" Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. "
Mahatma Gandhi


Kalaripayattu is an ancient Martial Art that originated in Kerala, India.  It is thought to be the oldest Martial Art in the world and the predecessor of all Martial Arts.  The Martial Art is comprehensive in its practices and focuses on a wide range of disciplines including hand to hand combat, weaponry and even medicinal practices.  Practitioners of Kalaripayattu practice the Martial Art as a way of life, assimilating values such as compassion, discipline and respect.


Practice in the arts of the battlefield
Country of Origin
Primary Focus

Brief History

Kalaripayattu is closely associated with Hinduism.  Vishnu, who is part of the Hindu Trinity, has the role of preservation.  According to Hindu mythology, Vishnu reincarnates into the world of the physical with a deity that is designed to restore balance when evil is in excess in the world.  The 6th avatar of Vishnu, Parashurama was said to have intervened to destroy a corrupt king along with his entire legacy.  Parashurama was an extremely skilled and emotional warrior who possessed great Martial knowledge and imparted this knowledge to his 21 followers and opened 108 kalaris (training grounds) around the Kerala region.

 Kalaripayattu practitioner


  • Yoga – series of forms that are combined to perform powerful exercises to improve flexibility, strength, lung capacity and energy flow.
  • Ayurveda – traditional medicine
  • Marmashastram and massage – including bone setting and muscle recovery


The Martial Art in Practice

The practitioners of the art are taught to deal with attacks from many types of weapons and their skills extend beyond that of physical combat.  Kalaripayattu incorporates a wide range of strikes, kicks, throws, joint-locks, pressure-point attacks, weaponry and healing.  The following hand to hand combat elements demonstrates how versatile and comprehensive this Martial Art is:

  • Open hand strikes from different angles
  • Punches from different angles
  • Kicks
  • Slips
  • Long blocks
  • Short blocks
  • 64 types of throws
  • Throw counters
  • 18 types of joint-locks
  • Joint-lock counters
  • Elbow strikes
  • Knee strikes
  • Pressure point strikes


Kalaripayattu is acquired in 4 distinct disciplines:

  • Meythari or Meyppayattu - a set of physical practices that strengthens the body and improves the flexibility of the practitioner. These exercises are designed to strengthen the mind and prepare the body for the combative elements of the Martial Art.
  • Kolthari or Kolpayattu – techniques executed with wooden weapons (long stick, short stick and curved wooden dagger)
  • Angathari or Aayudhaabhyaasam – techniques executed with sharp weapons (sword and shield, spear, urumi and dagger)
  • Verumkai or Adikkai or Marmakkai - Hand to hand combat


Kalaripayattu consists of three forms which are identifiable by their defensive or offensive patterns:

  • Arappa Kayy
  • Pilla Thangi
  • Vatten Thiripp




Kalaripayattu is categorised into the following styles

  • Vadakkan Kalari (Northern) – graceful and agile with a focus on evading attacks and use of weapons.
  • Thekkan Kalari (Southern) – powerful and devastating striking with a focus on hand to hand combat and pressure point strikes.
  • Madhya Kalari (Central) – a combination of Vadakkan Kalari and Thekkan Kalari
  • Tulunadan Kalari – practiced in the Tulu Nadu region of Northern Kerala



  • Kalari – training grounds which can be equated to a dojo in Karate. There are designated spots to offer saluations before training to the presiding deity (Shiva) of the Kalari and the Guru (teacher or instructor).
  • Chuvadu – steps that are used for offensive and defensive movements
  • Vadivu – postures or stances that are combined with steps to execute offensive and defensive movements
  • Adavu – Execution of Kalaripayattu techniques



  • Pandeeran - Long stick (5ft long)
  • Muchaanvadi - Small stick
  • Wooden dagger
  • Dagger
  • Sword and Shield


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