The word Kalarippayattu is the compound form of the words kalari (School) and Payattu (to fight) Kalarippayattu is as old as the great Indian philosophy and the Vedas. It is the martial tradition of Kerala and it has its roots deep in the Vedic culture of India. Kalarippayattu is considered by many as the most comprehensive of all the martial traditions because it has:
- an excellent system of physical training
- a very effective self defense techniques - both armed and unarmed.
- a great system of vital t/pressure points system of fighting and treatment based on the principles of Ayurveda.
- a great philosophy based on the Vedic culture of India
There are many different styles of Kalarippayatt. If one looks at the way attacks and defenses are performed, one can distinguish three main schools of thought: the northern styles, the central styles, and the southern styles. Each chapter in his book references a representative of each of the three main traditions
During the British colonial rule in 19th century Kalarippayattu has got a renewal and it began in 1920 in Tellicherry as part of a wave of rediscovery of the traditional arts throughout South India and continued through the 1970s surge of general worldwide interest in martial arts. In recent years, efforts have been made to further popularise the art, with it featuring in international films. Some dance schools incorporate Kalarippayatt as part of their exercise regimen.
There are many different styles of Kalarippayatt. If one looks at the way attacks and defenses are performed, one can distinguish three main schools of thought: the northern styles, the central styles, and the southern styles.
Several components make up the basic equipment and training ground of kalarippayatt. A student begins training in northern Kalarippayatt at approximately 7 years old with a formal initiation ritual performed by the Gurukkal.
Influence of kalarippayatt can be seen in major classical art forms of Kerala, mainly Kathakali. Many of the traditional performing art and dance forms of Kerala, like Kathakali, Kolkali, Velakali, etc., have drawn elements from Kalarippayatt during their stages of evolution. Kathakali has borrowed much from Kalarippayatt in its basic body preparative training of the actor not only in terms of technique in practice but also from the body massage for the trainee. Many of the body postures, choreography and foot work of the Kathakali characters are taken directly from Kalarippayatt. Some dance schools incorporate Kalarippayatt as part of their exercise regimen. Some of its choreographed sparring can be applied to dance.