Kalaripayattu is a South Indian martial art and fighting system that actually originated in Tamilakam, present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu. With its origin dating as far back as the 3rd Century BC to 2nd Century AD, some practitioners claim it is one of the oldest martial art in existence. The weapons used are Urumi, swords, matchete, spears, shileds, Katar, Quarterstaff, Gada, Trishula, Madu.

Kalaripayattu, sometimes shortened as KALARI has three schools, which are distinguished by their attacking and defensive patterns. They are ArappaKayyi, PillaThangi and VattenThiripp.

Kalari had developed into its present form by the 6th Century during an extended period of warfare between the Chera and Chola dynasties. It includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. The resurgence of public interest in Kalaripayattu began in the 1920s in Thalassery, 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.


Kalari techniques are a combination of steps (Chuvadu) and postures (Vavidu). Chivadu literally means steps, the basic steps of the martial arts. Vivadu literally means postures or stances and are the basic featured of Kalari training.

Kalari, considered among the oldest and most scientific martial arts in the world was developed in Kerala. Landed as the pride of Kerala, it is acknowledged and respected across the world. The training begins with an oil massage of the entire body until it is agile and supple. Feats like Chattom (jumping), Ottom (running) and Marichil (Somersault) are also integral parts of the art form. The primary aim is the ultimate coordination between mind and body. Another focus of Kalaripayattu is specialization in indigenous medicinal practices.

Kalaris are also important centres of religious worship. Once the course is complete, one should engage in oil massage and practice to maintain shape. Regional variants are classified according to geographical position in Kerala; these are the Northern style from Malabar region in North Kerala and the Southern style from Thirnvitankoor.

Northern Kalaripayattu is based on elegant and flexible movements, evasions, jumps and weapons training, while the Southern ‘Adi Murai’ style primarily follows the hard impact based techniques with priority on empty hand fighting and pressure point strikes. Both systems make use of internal and external concpets. Some of the flexibility training methods in Northern Kalari are applied in keralan dance forms and Kathakali dancers who knew martial arts were believed to be markedly better than the other performers. Some traditional Indian dance schools still incorporate Kalaripayattu as part of their exercise regimen.

The main advantage of Kalari is that it helps balance your body and mind by enhancing your strength, energy, flexibility and levels of endurance, making us stress-free and relaxed. It also makes you fast, cuts down the laziness in your body, increases your concentration power per practice, improves your patience, improves your presence of mind as new moves are learnt and inhabited for the battlefield, ability to survive a real attack.

The holistic approach of Kalaripayattu has caught the heart of many martial art practitioners and fitness enthusiasts in recent times.