I recently had the honour of visiting Kochi, and watching Kalaripayattu experts show their skills in a wondrous and breathtaking series of attack like scenarios. Kalaripayattu is believed to be the mother of all martial arts. Amongst many Chinese traders, was Boddhidharma who visited Kerala. When he was acquainted by the art of Kalaripayattu he was shocked to know the details of its philosophy. Though it includes many sword and stick fighting techniques, it also teaches that the enemy is with in, and not outside. Many defence and attack postures are inspired by wild animals, that often engage in attacks, for their daily prey.
Picture: Kalaripayattu weapons
He then took the art of Kalaripayattu, where Kallari means training ground and payat means fight, to China. It then moved on to be called Kung Fu. This story, or variations of the story maybe questionable to many, but irrelevant of that, what these warriors can do represent the impossible, which can translate further into many forms of martial arts.
The speed with which the trained warriors jumped, kicked, and moved was beyond normal human capacity. Knowing their training no one would want to mess with them, but when spoken to, they had one of the kindest smiles.
Picture: (L-R) Mudit, Safeer, and Arjun, at the Greenix Village, Kochi.
I asked Arjun, one of the three, “how long does it take for an average student of Kalaripayattu student to be called an expert? For example in many Indian Classical dance forms it takes 14 years until the Guru allows you to give the final exam and perform, post which you can be called a trained dancer.”
To which he said that there is no such thing in Kalaripayattu. Only when the Guru believes your education and training is complete, is when can consider yourself completely trained. It is a difficult journey. Most of these men, have been trained for over 16 years, and are now even training more men and women.
When I asked Arjun and Safeer whether they ever felt scared, or fear at any point, without the blink of an eyelid, they said no. He then showed me his bleeding knuckles, and said it is a part of daily life. Arjun did mention that the level of focus affects a performance far more than one imagine. He said that if he would not be in a good mood, or entered the Kalari after fighting with someone, he has lost attention.
They often feel that more people must take interest in Kalaripayattu. It was due the British that the decline primarily started, since they banned it. However, with time more people are interested to know more. It is interesting to understand how power of colonisation could stop the flourishing of mental, spiritual, and physical power.
Today the world is moving to appreciate the art even more, and the Greenix Village (where I attended the Kallaripayattu show), is doing a great job in preserving the prestigious heritage. Know more about Greenix Village, a UNESCO World Heritage town, by clicking here. If you would like contact Arjun you can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is a short article on the martial art: