Kalaripayattu is an ancient martial art and fighting system that originated in Kerala. It gained much popularity across India, and soon transcended boundaries, joining the league of other martial arts across the world. While self-defense and fighting are definitely the major attractions, the numerous health benefits of practicing kalaripayattu have contributed greatly to its significance and popularity.
A kalaripayattu workshop helmed by T Sudhakaran Gurukkal at Ravindra Bharathi, provides some very important lessons to aspirants in the city. Excerpts from a freewheeling conversation with the gurukkal (teacher):
Stepping into the kalari
I hail from Calicut district in Kerala, and am currently running CVN Kalari in Edakkad. I started learning kalaripayattu in 1966, at the age of 11, after which I taught at my guru’s kalari for several years, before forming CVN in 1995. I have demonstrated the martial art across cities in India and also seven other countries. Apart from that, I’ve also been conducting regular workshops.
It is believed that all other martial arts originated from kalaripayattu – that, a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma, who learned it from Kerala, travelled to China and taught other monks, which then spread to Japan and Korea, with suitable modifications.
Stages of Kalaripayattu
First is body preparation stage, unlike other martial arts. Without preparing your body, it is impossible to employ or learn other techniques. Then we move on to simple weapons like wooden sticks. Apart from attacking and defending, it also enhances other skills like observation. Then comes weapons used in warfare, like spear sword, etc. Hand fight is the fourth stage. Fifth includes therapy system of massaging and manipulating marma points. This is a very effective remedy for ailments like sprain, back pain, spondylitis, etc. without having to consume any medicines.
We conduct workshops for dancers and theatre artistes too, apart from doing mass choreography for big events. However, more people come to learn self-defense, especially women. When I was a child, there were just two or three girls in the kalari. Now I train 20-25 girls out of the total 60-65 students in my kalari. In the 20-days workshop being conducted here, the focus is on body preparation and introductory training for weapons like sticks and dagger.