is indigenous to the South Indian state of
Kerala and derives its name from the Malayalam
word Kalari which literally means battlefield.
In respect to this martial art, kalari refers
to the arena where training goes on and demonstrations
are performed. Originally, the Kalari was a
place of learning for subjects such as ayurvedic
medicine, yoga, philosophy, astrology, architecture
and geometry in addition to combat arts. These
traditional schools are square-shaped buildings
made of bamboo and thatch, dug into the earth
and lit by oil-lamps.
Kalari is run by a gurukkal (teacher)
who teaches the students the esoteric physical
and spiritual disciplines needed to master
Kalaripayattu. There are three main styles
of Kalarapayattu, northern, southern and central,
stemming from these regions of Kerala. Each
of them have particular aspects and fighting
skills that distinguish them from each other,
such as the importance of marmas (pressure-points)
and the invocation of certain protective deities.
to both Indian and Chinese historical sources,
in the 4th Century AD a Buddhist monk named
Bodhi Dharma took Kalarapayattu to China and
from there the systems of kung-fu and karate
more developed during the 9th century
and was practiced by the warrior clan
of Kerala, the Nair community, to defend
the state and the king.
ancient warrior spirit was also retained
throughout the centuries by the warrior
chieftains of ancient Kerala known as
the Mamanka Chekavers and the Lohars,
the Buddhist warriors of North Kerala.
this martial art flourished until 1793 when
the British East India Company banned it. However,
it continued to be practiced in
secret by a handful of stalwart adherents,
and it is due to their perseverance to keep
this tradition alive that the present-day practitioners
continue to teach the
mother of the worlds martial arts.
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