SYSTEM OF PHYSICAL
CULTURE SELF DEFENCE
is a great and ancient physical, cultural and martial art of Kerala,
which was in prevalence from time immemorial. It is primarily an
art of physical culture, well developed in a most scientific way.
It aims at giving a practitioner of the art, perfect control over
his body balance, flexibility, stamina and speed, and perfect neuro-muscular
co-ordination, an ability of the body to react instinctively to
Not only does Kalarippayat inculcate
and promote perfect health, if also enables the student to master
the art of making a fearless and confident stand in the face of
the enemy, and to defend himself with confidence from onslaughts.
The student also becomes an adept at unarmed combat.
We shall attempt here to give a general
idea about the different systems and items in Kalarippayat.
Body Control Exercises. This is the first item to be practised in
the training of Kalarippayat. This is the main basis on which further
progress of the student is built. This is intended to give the students
as perfect control over the body as is humanly possible. Every conceivable
form of stretching, turning and twisting of the body is mastered
by means of practicing this. The art of wielding weapons can be
mastered only through perfect control over one’s body as well
as by agility. A man, however strong he may be, cannot use his strength
effectively if he has no control over his own body.
Quarter – staff. This is a stick about five to six feet long.
This is the first weapon to be taken up practised in Kalarippayat.
This is intended to give training to use a long staff as a powerful
weapon of offence and defence. This exercise forms a preliminary
to the art of lighting with a spear.
Three Span staff. This is a shorter staff and requires more care
and precision in wielding. The movements are more rapid and blows
are delivered and parried in quicker succession. The practice of
Cheruvadi calls for great ability of movement, and about a hundred
blows can be dealt with it in about a minute.
GADA – Mace.
This was not a popular weapon due to its unwieldiness. Only students
of gigantic structure and great muscular strength prefer the use
of this weapon. Though bodily strength is considered to be very
essential, agility and dexterity are counted much for the successful
handling of his weapon. It is a general rule that no blows with
the mace should be aimed below the waist of the opponent.
OTTA – Curved
Staff – This is a short curved staff, about 18 to 20 inches
long. Cuts and thrusts with this have to be done with great quickness
and dexterity and these are aimed at the “Marmas” or
vital spots of the body. Otta practised to perfection calls for
great stamina and physical endurance.
SPEAR. The spear
is a deadly weapon and was generally used in ancient warfare. In
this the combatants cannot fight at close quarters, but only at
convenient distances. Cuts, thrusts, whirlings and several kinds
of locks are made with it, and they are parried and returned with
the spear itself. The practise with the Kettukari is preliminary
study for the spear, and feats of increasing difficulty can also
be performed with it.
DAGGER. The dagger
has a length of about one foot and is sharp on both sides, and is
pointed at the end. The principal uses are slashing, cutting and
prevention of attacks. No shield is used, the blows being parried
with the dagger itself. Cuts and thrusts are made on all sides and
the slightest inattention on the part of the combatant would find
his opponent’s dagger deep into his body.
Sword Flight. The use of the sword in an efficient manner is considered
to be the peak of perfection in Kalarippayat. Various methods in
the use of the sword as a weapon of offence and defence were prevalent
in Kerala and the most awe-inspiring and blood-crudling of these
was the type known as “Puliyankam”. Art extraordinary
control over the body, agility, a quick eye, and presence of mind
are necessary for the mastery of this form of sword fight. The combatants
have to turn and twist their bodies in all possible ways, and leap
and jump with surprising ease and agility. Born in a family of small
means, a warrior like Tacholi Othenan lived on the might of his
body and sword in this land of Kerala. Kings and smaller kingdoms
were mightily afraid of this warrior and his sword. He was the biggest
exponent of sword fighting and an unrivalled adept at Kalarippayat.
SPEAR Vs SWORD.
In this combat one is armed with sword and shield and other with
spear, unlike in other combats where the opponents face each other
with identical weapons. In this the weapons are different and due
to the length of the spear, the sword-man is at a disadvantage.
Therefore the swords-man tries to exploit all the weak points of
‘ Kathiyum Thalayum’ involves the most crucial techniques
in the art of self-defence. One person attacks with a knife and
the other defends himself with the aid of a six cubit long piece
of cloth held by both hands in a peculiar way. The offence and defence
techniques are very interesting to watch.
Sword. This is a long flexible sword measuring 3 to 4 feet in length
and sharp at both sides. One cannot handle this unless he has through
mastery over the body-control exercises. This weapon is used by
a warrior in mass encounter.
In the foregone paragraphs we have
tried to place before you a short sketch of the various items in
Kalarippayat. Practice in this art will no doubt, make you a healthy,
fearless and self-confident citizen, and give you mastery over yourself.
Sri. K.G. Muraleedhra Gurukkal
Sreepathy C.V.N. Kalari
Cheruvandoor, Ettumanoor P.O., Kottayam Dist.
Kerala, South India,
Phone: 0481 2533292, 2533293
Tele Fax: 91 481 2536387