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Home » Sports in Kerala » Kalarippayattu Sport In Kerala

Kalarippayattu Sport In Kerala

The word Kalarippayattu is derived from the Malayalam words "kalari" meaning gymnasium and "payattu" meaning martial art. It is an age old and perhaps the most famous martial art practiced in Kerala.

Not only does Kalarippayattu teach combat, it also teaches other aspects of physical wellbeing and promotes complete mental and emotional strength as well. It dates back to the age when the people of Kerala were Tamil speaking or at least under the Chera kings whose court language was Tamil.

Hence the use of Tamil terms such as suvadi, vadivu, verum kai and mei payattu. It is widely believed that Kalarippayattu originated around the 12th century and was effectively used by the Chera warriors against the Chola combatants.

It is widely believed to be the oldest form of combat training and that all the eastern martial arts have their origin in Kalaripayattu and have developed and evolved from this South Indian martial art.

Kalarippayattu has three different systems depending on how it was developed in the various regions of Kerala.

The Thekkan (southern style)
The Vadakkan (northern style)
The Kathinayoga style (yogic style)

The Thekkan:

The Southern style of Kalarippayattu is practiced in the southern regions, i.e. the regions that made up the erstwhile Venadu kingdom. Sage Agasthya is said to have been the founder of the Southern style of Kalarippayattu.

The movements are sound and hard hitting. It emphasizes on bare handed techniques. The art is practiced in open rounds and the instructors are called Asaans.

 The main castes practicing this art here are Nadars, Kallars, Thevars and some Sambavar. In the Southern Style there are many stages of learning.

Chuvatu (solo forms),
Jodi (duo training),
Kurunthadi (short stick fight),
Katthi (Knife Play),
Urmi (Flexible Sword Play)
Valum parichayum (Sword and Shield fight)
Chuttuval (Double Sword Play) and
Marmma Adi (Attacking the Vital Points); and
Freehand Grappling.

The medicine taught with this style of Kalarippayattu is the Dravidian Siddha Vaidhyam. It promotes the use of oil massage and herbal treatment for healing.

The Vadakkan or the Northern Style of Kalarippayattu: Sage Parasurama is said to have founded this school of martial arts training. Here the art is practiced chiefly in the Malabar region of Kozhikode and Kannur districts and is propounded by the Chekava caste.

Unlike the southern style the emphasis is on weapon fights. The movements are smooth and graceful and leaping, reined movements are encouraged. The stages of learning include-

Meyppayttu (Solo Forms),
Kettukari (Long Staff Fight),
Muchchan (Short Stick Fight),
Katara (Dagger Fight),
Valum Parichayum (Sword And Shield Fight)
Urmi (Flexible Sword Play); and
Ottakkol (Curved Stick Fight).

In this system the children started training early because a supple body was required to achieve the grace and the preceptor was known gurukkal. A complete learning of Ayurveda accompanied this art.

The emphasis in this system is on medicinal oil massage and foot massage to increase the body flexibility.