Kalaripayattu as “The Mother of All Martial Arts”. Kalaripayattu is a martial art designed for the ancient battlefield (the word “Kalari” meaning “Battlefield”), with weapons and combative techniques that are unique to India.Siddhar Agathiyar is considered to be the creator of Kalaripayattu.Speculated to have lived sometime around 15,000 BCE, Agastya is one of the ancient saptarshis, a revered Vedic sage, and the earliest Siddhar. He is considered to have fathered the ancient form of warfare which is speculated to be either a direct translation or parent form of Kalaripayattu. From this account, there seems to be no doubt that Kalaripayattu is the oldest art form of war. Like most other Indian martial arts, Kalaripayattu draws heavily from Hinduism and is based on Hindu medicinal concepts found in Siddha and Ayurveda. Practitioners of Kalaripayattu possess intricate knowledge of pressure points on the human body and healing techniques that incorporate the knowledge of Ayurveda and Yoga. Students are taught the martial art as a way of life, with a sense of compassion, discipline, and respect toward the master, fellow – students, parents and the community. Particular emphasis is placed on avoiding confrontational situations and using the martial art only as a means of protection, when no other alternative is available.
Unlike other parts of India, warriors in Kerala belonged to all castes. Women in Keralite society also underwent training in Kalaripayattu, and still do so to this day. Warfare has been part of mankind’s innate nature since the beginning of human existence. The art of war has undergone immense changes and developments over the ages. Yet, certain principles and teachings have always remained constant. Crack a dude’s neck and he’ll stop breathing; it’s as simple as that. Granted that is a fairly watered-down example of what I’m saying, but hopefully you get the drift. Among the most ancient and proven forms of combat in history happens to have been born in God’s own country. Here is a brief historic retelling about what is claimed to be the mother of all martial arts. Its origins can be traced as far back as 15,000 BCE.The first references to a form of martial arts and warfare, called Kalaripayattu, originated in southern India from the Sangam literature era between 300 BC and 300 AD. But, Kalari was first officially recognised as a martial art of Kerala in 1362 AD – the word kalari meaning, battlefield or combat arena.
But it was Bodhidharma whose travels spread the art form across east Asia. Speculated to have lived around the 5th or 6th Century AD, the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was a trained practitioner of Kalaripayattu. It is said that it was his travels to the Shaolin temples that eventually resulted in him training the monks in the art form he practised in southern India, which evolved into what is today more commonly known as Shaolin Kung Fu. Covering all methods of warfare, Kalaripayattu is considered to be the oldest, most holistic form of martial arts. Although there are accounts of combat sports earlier than recorded accounts of Kalaripayattu, it is Kalaripayattu’s approach towards warfare that makes it a forerunner in a sense. While most other combative practices were still only sports – like pugilism and wrestling – Kalaripayattu was a martial art that the knightly bodyguards of ancient Kerala’s rulers practiced. Today, it is safe to say that Kalaripayattu’s practices and techniques form an integral part of all Asian martial arts – at least in terms of root influences – which subsequently birthed a majority of different arts of warfare that the modern age recognizes. The most ancient martial art and the art of living, Kalaripayattu was known in the Gurukulam tradition of the Gotra cuture in India. There were 3 versions of kalaripayattu named Arrappukai version, vatten thirippu version, and pilla thangi version during that time.Arappukai version consists of a varieties of fighting tactics which is mainly focused on to jump high, standing and lifting legs, bend and fix the body in the middle position and stretch and fight, steps to practice complex exercises, various techniques to develop flexibility and weapon applications are also included. The technique of fighting using the flexibility of the body, the tricky movements in an up and down manner & verieties of jumps are used in Arrapukai version. Secondly in vatten thirippu version includes varieties of summersaults (Malakkareethikal), a large variety of foot & hand movements (Kalam chavuttu reethikal and vettu chuvadukal) and Body flexibility techniques.
The third one is pillathangi version which consists of ground level stretch movements & its combinations, body flexibility, fast forward & backward movements in different ways, methods to develop the speed & strength of hands. There are also combinations of striking hands on the floor and variety of applications of hands always in low stance movements (kaikuthi payattu) are also included. The other kalaripayattu names have been derived from names of kalari gurukal(master), his house name, village name etc, according to the situations. They are kadathanadu, thulunadu, odimurisheri etc. After 1957 the Kalaripayattu associations formed and they are coordinated as one union. They divided kalaripayattu in names of northern, southern and central kerala(vadakkan, thekkan and Madhya Kerala) they started conducting kalari competitions. All the Kalaris started then was started under this classification of northern, southern & central kerala.