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The Kalarippayattu - art of movement and method of health

Kalarippayattu - art of movement and health method

The origins of Kalarippayattu

Kalarippayatt , or Kalarippayattu , is an ancient martial art originating from southern India (Kerala). According to some legends, it is the oldest martial arts and inspired the Kung-fu of the Shaolin monks. Kalarippayattu means, in Malayalam (Dravidian language spoken in Kerala) “the place of exercises” (from kalari ) and ppayat which means “to fight, to exercise, to practice”.

The kalarippayattu gurus , called gurukkal , are both warriors and doctors, because they are supposed to know the techniques that kill but also those that heal.

Kalarippayattu has been taught in Kerala for centuries. It is deeply rooted in Indian culture and has a strong social influence. Kalaripayattu is an art of movement, in which dynamics, flexibility and a feeling of knowing yourself and your body better are at the forefront.

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In addition to training strength, flexibility and endurance, increasing body awareness, self-awareness and concentration are the focus of the efforts. The entire body is sensitized and trained in vigilance and attention. It is said that the body is eye (the body becomes all eyes) for the unity of body and spirit.

Kalarippayattu and Ayurveda

Kalarippayattu is a health method closely linked to Ayurveda and its massages. Based on the behavior of 8 animals (the lion, the snake, the elephant, the bear, horse, the cat, the rooster, the wild boar) , this practice develops harmonious Maipayat (suite of techniques) which allow a rich bodily expression: flexibility, coordination, breath and sense of space. It includes exercises specifically designed for complete control of the body (balance, flexibility, reflexes, muscle tone, general health, etc.), armed and bare-handed combat techniques, as well as therapeutic massages based on knowledge of vital points.

Learning Kalarippayattu and the stages

Kalarippayattu is generally practiced in the kalari , a room measuring 14 by 7 m. It is characterized by very low positions as well as many very high jumps.

Kalarippayattu has two styles. Around ten weapons are still taught among the eighteen weapons that were studied in the past. In local tradition, it took several years to master a single weapon.

The four stages of Kalari training:

1. Meythari – the work of the body

To prepare the body for dynamic movements, students learn exercises to master balance both on the ground and during jumps, concentration during combat, and the development of flexibility and strength. The teacher attaches great importance to the posture being very precise. The advanced student will seek to understand the influence between physical balance and energy flows in the body.

Kalarippayattu also includes the use of different weapons, the use and technique of which will be introduced gradually in the following stages, starting with wooden weapons.

2. Kolthari – stick fighting

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This stage only begins after intensive preparation of the body. In basic training ( Maipayat ) the movements learned with various wooden weapons are practiced. As the student progresses, the wooden weapons introduced become shorter and shorter: The Kettukari or Vaddi (stick 5 feet or 152cm in length), the Muchan (stick 2 feet or 60cm in length, the thickness of one end is about 3 cm in diameter and the other is about 1.5 cm in diameter), the Otta (curved stick with a length of less than 60 cm. This weapon is the most dangerous and prestigious of the kalaripayattu because the points of attack are only on the vital points of the opponent.

A dozen weapons are still taught among the eighteen weapons that were studied in the past. In local tradition, it took several years to master a single weapon.

3. Ankathari – metal arm wrestling

At a more advanced stage, other weapons are introduced, the use of which requires a high degree of precision. Today only a few of the original metal weapons are in use. The practice begins first by fighting against the same weapon, then against a different weapon. The student begins with the daga or Kadari (dagger curved by two-edged detail), the Vaal-Keddayam (two-edged sword and shield), the Khathi (dagger), the Ouroumi (flexible two-edged sword), an extremely dangerous, which can even be fatal to the practitioner in a moment of inattention and finally the two-edged spear.

4. Verumkai – fighting with your bare hands

Here the student learns self-defense methods. When practicing this technique with bare hands, the Marma (vital) points are learned and deepened. Marma points are important points in our body. Older practitioners therefore know a set of vital points that they can use to harm their opponent but also to heal. Kalarippayattu masters are generally also Ayurvedic doctors, therapists who use their knowledge to treat their patients.

Source images: www.keralatourism.org