Kalaripayattu (pronounced as Kalarippayatt) is a martial art, which originated as a style in Kerala, southern India (North Malabar). The word kalari first appears in the
Kalarippayattu is the exclusive martial arts legacy of Kerala, taken to China by the Buddhist monks which became fabled model for the modern martial arts. Kalarippayattu encompasses an invigorating Ayurvedic herbal treatment for chronic ailments like arthritis and spondylosis, and a massaging regimen which repairs physiological damages and makes the body young and supple. The fracture treatment system, developed as a corollary of the rough and tumble world of martial arts, does away with the risk-ridden x-rays and hit-or-miss plaster-cast method.
Kalarippayattu literally means ‘acquired skill’ of art. “kalari” means school or arena and “payattu” is skill training, exercise or practice. It is the most comprehensive personal combat training scheme anywhere in the world. The training includes exercises to develop sharp reflexes for unarmed combat and techniques of combat using mace, spears, daggers and sword and shield. There is also a unique Kerala weapon-the lethal flexible sword, called the ‘Urumi’ which can be concealed as a waist belt.
Kalarippayattu also includes the ‘marma’ treatment which identifies the vital nodal points(marmas) in the body(107 of them all) for suitable pressing and nudging to correct muscular and neurological problems. The massaging may involve standing full length over the patient and applying pressure with the feet. The system is acknowledged superior to any other method of massage.
The Kalari tradition is at once a cultural experience too. The folk-lore of Kerala is woven around legendary exponents of Kalarippayattu and their exploits. The vocabulary of the rural people, especially of northern Kerala, is studded with Kalarippayattu jargon.
Though Kalarippayatt’s existence in the present form can be traced back to the early 12th through 16th century AD Kerala society, the exact references of many of the techniques practiced today can be found in much earlier historical and cultural source of all knowledge of India. The 15th century travelogue of Duarte Barabosa, the Portuguese traveler shows that Kalarippayattu was the integral part of the Kerala society between 13th and 16th centuries. It was a part of the education of the children, where daily training in a Kalari was considered as important as learning to read and write, thus forming an important element of the culture of the land Kerala and erstwhile southern parts of Karnataka then known as Tulunadu. During this period, it was a compulsory social custom to send all youngsters above the age of 7 to a Kalari for training.
Kalarippayattu is believed by many historians as one of the oldest traditions of martial training in the world. In Malayalam, the mother language of Kerala, Kalarippayattu means repetitive training (payattu) inside an arena(kalari). It is a scientific and comprehensive system of training for the body and the mind with an elaborate repertoire of weapon training, which in the ancient times lead to the making of a proficient warrior.
As Kalarippayatt’s evolution took shape as a comprehensive physical culture and martial training tradition, these unique methods of body training was adopted as a highly developed tool for the training of actors of Kathakali, the famous dance theatre of Kerala, in it’s early stages of evolution. Kathakali, imbibing the richness of Kootiyattom, the centuries old Sanskrit theatre of Kerala, in story telling, acting(abhinaya) and costumes used. Kalarippayattu movements as the foundation of choreography using the actors body and gestures as the primary tools of expression. Various movements of Kalarippayattu are visible in many ritual arts like Theyyam, Thira etc. and in many classical dance forms. The performance of classical dancers who practice Kalarippayattu are better than other.
Cultural differences and political divisions of the land of Kerala and the presence or absence of a well established law enforcing machinery forced the ancient masters of the Kalari fighting system to specialize in different methods of training and fighting. This in turn resulted in the evolution of the original martial form into the distinct varieties or styles.