Kalaripayattu is an ancient martial art form with its roots in the state of Kerala.
Kalaripayattu draws its inspiration from the raw power, majestic strength and instinctive fighting techniques of myriad of animals like the lion, the tiger, the elephant, the wild boar, etc.
The animal postures: The ancient masters codified eight types of vadivus after watching the crouching attack positions of various animals. The eight vadivus are: Varaha - Wild Boar, Gaja - Elephant, Marjara - Cat, Simham - Lion, Sarpam - Snake, Kukkuda - Cock, Mayura - Peacock and Haya - Horse.
This is the basic session for beginners in Kalaripayattu. It introduces stances, and stepping. This exposure is compulsory for the new members in order to enter the advanced levels in Kalaripayattu.
Ashtavadivu - Basic poses from Kalaripayattu
Body Toning Exercises: A Kalaripayattu trainee who masters the basic postures goes on to body toning exercises.
The practice of these exercises leads to maximum agility, suppleness, the ability to twist or turn the body in every conceivable manner, and to the ability to suddenly leap in the air with ease. These exercises enable the Trainee to save himself/herself from unexpected assaults, and to outwit and eventually defeat the opponent, even if the opponent is armed.
A trainee achieves these skills through the practice of pre choreographed series of exercises, they are.....
Meipayattu (meaning exercises with the body). It is a series of exercises, in 18 different lessons designed to achieve peak physical fitness and flexibility of the body. They include specific exercise for legs, hips, hands and the torso.
Marichilukal (meaning Acrobatics). In today's day and age, these acrobatic moves keep the body fit, serve as a good exercise regimen, helps in building concentration, and immensely adds to the Trainee's confidence.
Acrobatics also tones the body and helps develop instinctive movements which improves agility and reflexes. The different acrobatic techniques can be extensively used in any situation of self defense.
All these elements of Acrobatics are used extensively in weapon based as well as bare-handed attacks and self-defense.
Kaikuththippayattu meaning exercises with hands on the floor. Kaikuthipayatttu strengthens the body and conditions the Trainee for breath control. Breath control is vital while attacking and defending. All Kaikuththippayattu exercises are based on the snake movement - punches, leg moves, stretches, twists and jumps. There are a total of 18 lessons of exercises in this kalari practice.
Chuvattadi meaning stances & attacks. Chuvattadi prepares the Trainee for the subsequent fighting techniques. Mastering Chuvattadi helps avoid injuries during combat. Each Chuvattadi exercise is based on a particular Kalarippayattu technique, and is performed in all four directions to respond to attacks from any direction. Divided into 18 stages, it consists of punches, cuts, throws and blocks. Chuvattadi is practiced with intense speed and power.
Kaithada meaning blocks with hand. Kaithada comprises of bare handed fighting sequences and helps the Trainee develop his/her instincts.
Kaithada features blocks to fearlessly defend against armed and unarmed attacks. Kaithada can be deconstructed into the following:
- Blocking attacks using physical power
- Avoiding or dodging attacks
- Utilising the opponents speed and power and turning these attributes to defend oneself.
Weapon Combat: This is the advanced program for members interested in the practical use of martial arts. Training in weapons begins at the intermediate level, when there is a better understanding of the mechanics of movement and improved coordination. A weapon becomes an extension of one's body and a further test of one's skill.
The Kalari Asan or Gurukkal will start weapons training only when he is entirely convinced of the trainee's dedication to Kalari and that the student will fall back on armed combat only in self defense. In short, the Gurukkal has to be sure that the trainee will not misuse the combat techniques of Kalaripayattu.
Training with weapons commences with cane weapons. The trainee graduates to the Short Stick (Cheruvadi), Curved Stick (Ottakkol), Mace (Gada), Dagger (Kattaram) and Spear (Kuntham)
After fighting with the spear is mastered, the trainee starts on the more glamorous of combats in Kalaripayattu - fighting with the sword and shield.
Finally the Urumi – the six feett long flexible sword – comes into the picture as a fitting finale to perfection in the art of Kalaripayattu. After the body, the Urumi is considered the most dangerous weapon in the Kalari system.
Empty handed fighting techniques: The student will be imparted training in empty hand fighting techniques called Verum Kai Prayogam. This is a unique method of offence and defense. In this technique, various holds, grips and locks are combined with knuckle and elbow hits directed at Marmas or vital points of the opponent's body. By this method, one can disarm and disable an enemy completely. Usually, knowledge of this kind is not passed on indiscriminately to any one but only to those with a disciplined life who guarantees that the knowledge will not be misused.
Kalari chikitsa or kalari treatment is an integral part of the kalari tradition. It is mainly used to treat sprains, fractures, cuts and similar injuries and was originally used as a form of treatment for the trainee's injuries. Kalari medication, with its own brand of potent oils, unguents and different types of bandages, is also popular among the general public.
The final training of a student includes in identifying the Marmas (deadly spots) in the human body. Marmas are energy points or the sacred points in the body, comparable to acupressure points. There are 108 Marmas which are associated to the nadis and charkas of yoga.
A martial artist use these points to kill his opponent while kalari gurukkal uses these points for balancing body and mind.
Combat situation demands an extremely agile, strong and supple body, which would instantly reflex the focused mind. The ancient martial artists (warriors) used kalari massage to prime their body and sharpen reflexes. Massage helps the body to attain a healthy constitution as well as flexibility, nimbleness and suppleness. Moreover, massage can improve mental alertness and attention span by reducing tension and calming the mind. Kalari massage can keep one disease free and in a state of positive health.
There are three types of kalari massages, used for different purposes.
- Sukha thirummu: This system of massage relieves the body from aches and muscular pains and also provides physical relaxation and rejuvenation.
- katcha thirummu: This is given to increase a person's body flexibility and physical endurance and is particularly efficacious for those who practice martial arts and dance forms. It gives flexibility and suppleness to the body. This form of massage is combined with different yoga postures.
- Raksha thirummu: This massage is for healing. Different ailments require specific massage techniques, which the masseur selects keeping the individual's condition in mind. The speed, force, number of stroke, the type of herbal oil used and the system of massage will vary depending on the patient's physical strength, age and ailment.