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Kalaripayattu - The Oldest Of All Martial Arts

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:46 PM
Kalaripayattu - The Oldest Of All Martial ArtsSummary: Kalaripayattu as an art form was devised to fight off wildlife by Agasthya Muni (a sage considered to be the Father of traditional Indian Medicine).

My young cousin, Arun is an action freak. From Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger to Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan, he idolizes the action heroes. Apparently his latest inspiration is Vidyut Jamwal, a young actor who has just debuted in Bollywood (Hindi film industry).

Arun who loves watching nothing less than the World Wrestling Championships and action movies on television surprised me by tuning in to a History channel recently. On prodding him further I got to know that he was trying to learn more about Kalaripayattu, a martial art form mastered by his idol Vidyut. I joined him and we watched the documentary that talked about the nitty gritty of the art form.

Getting To Know More About Kalaripayattu

Call it my curiosity to know about things, the fact that Kalaripayattu belonged to my favorite state Kerala or a desperate attempt to cheer up a 12 year old boy; I asked my cousin whether he would accompany me to Kerala to know more about this amazing art form. You can guess his reaction and the next thing I remember we were on a flight to Kerala. We had booked a session with a Kalaripayattu trainer at a Kalari Centre in Thekkady (in the Idukki district of the state). Arun has never enjoyed a journey like this before (these are not my words). He was literally jumping in the seats and carrying books and magazines on the martial art form. ‘Kalari’ means school or arena and ‘Payattu’ means skill, training, exercise or practice. Arun told me that modern day action forms like Kung-Fu, Judo, Karate, Kick boxing and Tai Chi originated from Kalaripayattu.

The four hour air ride might have exhausted me but not the little boy with me. He insisted that we go to the Kalari centre the day we reached Thekkady. Though our appointment was in the afternoon we reached the centre early morning. Sounds of the clashing daggers, sticks, swords and shields and the energetic shouts of the practicing men welcomed us. To be really honest, I and Arun felt so timid there.

We were awestruck by the fluid movements of the art form being practiced before us. After the initial hesitation and apprehensions, we approached few Kalari (or Kalaripayattu) students and their trainers. While Arun tried his hands on some of the moves, I talked to the trainer about the art form. According to them, the 3000 year old martial art form symbolizes the raw power and the sinuous strength of the majestic animal forms like lion, tiger, elephant, wild boar, snakes and crocodile. It has been the combat code of the South Indian ruling dynasties of Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas.

I got to know that Kalaripayattu is not just about kicking, punching or stabbing; it is all about learning to use your body in every possible way. The art form helps its practitioners in gaining mental peace, physical strength and flexibility.

The History of Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu as an art form was devised to fight off wildlife by Agasthya Muni (a sage considered to be the Father of traditional Indian Medicine). It was taken to China by Buddhist monks.

Gautaman Gurukal, the master trainer at the centre had arrived by then. His strong physique and a confident smile made me nervous. I introduced myself and Arun. He took an instant liking to the boy and asked him whether he would like to learn Kalaripayattu. Arun said yes but I was worried whether he would be able to. To this the Gurukal replied, “Anyone with a strong will can learn Kalari. Always remember it is not a sport, it is all about knowing your body. You can kill Arnold Schwarzenegger with a single blow.” Arun laughed on the last comment.

KalaripayattuI asked Gurukal (the name given in reverence to the master trainer in any Kalari school) can small kids learn this art form which looks too fierce? He smiled looking at my worried face and answered that both girls and boys can learn Kalari at any age. For children, they start with four stages of learning namely Meithari, Kolathari, Ankathari and Varumkai. The first stage is all about flexibility of limbs and leg techniques; the second stage teaches about wooden weapons. It slowly graduates to use of metallic weapons and finally the fourth stage teaches kids to defend with bare hands.

The Gurukal took me and Arun on a trip inside the centre. The centre has daily Kalari performances at 6 in the evening. The viewers sit in the gallery section to get a better view of the Kalari enthusiasts who perform in the centre of the crowd. He talked spiritedly about how Kalari is also a field of medicinal sciences. Kalari Chikitsa heals your body and keeps it in regenerative mode. It also works wonders as an excellent orthopedic system and massage regimen.

The Kalari Marma knows every nook and corner and secrets of your body. There are 108 vital nodal points in our body. (Did you know that? Atleast I did not). He also added laughingly that a Kalari master can kill you with a simple touch.

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