The birth of Kalaripayattu is believed to be from the Gods. This old form of martial arts, like most other parts of Indian culture, comes from Agastya Muni. Considered as one of the oldest martial arts forms on the Earth, Kalari was, in the beginning, taught by Agastya Muni, a short man who traveled a lot. He invented martial arts in various forms mainly to defend himself against wildlife. He belonged to South India and in that time, tigers were found in large numbers in forests. He taught martial arts to other people to fight tigers and other wild animals while traveling.
Kalaripayattu is not just about punching and kicking. It involves learning how to use the body in all possible ways. This form of martial arts is associated with the understanding of the energy system. The two aspects of Kalaripayattu – Kalari Marma and Kalari Chikitsa relate to knowing the secrets of the body and healing the body so as to maintain the regenerative mode. Perhaps, today, there exist only a few practitioners of Kalaripayattu who spend time, focus and energy on this ancient martial arts form.
Origin And The Birth Of Kalaripayattu
The birth of Kalaripayattu dates back to those times when people did not understand in fighting with each other. They used martial arts to tackle animals. Once, when some people, while traveling to China, crossed the Himalayas and came across some wild men who attacked travelers. At that time, the travelers used the martial arts that they had learned to fight the wild animals. Once it was used on men, a complete transformation was seen in the martial arts. The art evolved into a standing up type and reached China and other parts of Asia.
When using Kalaripayattu on humans, killing is involved because man will not stop until killed. This is not the case with wildlife. Animals attack for food and go away if you defend yourself. In India too, the martial arts were used to fight with men but the transformation was limited. They started using weapons instead. The transformation of Kalari into Karate is well-known. Karate is, however, a better fighting method for men as they can stand on two feet. On the other hand, in Kalari, the person looks down at something lower because it was meant to use on wildlife. Hence, it is not a good method for fighting with men.
Kalaripayattu means practicing the battlefield arts. The meaning of Kalari is the battlefield. This art is believed to have originated from Rishi Agastya and Parashurama. Another great Kalari teacher after Agastya, Parashurama used his martial art abilities to slaughter armies single-handedly. His school was in the North of Malabar while Agastya taught at the school which was in the South. Parashurama’s techniques involved different kinds of weapons including throwing weapons, hand weapons and others while Agastya Muni’s Kalari was all hand-based and did not involve any use of weapons. Parashurama discovered the land of Kerala from seas and established 42 Kalaripayattu training schools. He trained 21 Kalari masters to protect this land created by him.
The most ancient reference to Kalaripayattu is found in the Vedas – Rigveda, and Atharvaveda. Rigveda mentions that one of the Kalari techniques was used by Lord Indra to defeat Vritasura, the daemon. This technique was Kalari Marma which implies to the pressure points on the body. Skilled practitioners can kill their opponents with just a touch using this technique. In order to avoid any misuse, the technique is taught to a higher level and reliable practitioners. This technique of Kalaripayattu was depicted in an Indian movie by Kamal Hassan.
A famous Indian medical researcher and practitioner, Sushruta, who lived in the 6th century B.C, defined as many as 107 important human body points in a book ‘Sushruta Samhita’. 64 out of these 107 points were categorized to be deadly if hit properly using a stick or fist. In learning this art of Kalaripayattu, a student begins with unarmed punches and kicks and then proceed to master swords, sticks, daggers, and spears before they finally study the techniques of marmas.
Today, it can be said that the techniques and practices of the oldest form of martial arts, Kalaripayattu form a vital part of all the Asian martial arts. Kalaripayattu root influences have given rise to a majority of various warfare arts which the modern world today recognizes.