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The mother of all Martial Arts

Learning the ancient martial art of kalaripayattu, which integrates yoga, dance and combat techniques, can set your family on the path of life-long fitness and well-being – K.P. Malini

One of the oldest martial art forms in the world dating back to the 6th century, kalaripayattu is emerging in a new avatar as a popular fitness and wellness activity. Over the past decade in particular, kalaripayattu which integrates dance, yoga, combat techniques and healing systems, has become popular with training academies springing up across the country. 

“Kalaripayattu is the mother of all martial art forms. It’s gaining in popularity because it uniquely combines defence techniques, dance, yoga and healing systems. It boosts both physical and mental fitness and body flexibility and functioning. Moreover there is no age to learn this art form. I have students as young as seven in my academy,” says Gurukkal Anil Kumar, Kalaripayattu master trainer at C.V.N. Kalari, Kozhikode, who choreographed the fight sequences for Hindi blockbuster movie Bajirao Mastani.


The word kalaripayattu combines two words — kalari (training ground) and payattu (fight). This martial art originated in 6th century Kerala as a code of combat and gained popularity during the hundred years of war between the Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras (300 BC-1279 AD). Though many ancient martial art forms of India have lost their popularity due to neglect and lack of proper documentation, kalaripayattu has stood the test of time. 

According to the website of Parashurama Vallabhatta Kalari, a training academy based in Bangalore, during the British conquest of India, laws were passed to stop people from practising kalaripayattu as it involved training with weapons. The British objected to the tradition of training with weapons and armaments even though they were of symbolic value. Laws were passed and enforced with zest to prevent the people from practising and training kalaripayattu. “But the British underestimated the love of martial arts in India and kalaripayattu was secretly practiced and kept alive during the colonial occupation of India,” says
This ancient indigenous martial art form draws inspiration from the raw power, majestic strength and instinctive fighting techniques of animals such as lion, tiger, elephant, snake, peacock, wild boar, etc. Ancient masters codified eight types of vadivus or postures mimicking the attack positions of various animals. The eight vadivus are: varaha (wild boar), gaja (elephant), marjara (cat), simham (lion), sarpam (snake), kukkuda (cock), mayura (peacock) and haya (horse). 

Healing system    

An important component of kalaripayattu is its indigenous medicinal practices or chikitshas. Kalaripayattu has a unique system of medicine based on ayurveda and kalarichikitsa (kalari treatment). It includes marmachikitsa (healing through 107 energy ‘entry points’), thirumal (body massage using feet/ropes) and vyayamachikitsa (physical exercise). 

“Kalari chikitsha uses medicinal oils, herbal compresses, massage techniques and marma vital energy point therapy to revive and balance the mind and body. Many sports players go to kalari centres to treat injuries like ligament tear, dislocations, etc. Kalari chikitsha is also very useful for back, neck pain, and many bone-related disorders,” says Anil Kumar.


Kalaripayattu training academies

Martial Warriors Academy,
Plot No. 258, Shiv Shakti Street, Niti Khand 1-Indirapuram, Ghaziabad 201014, Near Cambridge School, 
Ph: 9152473861

Belraj Kalari
Somaiya Vidyavihar, Vidyanagar, Vidya Vihar East, Vidyavihar, 
Mumbai 400077
Ph: 99209 97639

AAMAD Performing Arts, Leisure City Aram Nagar Part 1, Versova, Andheri West, Near Hakim’s Aalim Hair Booth, Mumbai 400061 
Ph: 9930029265

Shaji Kalari
32/524, 32nd Cross St, Tiruvalluvar Nagar,  Besant Nagar, 
Chennai 600090    
Ph: 098400 31043  

Parashurama Vallabhatta Kalari Academy
#28/a, Udaya Nagar, 
Chikkalasandra Village, 
Subramanyapura Road, 
Bangalore 560 061 
Ph: 094484 82643

Bodhi Dharma Martial Arts & Self Defence
NSS Hall, Aalinchuvadu, Near Pipeline Junction, Palarivattom, 
Vennala, Ernakulam, Kerala 682028
Ph: 090373 14689

CVN Kalari, C.H. Cross Road, East Nadakkavu,
Nadakkavu, Kozhikode, Kerala 673011
Ph: 0495 2769114, 0495 2768214

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