When I say martial arts the first person to strike us is Bruce Lee. Most of his movies revolved around martial arts like boxing, Chinese martial arts, Jeet Kune Do and Wing Chung. But how many of us are aware that these martial arts including gym, karate, kung fu, yoga, judo – formed its shape from an ancient Indian martial art called Kalaripayattu which was originated in Kerala.
Kalaripayattu most predominantly known as Kalari originated during 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD. And it is said that the first mention of the ancient old art form comes from the 3rd century AD Tamil literature – Tamil Sangam which describes the battlefield or combat arena. Whereas in Malayalam the word kalaripayattu means exercises practised in the gym.
It is believed that Parashurama is the creator of this martial art and the art was born right after bringing Kerala up from the ocean. But various theories explain the birth of this art form. A theory suggests that tribal groups residing in ancient Kerala were the pioneers who safeguarded themselves in contempt of provocations from similar groups to give an instance like Thiyyar of Malabar region of Kerala. It is also depicted in a popular collection of ballads called ‘Vaddakan Pattukal’.
Fascinatingly the art is classified into Northern Kalaripayattu which is known as “Vaddakan Kalaripayattu” focuses graceful and flexible movements along with jumps and weapon training. Southern Kalaripayattu which is known as “Thekkan Kalaripayattu” prioritizes hand to hand combats including pressure point strike.
Kalari follows rituals under Hinduism. Interestingly the practitioners in hold convoluted knowledge of pressure points on the body along with healing techniques that blend apprehension from Ayurveda and Yoga. The students learn the art along with principles of life- in the spirit of respecting the master, showing compassion to fellow students and practising discipline. If you are curious to know more about the history and description of this: https://www.traditionalsports.org/traditional-sports/asia/kalaripayatu-or-kalarippayattu-or-kalari-kerala-india.html
It is very sad to know that after the European colonization the art lost its effectiveness due to many reasons. The young adults of modern times have become a fitness freak and everyone wants to hit the gym. Parents of this era want their children to learn any kind of martial art for self-defence or sometimes it’s a part of the school’s extracurricular activity which predominantly encourages Karate and Yoga. I think we need to save this age-old form of art to future generations. It can help anyone not only physically but psychologically – it can improve their cognition, memory, attention span and perception skills. An encouraging aged old art form like these can help us promote our cultural heritage.
If you want to watch documentaries on Kalaripayattu, I would suggest you watch: BCC documentary titled – The Way Of Warrior (1983 documentary series about Asian Martial Art) episode 2 – Kalari: The Indian Way.
PS: If you are interested to learn this martial art instead of trying out self help books, I would suggest you join a class and explore more. If you are from Bangalore, I would recommend you to check out C.V.N Kalari Bangalore http://cvnkalaribangalore.in/. Also, they are active on Facebook and you can follow their activities- https://www.facebook.com/cvnkalaribangalore/