massage, uliccil.

    The gurukkal uses the massage for three different purposes: (1) treatment of specific injuries, such as a sprain; (2) body control and flexibility in training; (3) yearly massage for general health purposes. Massage may be with hands, feet, forearms, or in combination, depending upon the purpose of the massage, diagnosis of condition, age, physique, and the patient's general health. Indigenously prepared medicinal oils are applied to the injured area prior to massage, or to the entire body for the Kalarippayatt training or general health massage. The oil preparation used in kalari training, Kalarimukkutt, consists of four parts gingely oil, two parts castor oil, one part ghee, three special herbs, three dried ingredients, for a total of nine elements, which are boiled and cooled before application. Applied to the entire body daily during martial training, this oil enters through the pores of the skin as the student perspires. Kathakali uliccil is given only with the feet except for the head and face areas. It has a slightly different combination in oil preparation: cocoanut oil, castor oil, buffalo ghee in equal proportions, mixed with a condiment (uluva, ground into a pasty substance), all of which is boiled and cooled before application. The Kathakali oil, valukk (literally "slippery") is said to give slightly more emphasis to the flexibility needed for form, while the kalari oil is designed to give maximum flexibility combined with strength; therefore, the difference in ingredients.
    It should be noted that both the kalari and Kathakali oil preparations are passing out of active use, especially in daily practice, due to the expense of traditional preparations.

    Today students in both the martial art and dance-drama usually use gingely oil, readily available in any village market. Traditionally uliccil lasted the first 14 days of training each year. Today, due to limited time for training, only a few advanced students receive the massage yearly. In the past training began with the onset of the monsoon, during June-July and lasted for two-four months. Occasionally those selected to become teachers trained throughout the year. During these first 14 days, and for the 14 days following massage, the student was instructed to refrain from sexual intercourse, not to sleep during the daytime, not to keep awake at night, and to include milk and ghee in his diet. On the 15th day the student was instructed to take a laxative to purge his system. The period of massage was always the most intensive part of training. This unique synthesis of oil, massage, and physical exercise allow the student to develop maximum balance, control, and flexibility. Today students begin training on selected auspicious days and may study throughout the year at a few kalaris. Techniques During the period of preliminary training the student is introduced to the most basic level of the Kalarippayatt system, an alphabet of body poses, steps, and leg exercises.
     
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    This alphabet of physical movements is taught in increasingly complex sequences as the student's proficiency increases. At first individual words, then sentences, will be constructed out of the alphabet of movements. Each day of kalari training begins with the recitation of this alphabet.Leg Exercises (kal etupp) First there are eight leg exercises. The student begins on the eastern side of the kalari and moves toward the west (the gurukkal's side), alternating right and left leg kicks of various types. From the first lesson the student is told to fix his eyes on a point at the opposite end of the kalari. This starts his training in full mental concentration and visual focus, eventually applied in weapons practice. Each leg exercise, although maximizing leg flexibility, is performed with the entire body. All kalari exercises bring the entire body into play.

    The key method for achieving flexibility and body involvement is relaxation. Beginning Kalarippayatt students usually have tension-filled bodies, exaggerated by attempts to imitate the flexibility of advanced students. Students must be assisted in understanding that relaxation of the muscles, limitation of extraneous movement, and removal of "blocks" to extension produce flexibility. The only tension point sometimes allowed is the small of the back. This is illustrated in the elephant pose . This position needs tension for maintenance of the pose against an opponent using weapons. The first leg exercise taught is nerkal, or the forward straight leg kick. The student stands on the eastern side of the kalari with the left foot forward . Raising his arms, he interlocks the fingers, extending the arms fully, knuckles in an inverse position facing the head. (The inverse knuckle position, with hands locked, is for preliminary balance during beginning training. After sufficient mastery, the hands are freed for fuller coordination of total body movement in each exercise.) From this basic position, beginning with the right foot, the right leg is kicked forward, and raised as high as possible. Ultimately the leg should be flexible enough for the knee to touch the shoulder and the hand to touch the extended foot. As the foot descends along the arc of the kick, the momentum of the descending leg is allowed to extend the leg behind the body, and again to swing forward in fron to the body. This forward movement becomes a step forward with the right foot. As this right step is taken, the left leg is then kicked exactly as the right. The alternation between right and left kicks moves the student across the kalari, east to west. The verbal commands given by the teacher to instruct the student, are simply, "valatu nere, itatu nere," or "right kick, left kick." The fifth leg exercise, iruttikal, or the "sitting-back-kick," is actually an extension of the first leg exercise, nerkal. Beginning exactly as above, the right straight leg kick is executed. However, as the leg descends along the arc of the kick, its backward movement behind the body stops as the right foot is planted in an extended position, perpendicular to the line of the left foot . As the right foot is planted in this position, the momentum of the downward swing provides continuous momentum for sitting backward . The sitting movement is executed by keeping the body weight over the left leg. Once the right foot is planted, it is not moved. From the sitting position, the exercise is continued by bringing the body weight forward over the left leg returning to the original position. The right foot is then brought forward, takes a step, and the left leg is kicked as in the straight leg kick. The exercise continues with the left leg extended backward, sitting back, body weight over the right leg, etc. The verbal commands for this exercise are "valatu nere etutt irutti, itatu nere etutt irutti," or "right kick, sitting back; left kick, sitting back." Body Control Exercise Sequences (Meippayatt) When the student has mastered the beginning leg exercises, he is introduced to body control exercises. There are a total of 12 regular exercises, plus two specialized patterns, pakarcakkal meippayatt (a show piece of Kalarippayatt) and puttara tol (the worship of the deities). [Although meippayatt is technically the most correct name for the body exercise sequences, they are also variously called meyyorukkam (body preparation) and meivalakkam (bodyflexibility) The first five regular sequences emphasize the legs and lower half of the body, drawing on the eight leg exercises in various combinations. 6 and 7 stress the hips and upper torso, while 8-12 concentrate on the hands, arms, and upper body-movements applicable in unarmed offense and defense. The 6th and 7th meippayatt sequences concentrate on development of the hips and upper torso. The 7th sequence is perhaps the most difficult of all 12. It involves acrobatic twists, leaps, and jumps. Some of the movements in this sequence include a circling body back bend, combined with jumps , a full back bend , and a forward spiraling jump.

    The student is also introduced to the other two elements in the basic Kalarippayatt alphabet, poses (vativukal or nilakal) and steps (cuvat). A total of eight poses and four steps are taught as needed in the graded series of meippayatt. The poses are not simply external body positions-they are attitudes to which and from which the body moves for offensive and defensive purposes. Each pose is filled with potential energy for further movement. The first pose learned is Gajavativ, or the "elephant pose" ( . This pose is the beginning stance for each of the meippayatt. The potential for movement found in the poses is illustrated by the serpent pose (Sarpavativ) which allows for a quick, low reversal of body position in a full 180 degree turn. These eight poses had full power only when they united three elements: (1) the external body movements; (2) the repetition of sacred mantra associated with the pose; and (3) the execution of breathing techniques associated with particular poses. The mantras and breathing techniques were entrusted to only those students in whom the gurukkal placed his absolute trust. This threefold mastery of poses is largely forgotten today. A few gurukkals know some of the mantras and breathing techniques, but they are not practiced in combination. The third set of kalari "letters" are the steps (cuvat), taught along with the first body exercise sequence. All movements of the feet and legs are from one of these four basic positions to another. Vattacuvat, or the feet-parallel position, is illustrated in the elephant pose . Nittacuvat is illustrated in the serpent pose , where one foot is forward, with body weight over the forward foot, and the opposite foot is extended backward, perpendicular to the line of the forward foot. Individual meippayatt sequences are taught gradually. The student is first given the outer "shell" of the entire sequence, including instruction in poses, steps, leg exercises, and any special turns, jumps, or leaps required by the specific sequence.

    Each body exercise sequence has a full set of vayttari or verbal commands, recited by the teacher, which lead the student through each of the sequences. Through repetition the sequence is mastered and the speed and increased. Speed was traditionally a test of the stamina and agility needed in combat. Weapons Practice As the student practices the leg exercises, progressing through the beginning levels of the 12 graded body exercise sequences, the gurukkal introduces him to the use of weapons. Students advance at their own pace. It may take a full year or more of repetition of leg exercises and the first body exercise sequence before the student is considered ready to take up the first weapon, the kettukari or staff. Certain principles applicable to all kalari weapons techniques are taught in preliminary staff training. From the first time he takes the weapon in his hands, the student is instructed to maintain continuous direct eye contact with his opponent. This direct visual focus demands utmost concentration. There is no necessity for watching the opponent's movements, for they will always be within the wider circle of peripheral vision. As long as proper body position is maintained, the opponent can never move out of the direct line of visual focus. With proper training, the body is expected to respond automatically to the opponent's thrusts, cuts, etc. At advanced stages of combat, body and weapon movements are too swift to be followed by the eyes, so the individual has to understand the opponent's strategy, anticipating his movements by watching his eyes. The student is also taught that excess force is unnecessary in the wielding of weapons. The most important factor is to maintain total control of the body, and therefore of the weapon as an extension of the body. With correct body position, control, stamina, and agility, strength becomes secondary.

    The kettukari involves the simplest sequences for attack and defense of any of the kalari weapons. Although valuable on its own, the staff also serves as an introduction to the spear. The kettukari, like all weapons except the otta, has 12 separate sequences (atav) taught in a graded series. The staff is a flexible, solid cane pole about one inch in diameter, and generally between five and six feet in length. Ideally the staff should be one hand span taller than the individual using the weapon. The staff is thoroughly oiled before use so that it can slide easily through the hands. Eventually the student is introduced to a variety of defensive and offensive maneuvers, from the underhand stomach thrust to the two-handed swinging cut at the opponent's ribs. As with all kalari weapons, progress in mastering basic techniques is coupled with increasing speed. Due to its small size and light weight, the ceruvati(literally, "short stick") calls for much greater precision and quickness in use than the staff. The ceruvati is generally the second weapon learned. Advanced students and masters are able to exchange up to 100 blows per minute. The ceruvati demands close-quarter exchanges with the opponent, and therefore calls for more agility and total body use than does the staff. It prepares the student for use of the otta as well as the dagger. The ceruvati is usually made of resilient tamarind wood and is about 22 inches in length, tapering from the thicker handle end (11/2-13/4 inches in diameter) to the tip (1-11/8 inch in diameter). Cuts, thrusts, and blows are generally delivered to the opponent's head, ankles, and occasionally hands. Later sequences will add other thrusts, such as to the stomach. Cuts and blows are delivered either over the head or from the shoulders, with single or double hand grips. Because of the resiliency of the wood, the student is instructed to utilize the rebound power of the stick with each consecutive blow exchanged, producing, with practice, a continuous motion from one blow to the next. 24

    The otta is 18-24 inches long, 21/2 inches wide at the handle, tapering to 11/2 inchesat the tip and made of tamarind wood. The unique double curve of the otta leads to two separate grips, the double hand grip with the first curve pointed down (the eastern or student position), and the single-hand grip, first curve up (western or teacher position). The otta was most likely the master weapon of a few North Malabar kalari families. It was not a part of all systems of kalari training. For those families that utilized the otta in their own system of training, it became indispensible to the kalari expert's training. The otta requires maximum flexibility, balance, and body control. All the blows, cuts, thrusts, and locks taught in otta practice can ultimately be applied in hand to hand combat with fists, forearms, hands, and elbows. Throughout otta training and in combat, the body is kept close to the ground. In otta practice, the weapon actually becomes an extension of the arms. The otta requires intimate knowledge of the kula (most vital) marmas. In practice, the most advanced student will be taught to apply the otta to the 64 kula marmas on the opponent's body. The centrality and complexity of the otta as the master kalari weapon is illustrated by the fact that it consists of 18 sequences, rather than the usual 12. Gaining mastery over the otta ultimately means complete mastery over the entire body, knowledge of and application of blows to the marmas, and mastery over the most complex and extensive set of duel sequences. Once the otta is learned, the master can apply methods of otta practice to any other weapon.

    Generally only the most trusted of the kalari students are taught the ultimate application of the otta in hand to hand combat. While the otta is the focal point of the Kalarippayatt system, sword and shield (val and parisa) use is the culminating point of kalari training. Sword and shield were the major combat weapons of the medieval Kerala soldier. Unlike Western fencing, with its erect body position, kalari sword and shield technique maximizes total body involvement. The flexibility and control of the body developed throughout the training gives the individual master the ability to hide his entire body behind a shield only 12-18 inches in diameter. The use of sword and shield demands absolute coordination, as well as visual and mental concentration. Sword and shield training produces the ability simultaneously to defend with the shield against an opponent's cuts, while executing sword cuts at the opponent from a basic -eight configuration. During the entire exchange, the student is expected to maintain direct visual contact with the opponent. Other weapons in the system include the gada (mace), the heavy, unwieldy threefoot-long wooden club, made famous by Bhima of the Mahabharata; the spear; the dagger, a double-edged weapon used for both offensive and defensive purposes; and the urumi, a flexible sword three to four feet in length and sharp on both sides (traditionally used in mass combat). The system also teaches unarmed and hand-tohand combat.

    Kalarippayatt, like many of India's performing arts, is in a precarious situation today. Unlike other martial systems which have become lost in the post-British colonial period,Kalarippayatt still has a few master-gurukkals who preserve its traditional techniques and lore. Unfortunately some less than responsible teachers allow students to progress too quickly and to participate in public displays of combat before they have fully mastered their weapons. The best teachers, such as Gurukkal Govindankutty Nair at the C.V.N. Kalari in Trivandrum, preserve the necessary balance between advancement and tradition, allowing students to progress only when ready both mentally and physically.Students under such capable teachers are few in number and are largely part-time. The vast complexities of the system require a minimum of four to six years full-time study to master. Without at least a few full-time students capable of learning the entire system, Kalarippayatt will lose many of its most important techniques.

    Kalarippayatt is a unique training system for both the East and West today.There is training leading to balance, control, and flexibility of the mind and body. At various stages the student will overcome blocks in balance which have previously prevented proper execution of a kick; he will discover gradual extension; and he will encounter a new ease in continuous motion through focused energy flow. Psycho-physical integration becomes his foundation for self-awareness and for performance. No student of Kalarippayatt ever reaches the end, for the system lies before him infinite in its demands. But through the execution of the system the student eventually finds his own freedom.

    Phillip Zarrlil, a member of the Theatre faculty at UCLA where he teaches Kalarippayatt, was trained in this form under Guruklal Govindankutty Nair in Trivandrum, Kerala while on a Fulbright Fellowship.

    Source: The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 23, No. 2, Performance Theory: Southeast Asia Issue
     
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    KALARI PAYATTU​

    World’s oldest martial art for a perfectly healthy human mind, body and soul that possesses extreme physical and mental strength.


    Kalari is the Malayalam (language spoken in Kerala) word, for a special kind of gymnasium, where the martial art known as Kalari Payattu, is practiced. It had its origins in the 4th century A. D. A special feature of Kalari is training in 'Marma', the art of knowing and activating the 107 energy points in the body.
    These vital points (called marmas) are used for correcting the body's energy flows and replenishing its resources. Kalari therefore aims to make the practitioner not just a warrior but a self-healer, and one who can also help others with his healing powers.
    Kalaripayattu evolved through centuries and is based on the idea of a sound mind in a sound body. Among the present day martial arts of the world, that of Kerala, (a state in the southern most part of India) is named Kalaripayattu and it can be considered as the most ancient and comprehensive. Legends say that around 525 AD an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharama traveled to China and preached at the Shaolin temple. On finding the monks weak and listless, Bodhidharama taught them the eighteen hands of Buddha - a special set of exercises and from this evolved the Chinese art of Shaolin Boxing. These eighteen hands of Buddha were said to be derived from the eighteen adavukal (adavu = technique), which form the base of the Vadakkan or northern style of Kalarippayattu.

    Kalarippayattu is considered as the most comprehensive of all the martial art traditions because it has:

    * An excellent system of physical training.
    * Very effective self defense techniques - both armed and unarmed.
    * A great system of vital pressure points based system of fighting and treatment using the principles of Ayurveda.
    * A comprehensive guide to attaining the flexibility and desired physical and mental strength required to practice this martial art.
    * It incorporates and links with ayurveda and has developed its system of healing and treatment for injuries that may arise as a result of the practice of Kalari.
    * A great philosophy based on the Vedic culture of India.


    INDIAN SCIENCES KALARI, YOGA AND AYURVEDA and their connection -

    Since the martial art primarily dealt with warfare, injuries and wounds were inevitable and hence the science of kalari incorporated effective treatments from ayurveda for cure of wounds, burses, dislocations and fractures. Healing has always been an important part of martial arts. You cannot be a fighter without knowing how to heal your wounds. Treatments in Kalari make use of Ayurvedic herbs and herbal preparations and provide instant relief.
    In addition, the practice of this martial art requires great deal of body flexibility, physical strength, extremely high levels of mental concentration and a synergy of the mind, body and soul to be able to attack and defend the body with extremely fast reflexes. The requisite physical fitness is acquired by making use of a disciplined regimen of yoga techniques. These yoga asanas being used for improving the flexibility have come to be called the “Kalari yoga”. The body is prepared for improving the flexibility by making use of Uzhichil or massages with specially prepared oils (herbal extracts are added) which also provides an effective treatment for rheumatic complaints and nervous disorders. The mental strength, focus and concentration are improved by means of meditation, pranayama and yoga practice. Hence, Kalari has incorporated kalari yoga and Kalari ayurvedic treatments (including massages) too.
    Kalarickal Ayurveda provides Kalari yoga and Kalari treatments including marma chikitsa.


    Marma Chikitsa – part of Kalari treatments

    Marma shastra, is a part of the ancient Indian martial art form that manipulates vital points in the body, can be used both for self-defense and healing. The knowledge attained by the sages and yogies of ancient India, about the 107 vital points led to the development of this unique treatment method.

    Marmas are conjuction points of consciousness in the body. Their most common application is in Ayurvedic massage. They also play a very important role in Yoga asana and meditation. Marma knowledge along with the knowledge of ayurveda, has the potential to treat all physical and mental diseases.

    There are 107 major marmas in the body where Purusha (consciousness) is brought into Prakritti (body) to give life to the living being (both humans and animals have these points).
    This information on Marmas is found in a proper translation of Shushrut Samhita. It was used extensively by ancient surgeons who would not cut energy channels when they would operate. This would ensure proper healing after the surgery.
    kalari-marma
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    Figure : Showing some vital marma points of the body

    Ayurvedic - Kalari Massage

    Kalari massage blends the body, mind and spirit. In doing so, it harmonizes the biological system of the body. It enhances the circulation of the body fluids and activates the lymphatic system of the body, thus working as a cleansing agent of the body. Kalari massage revitalizes the body by relaxing and opening up energy pathways, stimulates and improves blood circulation in nerve endings and muscles and awakens the self-healing mechanism of the body which eventually leads to a healthy life. It is a positive approach to good health. Even if you do not suffer from any disease, you can use it to promote and rejuvenate the body and mind.

    Features of Kalari massage

    * Combines with yoga, pranayama and meditation.
    * Improves blood and lymphatic circulation.
    * Allows life-energy to flow freely.
    * Provides full relaxation and releases emotional stress.
    * Balances the sapta dhatu (seven tissues of human body; plasma, blood, muscles, fat, bone, bone-marrow and semen).
    * Stimulates nadi-sutra (Ayurvedic acu-pressure).
    * Stimulates marmas.
    * Stimulates foot points (foot reflexology).


    THREE FORMS OF MASSAGE
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    1. Sukha thirummu: For physical comfort.
    2. Katcha thirummu: For physical endurance and flexibility. Helpful for those involved in sports, Martial arts and dance.
    3. Raksha thirummu: For Holistic healing

    All of the above make use of a special massage with foot called Chavittithirummu.

    Patients suffering from ailments like Rheumatism, Paralysis, Back pain, Slip disc, Blood pressure, Muscular problems, Headache, Nervous weakness, Stomach trouble, Asthma, Anxiety, Weakness, Irritability, Obesity, Feelings of insecurity, Agitation etc get relief with massage. Useful to promote sleep, for calming psychotic individuals, to give rest and relief to depressed patients, and for persons withdrawing from drugs, alcohol and heroin. Massage can improve the self-defense mechanism of the body and increase immunity from environmental changes and give self-confidence and will power.
     
  7. Known_Unknown

    Known_Unknown Devil's Advocate Stars and Ambassadors

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    I've noticed one thing. This martial art can't be employed by the unarmed, can it?
     
  8. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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  9. S.A.T.A

    S.A.T.A Senior Member Senior Member

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    Most martial arts of antiquity,including Kalarippayatt,evolved with the objective of fine tuning martial skills in armed combat.The introduction of unarmed techniques even in many east Asian school,where done in relatively less violent times.

    Kalarippayatt students usually start their first lessons using cane sticks(for defense and offense)before they graduate into using actual swords.Although these days some kalari schools have adopted some unarmed style,but even they come from the techniques which were employed during a fight with the short dagger.

    A Nair warrior if disarmed is almost defeated,imagine a unarmed combatant facing his rival armed with 2 meter long Urumi(spring sword).No chance.
     
  10. shinoj

    shinoj Tihar Jail Banned

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    Its a tragedy that i wasnt taught about kalari Fight in my Childhood and whats worse i wasnt even made aware the importance of It.. All these things are part of our cherished Cultural heritage and they need to be taught by the parents to their Children.
     
  11. SajeevJino

    SajeevJino Long walk Elite Member

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    i think Kalari is most popular in North Kerala only ..South Keralians most of all Practice Nadan Adi ..But Nowadays you can't find any Kalari or Nadan Adi Masters
     
  12. shinoj

    shinoj Tihar Jail Banned

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    Any Reason why You cant find any Masters?
     
  13. SajeevJino

    SajeevJino Long walk Elite Member

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    100% sure they are Not exists today ..It's because of Influence of Karate Class etc ..Also no one ready to dedicate themselves for Master in Fights

    Once My father told me ..He was looking for Nadan Adi Masters in his Younger stage ..may be in 1980's ..He sees only 6 students are studying there ..

    What you think today itself ..Nobody available now
     

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