Kalaripayattu

Posted by Freddy on Mar-14-2011

Kalaripayattu is a Dravidian martial art form of Kerala which combines the dynamic skills of attack and defense. Kalari payat includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Regional variants are classified according to geographical position in Kerala. These are the northern style of the Malayalese, the southern style of the Tamils and the central style from inner Kerala. The practice of Kalaripayattu is said to originate from the Dhanur Vedic texts encompassing all fighting arts and described by the Vishnu Purana as one of the eighteen traditional branches of knowledge. Kalaris are the schools where training in this martial art form is imparted by Gurukals or masters.
This martial art form is indigenous to the Southern Indian state of Kerala which, legend has it, was created by the warrior saint Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, by throwing his axe into the sea which receded till the point where it fell. Parasurama then established forty-two kalaris and taught twenty-one masters of these kalaris to protect the land he created.
Kalaripayattu is a traditional psycho-physiological discipline emanating from Kerala’s unique mytho-historical heritage as well as a scientific system of physical culture training. The historical antecedents of this martial art form combines indigenous Dravidian systems of martial practice such as ‘varma ati’ or ‘marma adi’ with an influence of Aryan brahman culture which migrated southwards down the west coast of India into Kerala. There are two distinct traditions in Kalaripayattu-the Northern and the Southern schools.
The main techniques (atavu) in kalari payat are a combination of steps (chuvatu) and stances (vadivu). It is claimed that learned warriors can disable or kill their opponents by merely touching the correct marmam (vital point). This is taught only to the most promising and level-headed persons, to discourage misuse of the technique. Marmashastram stresses on the knowledge of marmam and is also used for marma treatment (marmachikitsa). The earliest mention of marmam is found in the Rig Veda where Indra is said to have defeated Vritra by attacking his marman with a vajra.
In the Northern tradition the emphasis is laid on progressing from body exercises to combat with weapons and last of all too unarmed combat. In the Southern tradition the patron saint of Kalaripayattu is the sage Agastya whose strength and and powers of meditation are legendary. It is said that when the Lord Shiva married the Goddess Parvati at Kailasa in the North, all gods and goddesses went to attend the wedding and with this shift in weight the world tilted, so much so, that Agastya was sent to the South to restore the balance. Lord Rama, legend has it, was mentored by Agastya to acquire the weapons, which defeated the demon king Ravana. In the southern tradition the emphasis is primarily on footwork, movement and the ability to strike at vital points or ‘marmas’ in the opponents body of which 108 points are considered lethally vulnerable.
Although no longer used in sparring sessions, weapons are an important part of kalari payat. This is especially true for the northern styles which are mostly weapon-based. Some of the weapons mentioned in medieval Sangam literature have fallen into disuse over time and are rarely taught in kalari payat today.

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