Kalarippayattu is the oldest form of oriental martial art encapsulating Kerala’s unique cultural mytho-historical heritage.
What is Kalarippayattu
Here the term Kalarippayattu is derived from the combination of two words ‘Kalari’ which means the training place and ‘Payattu’ means the training. Kalari is considered the arena where a traditional physical discipline, cultivates mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. The Kalari legacy is also considered a scientific system of physical-culture training beneficial to the modern sportsman and physical culturist.
If the ‘lived body’ in its concreteness is the site of experience and source of knowledge for the practitioner, contemporary discourses and representations of the body and martial practice play a crucial role in shaping the fundamental assumptions of his body and the experience of practice.
So this particular scientific heritage inherits the technology of the body through which self, agency, power, selves, and behaviors develop in the right manner. The system is developed in the southern part of Kerala as a science of making a warrior reach his optimum potency to lead the country free from attacks.
The arena of practicing this spiritual art is called Kalari which literally means a place where the knowledge is being taught. The oriental architectonic science “VASTU SASTRA” determines the architecture of the Kalari space in a scientific manner.
The Kalari space is a hand-made pit dug out of the ground about five feet deep with a pounded earth floor with a thatched roof. To the southwest corner of the pit, is the Poothara, a seven-tiered platform where the guardian deity of the Kalari resides. The Kalari arena possesses a spiritual height of a temple where there are many sacred rituals carried out on a daily basis and as in a special day order. So the Kalari arena is a center for training and healing and also served as a temple.
Stages of Training The training is mainly divided into four parts consisting of Meippayattu, Kothari, Ankathari and Verumkai
Meithari is the beginning stage with rigorous body sequences involving twists, stances, and complex jumps and turns. Twelve meippayattu exercises for neuromuscular coordination, balance, and flexibility follow the basic postures of the body .
Once the student has become physically competent, he/ she is introduced to fighting with long wooden weapons. The first weapon taught is the Kettukari, which is usually five feet (1.5 m) in length, or up to the forehead of the student from ground level. The second weapon taught is the Cheruvadi or Muchan, a wooden stick three palm spans long, about two and a half feet long or 75 cm. The third weapon taught is the Otta, a wooden stick carved to resemble the trunk of an elephant.
The tip is rounded and is used to strike the vital spots in the opponent’s body. This weapon is considered the master weapon and is the fundamental tool of practice to develop stamina, agility, power, and skill. The training in ‘Otta’ consists of 18 sequences.
Once the practitioner has become proficient with all the wooden weapons, he/she proceeds to Ankathari (literally “war training”) starting with metal weapons, which require superior concentration due to their lethal nature. The first metal weapon taught is the Kadhara, a metal dagger with a curved blade. Taught next are sword (Val) and shield (Paricha). Subsequent weapons include the spear (Kuntham), and the flexible sword (Urumi or Chuttuval), extremely dangerous weapons taught to only the most skillful students. Historically, after the completion of ‘Ankathari’ training, the student would specialize in a weapon of his choice, to become an expert swordsman or stick fighter.
Only after achieving mastery with all weapons forms is the practitioner taught to defend his/her person with bare-handed techniques. These include arm locks, grappling, and strikes to the Pressure Points (Marmam), the vital points of the body. The Gurukkal teaches knowledge ofMarmam only to those students whom he trusts, restricting knowledge to the very few.
(Specialty Ayurveda Practices in kalarippayattu heritage) Kalari chikitsa, is the collective therapeutic methodologies developed within the Kalari abode. The practices involve chiefly the management of orthopedic, sports medicine and the management of neurological ailments. The practices are collectively known regionally as Marma chikitsa. It can be further explained as Kalari chikitsa is a natively originated postdevelopmental therapeutic heirloom of Shalya tantra division of Ayurveda.
The participant of the kalarippayattu tradition experience awareness about the integrity of the constitution of the human system. When the process of learning progresses he establishes an integrated awareness of the functional and emotional aspects of the system in the wellness stage as well as in the ailing stage. It is experienced as the build of consciousness within is due to the spiritual disciplines, he follows within the arena of practice.
One can find the Kalari system is built upon the scientific reasoning of Ayurveda, yoga, Vastu shastra, and Tantra shastra mainly. The awareness about one’s own self leads the disciple to understand the wellness and ailment status of others.
Kalari Uzhichil (Kalari massage)
The specialty discipline of the Kalari legacy is the massaging practices involved in the Kalari tradition. The maneuvering is traditionally known as Kalari uzhichil or Kalari massage. Here, in this practice, the entire body is massaged with medicated oil in a very methodical way.
The strokes involved in the massage are practiced in the way of Akshara kettu and Akka kettu, known traditionally, which means the strokes of the massage is executed in the form of letters and numbers. The massage is executed by hand as well as by the feet of the therapy personnel. A person who succeeds in the whole training of Kalarippayattu is only allowed to practice and execute the Kalari massage, traditionally. Firm body stability, self-control, meditative mind, and clean flow of Vata within the body himself is needed to execute the therapy maneuvering to the ailing body, for experiencing the optimum healing effect.
The massaging practice chiefly helps to facilitate the healthy and accurate flow of Vata energy in the system, in turn helping to promote healthy tissue conversion, waste disposal, and harnessing of body-mind-soul coordination and integrity. This therapy module is the principal way to treat various disorders of the body such as inter-vertebral disc prolapses, cervical spondylitis, frozen shoulder, and many other disease conditions pertaining to musculoskeletal and neurological origins.
The main distinguishing feature of the Kalari master’s medical expertise from that of others is his psycho-physiological training as a martial artist and his practical knowledge of the body’s vital spots, ‘Marma’. The massage harness the functionality of Marma and leads to imparting corrective measures for healing the system and rejuvenating the body. Another main important factor in giving massage therapy is the usage of various kinds of medicated oil preparation in the therapies.
Basically, the oils or fats are categorized in a special group Sneha (The oleaginous compounds). the main genre of the substances is Taila (Vegetable fat especially sesame oil), Ghruta (ghee), vasa (muscle fat), and Majja (bone marrow). These substances are used alone unprocessed or usually processed with various medicaments. The usage of these medicated oils are in a variety of manners like the medicated oil is used to apply overhead, another variety is used to apply all over the body and some oils are used to take internally. The medicinal combination is usually different from the classical Ayurvedic literature and is confined to the family traditions.
Asthi bhanga chikitsa of kalari. (Bone fracture management in Kalari tradition) The Kalari Chikitsa has got its distinctive way of treating various kinds of bone fractures and joint dislocations happening to humans. The Kalari Chikitsa is capable of healing any kind of bone fractures that are not in the category of surgical intervention such as fractures of the skull etc. A very descriptive illustration of bone fractures and joint dislocations is described in various texts of Ayurveda. A concise description is given below. The injury happens to bone and joints are classified in two main variants in Ayurveda such as Sandhow bhangra (Dislocations) and Asandhow bhangra (Bone fractures)
The former division, dislocation is classified further in to six as
- Utplishtam 2. Vishlishtam 3. Avakshiptam 4. Atikshiptam 5. Tiryakkshiptam 6. Vivarthitam
The later division, the fracture of the bone is classified in to 12 as,
- Karkatakam 2. Vakram 3. Sputitham 4. Vellitham 5. Asthichallikam 6. Aswakarnam 7. Pichitham 8. Daritham 9. Choornitham 10. Atipathitham 11. Seshitham 12. Majjanugatham.
A very descriptive details are given in the classic literatures of Ayurveda for each vari – ants with signs and symptoms with management protocols and prognosis as well. The management modalities includes, the correction of dismantled broken bones to its real position, retaining the broken bones to its original position by means of plaster – ing it with herbal preparation, splinting, bandaging etc.
The various type of bandaging (Bandha) practices are described in 14 ways as below.
- Kosha bandham 2. Dama bandham 3. Swasthika bandham 4. Anuvelita bandham 5. Pratoli bandham 6. Mandala bandham 7. Sthagika bandham 8. Yamaka bandham 9. Khatwa badham 10. Cheena bandham 11. Vibadha bandham 12. Vitana bandham 13. Gophana bandham 14. Panchangi bandham.
Apart from the reduction and bandaging methods, the patient is advised to consume Ayurvedic preparation of various kinds to, enhance the fracture healing, antiinflam – matory medicaments and drugs to heal the wounds if any. The methods adopted are
works as Vrana ropana (wound healing), Asthi sandhana (fracture remodeling), Vedanasthapana (pain reducing).
Kalari chikitsa in Post operative orthopedic rehabilitation The Ayurveda Kalari way of treatment modalities are the treatment choice for post operative orthopedic rehabilitation. The therapies help to regain the health of musculoskeletal system to bring back the accuracy of musculo-skeletal integrity and regain the strength back.
Various medical modalities such as medicated rice bolus pouching, oil baths, bandages, fomentation of various kinds, other exercise patters are helps to treat the conditions. Kalarippayat Movement therapy (KMT)) Kalarippayattu Movement Therapy ‘KMT’ is a movement based healing methodology based on body dynamics.
The body movements in kalari tradition is chiefly classified as Chuvadu (Feet position), Vadivu (posture) Nila (Stance), Neekam (Forward movement), chattam jumps), adavu (Tactics)). Each of the above is developed by using the principle of yoga, ayurveda and tatra shastra. Effective practice of the movement aspects of kalari helps to regain and strengthens the human system.
This has brought newer insights as to how effectively Kalarippayattu Movement can be used to bring about changes in people, suffering from physiological and psychological ailments. Kalarippayattu Movement Therapy has a broad range of health benefits. It has been demonstrated to be clinically effective at improving body image, self-esteem, attentiveness, and communication skills. It can also reduce stress, fears and anxieties, as well as lessen feelings of isolation, body tension, chronic pain, and depression.
In addition it can enhance the functioning of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems. Kalarippayattu Movement Therapy has also been shown to benefit adolescent and adult psychiatric patients, the learning disabled, the mentally handicapped. Proponents of Movement therapy claim that it has also been used successfully to help people deal with neurological diseases, arthritis, stroke, cancer, and a number of other physical ailments.