South Indian Martial Art

“Kalari” can be translated literally as the place where the practices are taught and “Payat” as the art of war and fighting. It is the martial art of Kerala from Southern India and its roots can be traced back 5000 years in the Vedas. Kalarippayat is believed to be the mother of all modern systems of martial art. It’s uniqueness lies in being one of the remaining holistic martial art still in existence. The syllabus includes armed and unarmed combat and a complete medical system based on Ayurveda and Siddha tradition.
As a martial art it teaches the principles of fighting in a codified system which enables the artist to develop high level of fitness, self confidence, technical ability, maintain a healthy body and mind. The training program is extremely comprehensive and scientifically based. Through the constant practice the student rapidly discovers also another aspect: spiritual growth. The aim of this tradition leads to a non-fighting attitude and always ready to die warrior like state of consciousness.
Traditionally the training is divided into 4 areas:
  • Maithari – body control exercise.
  • Kolthari – training with wooden weapons like longstick, shortstick, otta etc.
  • Ankathari – training with metal and edged weapon like sword, dagger, spear etc.
  • Verum Kai Prayogam – unarmed combat, using marmas the vital points of the body.
Martial practice, like meditation, is understood to tame and purify the external sthula-sarira, as it quiets and balances the body’s three humours. Eventually the practitioner should begin to discover the suksma sarira most often identified with Kundalini/ Tantric yoga. For martial practitioners this discovery is essential for embodying power (sakti) to be used in combat or for healing.

3 prominent styles in Kalarippayat

Vaddakan Sampradayam
The Northern Style

 It it a combat-oriented martial art used at the traditional battlefields of India. It is characterised by animal positions that are linked together by large body movements which leads to achieve the so-called “animal spirit”. The practitioner quickly reaches the instinctive quality where focus and action become unified. The use of different weapons is practiced through partner training. Each weapon has its own character, which passes through its handling onto the practitioner.

Tekkan Sampradayam
The Southern Style

Also called Adi Mura or Ati Murai, it is a “stand up open hand” self-defence martial art. The use of weapons happens only during the training in order to practice the ability to oppose. During the practice of the “forms” one is consistently defending or attacking multiple opponents in all four directions. The fight with open hands is a key feature of this style. The procedure is scientific and happens mainly at the intellectual level. As a warm-up exercise Indian clubs are combined with martial gymnastics.

Madhya Sampradayam
The Central  Style

It is the wisdom of Kalarippayat and unites all three styles. However, with much more focus on evading and exploiting the momentum of spiralling motion patterns. Combat avoidance comes first, followed by exploiting the opponent’s power. The style is based on a modular system with very sophisticated footwork and all kinds of arm and leg techniques. An infinite number of combat combinations is possible, which can be worked out depending on the task a prerequisite is a strong imagination. This style is practiced to this day by the Sufis in Kerala.

All three styles improve the level of instinct and encourage spontaneity. Through which the predator’s mind-set is generated.

In addition, the practices are based on the knowledge of the Marma / Nadi system, which gives them the full effectiveness.

The Kerala Kalarippayat Academy (KKA)

Since 1976 it is an institution dedicated to the development, dissemination and promotion of this martial art. It is located in the city of Kannur in the southern state of Kerala, India. The KKA teaches all three main styles of the Kalarippayat and the healing arts. The academy has several senior teachers trained by MC Sherif Gurukkal.