Believed by many historians and scholars as one of the oldest and most scientific and comprehensive system of martial training existing in the world today, Kalaripayattu the ancient martial art of Kerala truly deserves the title of the forerunner of all marital arts.
With the help of the available historical evidences, the present practicing traditions origin can be traced back to the 12th century A.D.The word Kalaripayattu literally means ‘combat training inside the gymnasium’.The word kalari has been derived from the sanskrit “Kholoorika” meaning a military training ground.The traditional training of Kalaripayattu is always done inside a “Kalari” which is a specially constructed practing area, where the presiding deities of the art and the entire line of gurus of the tradition is ritualisticallyn represented.Not only is the Kalari a temple of learning, it is also a temple of religious worship with a cult and ritual of its own.The master who is addressed as the “Gurukkal” is revered as the representative of the deity and is considered as the living embodiment of a long line of gurus.
The training consists of self disciplinary traing and physical culture.The puplis are given regular physical exercises and training in the use of such weapons are Kuruvadi(short stick), spear, dagger, sword, shield etc.The most promising of the trainees are taught the Marmas, viz the vulnerable points in the human system.The Kalaripayattu training aims at the ultimate coordination of minds and body.
The traitional training of the Kalari gurukkal includes as can be seen in some other martial arts, specialisation in indigenous medical preparations and techniques of treatment and health care.Based on the Ayurvedic system of medical practice the old masters of Kalaripayattu has indeginously developed methods of treatments of kalari related injuries like bruises, fractures etc.known as kalarichikilsa.The training of the gurukkal also includes the special system of full body oil massage to develop flexibility and muscular texture and also to stimulate circulation to maintiain general health and blood.
Other Forms of Martial Arts.
The “Parisakali” of North Malabar and “Velakali” of Travancore are two other martial art forms which involve considerable physical training and knowledge of the use of the arms.The latter is also semi religious in the sense that it is a mock fight representing the battle between Pandavas and Kauravas at Kurushetra. It is played in connection with the temple festival at Shertallai and Ambalapuzha as well as Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple at Trivandrum. There are also other martial art forms like Valeru( sword throwing), Kunderu and Njaninmel kali( tight rope walking ) which are performed in connection with festivals in temples.