Kalaripayattu-Oldest and Original Martial Arts that Came from India

Kalaripayattu Indian Yug2

I was really fascinated while meeting one of the martial arts experts who was visiting India to participant in a fighting tournament.  I was astonished to know through him An interesting and little known fact about Kalaripayattu.

Sometimes known simply as Kalari It is the oldest of all known martial arts forms. Bodhi Dharma, a Buddhist monk who was also an expert in Kalaripayattu spread the art form in China eventually evolving into Kung Fu and from there eventually into karate.

I was speechless there, “Seriously I can’t believe that the Chinese are using our art to become apotheosis for all the fighting arts.

In fact, ask any westerner or sadly even Indians about the hand to hand combat arts, be it any and they will say, well Chinese!”.

Nobody knows that Indians are the founder of martial arts. I wanted to explore more and invited our guest  Ranjit- the founder of Martial Warrior Academy, to give his insights about the most ignore martial art of the world yet the founding stone of all ‘Kalaripayattu’

The existence of Martial arts in India for over 3000 years can be proved by the mention of martial arts in the Vedas

Origin of Indian Martial Art – Kalaripayattu

Origin of Indian Martial Art - Kalaripayattu
Origin of Indian Martial Art – Kalaripayattu

First found mention in the Sangam Literature, the word Kalaripayattu is a combination of two Malayalam words – Kalari (training ground or battleground) and Payattu (training of martial arts), which is roughly translated as “practice in the arts of the battlefield.

Lord Shiva and Beginning of First Martial Arts in India: Kalaripayattu

Statue depicting Shiva Natraj form
Statue depicting Shiva Natraj form

Existence of Martial arts in India for over 3000 years can be proved by the mention of martial arts in the Vedas

It is believed that Lord Shiva himself developed an art of warfare known as KALARIPAYATTU which was finally learnt by people in South India through his disciples.

According to ancient folklore, Lord Vishnu’s disciple Parasurama who was an avatar of Lord Vishnu is believed to be the human founder of martial arts in India

Lord Nandi: 

As lord Nandi is very dear to Lord Shiva and is always with him, so first student of this art of warfare was lord Nandi.

Lord Karthikeya (Murugan) :

When demon Tarkasura has spread evilness a lot, then to stop and kill him Lord Kartikeya (Murgugan), son of my dear lord Shiva took birth. Tarkasura has got a boon that he can be killed only by lord Shiva’s own son. Now to kill Tarkasura, Lord Kartikeya learnt the art of warfare from Lord Shiva and Lord Nandi. Lord Karthikeya was sent to south India by Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesha was sent to Northern part of India for their further Karmas.

That is why one can see Lord Karthikeya in form of Lord Murugan being worshipped a lot in south India and Lord Ganesha being worshipped a lot in North India like Maharashtra.

Sage Agastya: 

Sage Agastya too learnt the art of warfare from Lord Shiva and Lord Murugan and somehow travelled to southern part of India. In Kerala his style is being called as Thekkan Kalari and in Tamil Nadu it is being called as Silambam/ Chilambam. I will refrain from using which part of South India he travelled.

People of Tamil Nadu and Kerala usually gets into heated discussion on this to prove which art is  better. As I know both arts, I therefore can to some extent highlight that both the arts are almost similar. Also point to note is Guru of Southern Kalari/ Thekkan Kalari and Silambam is Sage Agastya. I still don’t know the reason nor do I see one for the continued arguments on this subject.

Sage Agastya also gave the knowledge of 108 Marmas to the world which is main part of the Kalaripayattu. One with knowledge of these Marmas can injure his opponent and can even heal someone. Kalaripayattu Guru’s are very good Ayurvedic/ Siddha doctors.

Sage Parshurama:

When Kshatriyas has gone wild due to hunger/ greed of power and has spread evilness a lot, then Sage Parshurama roles comes into play. One of the Kshatriya king even killed Sage Parshurama’s father.

Sage Parshuram’s mother, on murder of her husband, mourned and beated her chest 21 times Seeing that mourning sage Parshurama decided to kill whole Kshatriya’s clan 21 times singlehandedly so that evilness in the world can be controlled. It is believed that Sage Parshurama is immortal and is still alive in this Kaliyuga too and will appear to train art of warfare to Lord Kalki to end Kaliyuga.

Sage Parshurama style of martial arts is called as Vaddakan Kalari and is mainly based on ruthless weaponry system. This art flourished well in northern sides of Kerala.

kalaripayattu IndianYug

My Thoughts and Experience of Kalaripayattu

After learning from so many years and still learning, I can say Kalaripayattu is itself a complete Martial art in itself. Each and every aspect of Kalaripayattu is scientifically designed to progress.

Health aspects

Kalaripayattu moves are designed in such a way that practitioners gets overall body development. Kalaripayattu practitioners are extremely flexible and agile to do any move in day to day life. Practitioners muscles, tendons and ligaments are also very strong. Traditional weight lifting sets mostly matching with few modern methods are also done for overall strength development.

In a research, it is found that practitioners of Kalaripayattu has the best respiratory system development compared to other Martial arts including Yoga

kalaripayattu IndianYug4


Defensive and offensive

Kalaripayattu combat practice is not just about killing someone but it is defenso- offensive martial arts training. I have read many statement where Kalaripayattu is said to be too much deadly that it cannot be used normally/ defensively against anyone. But I consider this statement as false. Practitioners learns both the defensive portions and then the offensive portions of Martial arts. Point to note is amount of defense and amount of offense varies from situation to situation and varies against fighters/ street fighters.

Partner Training

I really appreciate the amount of partner training involved in this art. There is lot of partner training involved in each and every weapons and empty hand to get used to real blocks and strikes. One thing I found that practitioners of this great art can feel that practicing the predefined moves with partners at full speed and power is so much difficult then how difficult it will be to block the moves which we don’t know or which is nor pre-decided. By regular practice every practitioners get used to bear heavy strikes and block them and counter them.

Combat mistake

According to me, only mistake many (not all) Kalaripayattu practitioners, if not all, do that they think by practicing only predefined moves they can really fight with anyone. And this is the biggest mistake they do. Practitioners must spar in controlled environment, with each other to get the real reflexes.

Another mistake they do including many other martial arts style practitioners is they get used to counter/ block specific type of strikes. They keep on thinking that opponent will strike in specific way only in which they practice. As per me each and every Martial artist must research and exchange ideas with each other and even spar (in a healthy way) with each other so that practitioners can develop their real art.

Kalaripayattu vs any other Martial arts

Kalaripayattu vs any other Martial arts
Kalaripayattu vs any other Martial arts

Many people especially in Martial arts world say that Kalaripayattu is not effective against other Martial arts like MMA, Muay Thai etc. I want to say one statement against this.

If Kalaripayatu practitioner is skilled enough that he can just touch you, then you are in danger. If you are skilled enough not letting Kalaripayattu practitioner touch you then you can save yourself. And I think second one is almost next to impossible.

Marma’s Knowledge

Marma’s (pressure points of body) knowledge can be extremely important to any Martial artist especially in old age. When you will grow old and your power and speed of body will reduce then this knowledge of Marma will be useful in taking down your opponents. Martial arts which involve only punching, kicking etc will not work too much as each one of them will require speed and power to some extent. Marma’s knowledge is also extremely important for any Martial artist to learn as one must know how to heal their students/ opponents/ Enemies.

Real Combat style of Kalaripayattu

Real Combat style of Kalaripayattu
Real Combat style of Kalaripayattu

Youtube is filled with application of Kalaripayattu which is not very close to this combat style. I can understand either they do not know how to show this stuff or they are not skilled enough in representing the techniques. May be someday I will be able to do so.

Now actual combat style is like below

Mainly open hand strikes from different different angles + Few Punches + Practical Kicks + Slips + Long Blocks + Short blocks + 64 types of throws in grappling + counter of the throws + 18 types of locks and their variations + Unlocking the locks + Elbow Attacks + Knee Attacks + Marma hitting. Think about practitioner who instantly grapple with you and pinches one of your Marma in closed range.

After getting pinched your hands or legs do not move or you cry out in pain. Even the juijutsu knowledge is not going to help as one with Marma knowledge do not need any gap to pinch/ poke your Marmas. Grapplers may be understanding what Iam saying.

I can say that Kalaripayattu is a complete Martial art form in itself

kalaripayattu IndianYug3

Below are the reasons for choosing Kalaripayattu.

  • Extreme Flexibility
  • Strength and Endurance
  • Perfect fitness and healthy Body.
  • Weapons Training
  • Weapons vs Empty Hand
  • Weapon vs Weapon fight
  • Bare Hand Combat
  • Complete pressure points knowledge.
  • Spiritual portions of Martial arts
  • Medicine knowledge
  • Knowldege of Prana/ Chi/ Internal Martial arts.
  • Knowledge of Self

Kalaripayattu has three variants, which are distinguished by their attacking and defensive patterns.

There are three schools of Kalari

Three Schools of Kalaripayattu
Three Schools of Kalaripayattu

1) Arappa kayy

2) Pilla Thangi

3) Vatta thiripp

kalaripayattu IndianYug5

Today martial arts in India are back in focus. Kalaripayattu is in practice across Kerala, fringes of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and also in Sri Lanka.

It is also a source of living for many people in Kerala as there are several performances for tourists. Kalaripayattu stands the taste of time unlike other martial art forms in India.

Historically, Kalaripayattu has proven to be one of the most ancient martial arts in India. And is practiced across south India.

I Sincerely hope that thorough persistent government effort we can let this founding martial art of India finds its place that it deserves. After seeing the success of  another ancient art of India ‘Yoga’  I think we can and should promote the art similarly to achieve similar recognition of the masterful art.

Read: History of India


12 Of The Greatest Architectural Marvels Of India Unbelievable, These 15 Fruits and Veggies Did Not Originate In India Top 10 Most Beautiful Villages in India 10 Incredible Beaches in India You’ve Probably Never Heard Of Top 10 Beautiful Christian Churches in India 20 Of The Best Street Foods Available Across India