Kalaripayattu, a form of martial art believed to have been originated from Lord Shiva and portrayed in many Indian movies till date, has been kept alive in south India, by practising it and imparting its knowledge to the younger generation. One such group is the ‘Maruthi Kalari Sangham’ of Kerala which trains kids and women in Kalaripayattu as part of a self-defence programme.
Currently in the city to conduct a two day workshop, Ajit Kumar, from Maruthi Kalari Sangham, explains, “It is an ancient martial art and popularly known as the mother of all martial arts in south India. Its technique has developed as the result of the harshness of the geographical features of Kerala. In fact, martial arts like Karate, and Taekwondo are also all derived from this art form. Buddhist monks travelled to China and taught these martial arts to the Chinese too.”
Kalaripayattu, among the most ancient martial arts in existence today, is not only a complete system of fighting, but also a way of life with its own internal systems of breathing techniques, healing and meditation. As such, it trains the body on strength, agility, flexibility, balance and coordination, but also trains the practitioner on breath awareness, rhythm, enhanced focus and attention, spatial awareness and proprioception; eventually taking him/her to a place of stillness, a listening/watchful presence and elevated self-awareness. It is thus a complete system for the body, mind and spirit, and is especially valuable to performers. The body training of the Kathakali dance-theatre is directly based on Kalaripayattu, and many other folk dances of Kerala are influenced by it. In other cultures also, martial arts directly influences the training of traditional performing arts.
Kumar explains that our body has 108 vital points and Kalaripayattu successfully targets these points as a part of the Marma treatment. “This treatment helps with the ability to control your mind and body. People will slowly learn how to block the attack through various movements while becoming mentally strong. It also includes healing workshops and concentration techniques and that is exactly what we are trying to teach other people as well,” he informs.
Kumar also sheds light on the fact that it is a dangerous and difficult technique to learn and you may get injured during the course. But nothing good comes to us easily. He explains, “It usually takes two months to learn every movement but once practised well, you will be absolutely strong enough to take care of yourself. We want students and women to learn it so that they can fight for themselves.”
While many of us think of it as a martial art form, for Kumar, this is a lifestyle. He believes that you can fight every disease through Kalaripayattu. He adds, “I have never been to a gym and I don’t think anyone needs to if they follow this martial art consistently. It can help you attain a good body and build muscle weight.” Even though we as Indians are constantly trying to ape the west, foreigners are taking a thorough interest in our culture. “Back in Kerala, so many foreigners come to learn and help in promoting Kalaripayattu. One of our masters goes to Europe to teach this martial art form but Indians themselves take little interest,” he sighs.