Warfare has been part of mankind’s innate nature since the pre-historic era. Among the most ancient and proven forms of combat in history happens to have originated from Kerala. Early written evidence of Kalaripayattu has been found in Dhanurveda- the Vedic literature and in Sangam literature.
WHAT IS KALARIPAYATTU?
Kalaripayattu is derived from two words- ‘Kalari’ which means ‘Training school’ and ‘Payattu’ means ‘Practising’. Kalaripayattu techniques are a combination of ‘Chuvadu’ and ‘Vadivu’. Chuvadu means the basics of the martial art and Vadivu means the postures. These postures are inspired by animals that are natural fighters. These postures are eight in number. There may be slight variations from school to school, but the core principles remain the same all over.
WHY SHOULD ONE CHOOSE KALARIPAYATTU?
Having practiced Kalaripayattu at Kalari Kendram Delhi for two years now, I would share some of my learnings and experiences.
- You can be in sync with your inner self and feel the concrete jungle around you disappearing, replaced by tranquility and nature.
- you need to channelize your inner strict disciplinarian self, to master the cool moves which will help you move your muscles in a way that perhaps your everyday gym routine might not be able to do.
- The health benefits of practicing Kalari are tremendous, as you increase your stamina levels substantially. It is not just about reducing any part of the body or losing some weight. The benefits of this ancient practice go beyond mere weight loss; it is a holistic approach to making you look and feel healthy from inside. It improves your strength physically and mentally.
Meipayattu: This refers to exercises that use the body, including specific exercises for legs, hips, hands, and the upper portion of the body. These movements are all designed to help one achieve maximum physical fitness and agility.
Marichilukal: In this level, the training comprises of acrobatic exercises, which include flying leaps and kicks. This helps tone the body and improves your agility and reflexes.
This combat training is divided into 4 levels
- Meithari- bodily movements and exercises to gain strength, flexibility, and agility
- Kolthari- combat with wooden arms like a stick, ottari, etc.,
- Angathari- Combat with metal arms like a sword,
- Verum Kai Prayogam- Combat bare-handed, even if the opponent is fully armed.
Unfortunately, we get to witness several forms of violence especially this is true in the case of women, elderly. There’s no space for vulnerability in today’s world. One must stand up for themselves, no matter what. Kalaripayattu is a unique method of both combat and defense. In these various techniques are Holds, grips, and locks that are combined with knuckle and elbow attacks at Marmas or vital points of the opponent’s body. Using these techniques, one can defeat the enemy with great efficacy.
BENEFITS OF KALARIPAYATTU
- It boosts flexibility
- It improves the strength in an individual’s body
- It cuts down the ‘laziness” in your body
- Your concentration power increases the more you practice this art
- Your patience is improved with the practice of this art
- It is a great stressbuster
- Your presence of mind is improved as you learn new moves for the battlefield
- You can survive a real attack as well, which is very much needed for women of today’s world
- You can train other people in Kalaripayattu since it is quite an in-demand these days.
Interestingly, every facet of this martial art form is based on rules laid out in the scriptures. The Kalari (arena) is designed on the tenets of Vaastu Shastra. Dugout at a depth of four feet, it has an east-facing entry and has specific dimensions. The floor is made of mud and in the west, a seven-tiered platform, which denotes the seven dhatus in the body, is constructed. Lighted lamps are placed on the steps while a lotus-shaped Kumbha, representing the deity, adorns the top. Weapons like sword, shield, knives, sticks, spears, etc. are placed on the western side.
If you are wondering how to learn and practice this martial art in a traditional way possible, you don’t have to travel all the way to Kerala. There’s Kalari Kendram in Delhi, matching the traditional vibes, with highly experienced Guru and diversity of students both in age and gender. This is a great getaway from the sedentary city lifestyle.
There is an unspoken pride of this sacred space and practice of Kalaripayattu with instructions in the lyrical language of Malayalam. Sweat pours from our oiled bodies as we begin to experience inner and outer transformation. Even though we see a large row of ancient weapons – sticks, swords, clubs, and shields, which gives a combat mode feeling but there is an environment of inner power, respect, and balance for all from the young beginners to the advanced practitioners. Everyone maintains the discipline of this sacred place. No wonder it is ‘THE MOTHER OF ALL MARTIAL ARTS’