Kalaripayattu is an ancient martial art from Kerala, India, with a history dating back to 1,000 BC. It includes physical techniques, weapons training, and a healing component based on Ayurveda. The art has influenced dance and performance traditions in Kerala and has similarities to other Asian martial arts. Students should research instructors’ qualifications and approach before choosing a teacher.
Kalaripayattu is a martial art originating from the state of Kerala in southern India. It is believed to be one of the oldest martial arts in Asia and may in fact be the basis for many martial arts practices in Asia. Records of people practicing kalaripayattu date back to at least 1,000 BC, which illustrates how venerable this martial art is and how remarkable it is that people continue to practice kalaripayattu today. Similarities to kalaripayattu can also be seen in many traditional Asian martial arts disciplines, suggesting that they have a common root.
The term “kalaripayattu” translates as “practice in battlefield arts”. Practitioners work in a facility known as a kalari which offers plenty of space for instruction and practice, as well as meeting space where two students work with each other in a mock duel. Besides being a well-known fighting method, kalaripayattu is also an art in itself and has greatly influenced the dance and performance traditions of Kerala.
There are different styles of this martial art, some of which focus more on the grace and beauty of movement, while others focus on creating powerful and efficient movements designed to quickly incapacitate the enemy. People who practice kalaripayattu learn a range of physical techniques including steps, holds, rolls and blocks, and also work with weapons such as staffs. The blend of physical and weapon techniques ensures that practitioners can perform well in a variety of settings, using their bodies in conjunction with all available tools.
This martial art also includes a healing component. This is in fact common to many martial arts, with students learning to take care of their bodies as well as developing physical skills. Kalaripayattu medicine has a basis in Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medical practice, and practitioners are said to be particularly skilled at setting bones. Massage is also an important component, reflecting the role massage plays in Ayurveda.
Kalaripayattu teachers are found in many regions of the world. When looking for an instructor, students should ask where the instructor trained and what qualifications he or she has. Students can also ask about the style offered by the instructor and the instructor’s approach to martial arts. Some focus on the physical and self-defense aspects, while others are more interested in the spiritual side of kalaripayattu, including meditation, massage, and traditional healing practices.