Indian martial art from the southern state of Kerala has long been known for its varied forms of martial arts and sports. The martial arts training centers during the olden days used to be almost like a Gurukul where the students went in at a very young age of seven or eight when the body is still and supple. The Guru or the preceptor trains the student in many subjects including Ayurveda, the science of herbal healing and Yoga to awaken the mental or psychic powers.
They are accustomed with meticulous martial arts training for several years. One of the oldest fighting systems in existence is Kalaripayattu which was been practiced in Kerala from ancient times. The term kalaripayattu is a tatpurusha compound from the words 'kalari', which means school or gymnasium and 'payattu', meaning to "fight/ exercise" or "to put hard work into".
Special martial arts training were provided to the royal militarily guards and the religious warriors. Thus martial arts training were a complete study by its own and took many years for a person in bringing it to perfection.
Use of arms and implements such as knife, bow and arrow, sword, stick etc. were taught to the disciple besides freehand combat. Martial arts display formed a common performance in temple festivals and other important occasions. Some sports such as Njaninmel Kali (tightrope walking) were also much favored. It is this expertise in the field of martial arts and sports that has paved the way for training in circus acts. Kalari payat became more developed during the 9th century and was practiced by a section of the Hindu community, warrior clan of Kerala, to defend the state and the king.
There are two distinct systems of kalaripayattu in Kerala, the northern and the southern kalari schools. In northern kalari school (called vadakkan kalari), emphasis is on fighting with sword. Flexibility of body is achieved through specific massage techniques. Medicated oils are used in massaging the body for strength and flexibility. In southern kalari, prominence is on empty hand fighting. Flexibility of body is achieved through different exercises.Both systems of kalari use different types of massage oils and herbal medicines.
Kalaripayattu or kalari Ayurvedic Treatments has great scope in sports medicine. Injuries happened to the students at a kalari (arena) are quickly healed by application of herbs and/or massages. A master of kalari is knowledgeable about marma (vital points on the body), medicines and proper massage techniques in addition to the knowledge of fighting.
Practicing kalari is the best way of for healthy, flexible body and alert mind. There is difference in the footsteps of an innocent person and of a person with malice in mind. A kalari practitioner can identify the difference between the two.