Sunday, 12 August 2018

Know the background of Kalaripayattu, the Mother of All Martial Arts

We all were introduced to popular martial arts like Karate, Taekwondo, Kung fu etc at some point of time. Some of us even know martial art or made our family member to learn it. Even I learned Karate in my childhood. I always appreciated countries like Korea, China, Japan, etc for giving us such wonderful techniques of self defense and never bothered to know about history or origin of martial arts.

I am sure some of you still do not know: 

*Who is the mother of all martial arts? 

*How was the first martial art originated?                     

*How was it taken to other countries? 

*Why it got declined? 

*Where can we still find it?

* What are advantages of learning or knowing it? 

*How are all martial arts different?

So, starting from the very first thing that comes in our mind:                            

Who is the mother of all martial arts? 

Martial art is often characterizing with the South Eastern countries as Korea, Japan and China. Although very few of us know the reality of its actual origination. This art of balancing mental, physical and inner self was born in the place where YOG which is today termed as YOGA was born. That is the land of various religions, diverse culture and guide to spirituality, INDIA. Particularly in Kerala, a state in India the mother of all martial arts was originated, name KALARIPAYATTU.

As per evidences and history, KALARIPAYATTU (or Kalari) is the first martial art or the mother of all martial arts in the world. It is an ancient martial art of India which is combination of strikes, grappling, kicks, weapon use and healing methods (marma therapy) for body. Where its form and techniques are based on Yoga and medical treatment is based on Ayurveda.

It is consists of special techniques and postures which are based on animals. These movements are named on animal movements. Each technique has a unique style, effectiveness and power combination. 

How was the first martial art originated?                        

“Kalari” means “battlefield” in Tamil language and “Payattu” means “to practice/to become trained” in Tamil language. Hence Kalaripayattu means “To become trained for battlefield”.

Martial arts were there since thousands of years in India. In ancient time people used to practice it for surviving against animals. Hence many different postures based on different animals were developed. It is mentioned in historical books that this art was created by Saint Parashurama who was a warrior and incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Some say it was taught by Lord Shiva as a blessing to Saint Parashurama. 

Later Saint Parashurama established 42 kalaris (schools) where Kalaripayattu was taught by the masters or the Gurus. He himself trained 21 masters for these schools. The purpose of these schools was to make people learn this martial art and protect their land from enemies.

This martial art became more polished with additional techniques during 9th century. In this era warriors and kings were practicing it for saving their state.  

The very first weapon used was stick by the warriors. Later many weapons were introduced of wood and metal. With the time techniques also got advanced of using such weapons. It is said that Kalaripayattu has its glorious period in 11th and 12th century CE, when most of the wars were based of this martial art. 

How was Kalaripayattu taken to other countries?

Kalaripayattu was taken to China during 5th and 6th century by a Buddha monk name Bodhidharma. According to Chinese legend Bodhidharma was actually a preacher of meditation but he also started giving physical training to Shaolin Monks. During the process certain things were modified and added to the training. This led to the origination of Shaolin Kung fu. Similarly it was taken to Japan by Bodhidharma as Taishi Daruma. He not only became the founder of Zen Buddhism but also the father of Asian Martial Arts.

Inside Shaolin temple, still some of the paintings reflect the basic techniques which are adapted from Kalaripayattu. 

About Bodhidharma, the Buddha monk:

It is said that Bodhidharma was born in Kanchipuram near Chennai, India. He was the third son of a local king. He was brought up in an environment of warriors and rulers. After the death of his father and master, he left India. He took this step in order to fulfill the last wish of his master to spread his teachings. 

Why Kalaripayattu got declined? 

All of a sudden, Kalaripayattu declined in 19th century during British rule. British people banned it due to the fear if its strength in togetherness and increase in anti-colonial sentiments. The Indian martial art went underground for years. 

In 20th century it again started regaining its strength from the roots in south India. With time it regained its popularity and identity not only in India but in whole world. At present Kalaripayattu is a global face of martial art. Worldwide there are 1000 or more Kalaris where people can learn this art.

This art is even used in different forms of dances in traditional as well as in contemporary.   

Where can we still find Kalaripayattu?
We can still find kalaris in South India, especially in Kerala and Tamil Naidu. However there are some such schools in North and central India too. The package of training includes:

**Oil message methods to make the body flexible. 

**Exercises like jumping (chaattom), running (ottam), somersault (marichil) and other yoga postures.
**Martial art techniques like striking, grappling and kicking without weapons.
**Martial art techniques using weapons like swords, maces, daggers, bow with arrow, spears etc.
**Knowledge on 107 Marmam points (vital points) on body. This advanced knowledge is not commonly given to everyone. As this can be used to disable or kill the opponent. This technique is also mentioned in Rigved.

**Traditional medicine and message for curing or healing.
What are the advantages of learning or knowing Kalaripayattu?
Like Yoga is not only about physical strength but also about inner strength development. Similarly Kalaripayattu is not only for battlefield or self defense but to keep you fit and flexible.
Here are some of the main advantages of learning Kalaripayattu:   
**It makes your body flexible.     

**It makes you active and fast in doing daily tasks.

**It boosts your concentration, presence of mind and patience.

**It increases stamina and strength of inner body.

**It releases your stress from inside and brings peace in life with the help of yoga as it’s part.

**It teaches you techniques for self defense.

**It brings confidence in you.

**It teaches you to heal your body naturally using Ayurvedic methods.

**It makes you to know in depth about your body and inner self.

**It gives you knowledge on weapons and how to use them for self defense.

How are other martial arts different from Kalaripayattu?
In my childhood I was student of Karate for one year. I was taught some basic techniques of kicking and punching for self defense.  I and my family was all satisfied with what was taught to me in those classes. My kids are learning Taekwondo in school. And they are also taught basic kicks and using hands but in a bit different manner. However the basics and logics are same. This is what I experienced.

However technically these might be different but none is better or best. It depends on us to learn any martial art with dedication and execute it with perfection. So it is the work of learner and the trainer who can bring out best of any art. Either that is Kalaripayattu or Karate or Taekwondo, Kung fu, Judo etc.

Technically every martial art is unique in some ways. Like here I have mentioned some very popular distinct qualities of each of the popular martial art: 

**Kalaripayattu has weapons training, healing treatment using Ayurveda, etc as additional teachings.

**Karate has additional and unique punching techniques.

**Taekwondo has different, strong and a variety of kicks. It focuses on the power of legs.

**Kung Fu teaches a number of quick hand strikes. Along with figure pokes, open hand slices, close hand fisted etc. It also includes teaching of use of weapons.

There are many more martial arts with their unique styles. However the mother of all these martial arts is still Kalaripayattu.


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