The Martial Art of Kerala, Training Centres

Dance?... Defence?... A little bit of both.... Kalarippayattu, Kerala's own martial art, is one of the oldest in the world and one of the awesome to watch. It is combat that has a unique rhythmic feel that can make you forget that what you are seeing was once a way of war.

Kalarippayattu's movements draw inspiration from animals. Even there are poses named after the boar, the elephant, the lion, the fish and the serpent.

Mental discipline is important too. The battles are fought as much in the mind as on the ground.

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A Short History of Kalarippayttu Kerala

Kalarippaayattu is a distinctive brand of acrobatic combat drawing heavily on yoga and ancient Indian knowledge of the human body. Its techniques of hand-to-hand fighting, weapon skills and healing were first formalized in 9-12th century.

This is practised by the bodyguards of medieval war-lords and chiefs. But there is evidence to suggest the form derives from practices two or three thousand years old.

Under the guidance of their gurus, young boys would be trained for years as specialist fighters. Then they would be employed to wage duels and settle disputes on behalf of landowners and chiefs.

Most of what we know about Kalari today is gathered from practitioners of the art. Prominent persons among them are late C V Narayanan Nair and Chirakkal T Sreedharan Nair.

Legends about brave Kalari fighters are to be found in popular ballads such as the Vadakkan Pattukal and Thekkan Pattukal (Ballads of North and South, respectively).

Vadakkan Pattukal narrates the story of Unniarcha, a beautiful woman who was also a proficient Kalari fighter. Similarly, the ballads narrate the soulful story of Thacholi Othenan, a valiant fighter.

Kalari-The Training School

The word 'Kalari' denotes a gymnasium or school and 'payattu' means fight. Perfection in the form comes after years of concentrated training at the kalari.

The process is spread over three stages. First stage is Meippayatt - exercise to control the body. This is followed by Kolthari - fighting with sticks. The final one Ankathari - skills in using metal weapons such as daggers and swords.

The talented disciples go on to learn much more. They are taught secrets about the human marma and the techniques of Verum Kaithari.

Marma's are 108 highly sensitive, vulnerable and vital parts of the body. Verum Kaithari focuses on bare hand combat against an armed enemy and is for advanced practitioners only. This is the finale of at least a decade-long training.

Schools of Kalarippayattu -Training Methods

Two distinct schools survive - the southern and northern systems. Both, however follow a similar progression.

Once initiated, students are taught a complex set of exercises to become their bodies strong and flexible. They are practised in kicks, jumps, animal postures, spins, step sequences and stretches.

The oil massages are another essential part of training. The massages are given with the feet and hands by teachers holding on to ropes suspended from the roof of Kalari.

When the set moves have been mastered, students are eventually introduced to combat with weapons. The weapons include the udaval (sword), paricha (shield), kadara (dagger), kuntham (spear), gadha (mace) and urumi (a long flexible sword).

Other Features

Perhaps what sets it apart is the fact that is something more than just a martial art. It has strong links with Ayurveda, and Kalari Chikilsa (medical treatment). Kalari Chikilsa specialises in curing ailments such as back pain and spondylitis.

Every Kalari fighter is also given uzhichil or massage using medicinal oils, to make the body supple. These massages are today part of the Kalari treatment.

Kalari demonstrations are staged at gyms and tourist resorts across Kerala. The shows are never dull, and injuries, although rare, do happen.

Kalarippayattu Training Centre Kerala










Kalarippayattu Training in Trivandrum

C V N Kalari

East Fort
Tel: +91 471 2474182

Contact Person:G Sathya Narayanan

Branches: Affiliated to Centres at Karukachal, Kottayam and Nadakkavu, Calicut.

About the Institution:
The gives training in traditional northern style 'Kalarippayat'. It also arrange model training and performance. Established in the year 1956 in Trivandrum by C V Govindan Kutty Nair Gurukkal.

A formal training centre for Kalari performance was established in 1975. The centre has been actively engaged in the promotion and propagation of Kalarippayattu since then.

Gurukkal has performed all over India and abroad in many countries and conducted workshops and performance tours in Europe, Asia and US.

Indian School of Martial Arts (ISMA)

Cotton Hill
Tel: +91 471 3297840

Contact Person: P S Balachandran Nair

Branches: Kalariyil Dharmaikam, Parassuvaikal, Parassala, Trivandrum

About the Institution:
Activities practiced are kalaripayattu training, study and research in marma, kalari chikilsa, meditation. Guru Balachandran Nair-a master of the martial art, Kalari established ISMA.

Among the school's principles, the well-versed theory of Guru-Shishya (Teacher-student) relationship is included. They are trying to keep the great tradition, culture and inheritance of every Indian especially of Keralites alive, without compromising the pride, honour or discipline.

M S Kalari Sangam

Tel: +91 472 2793120

Contact Person: A M Sali Asan

About the Institution:
M S Kalari Sangam offers kalarippayattu and kalari chikitsa courses in the traditional manner. Courses are offered but not formally scheduled. This private institution established in 1967. Visitors will be allowed to watch daily training.


Samkrithy C V N Kalari

Tel: +91 468 2278670

Contact Person:FACT Mohanan

About the Institution:
Samskrithy is the training centre for Indian performing arts. Kalarippayattu is regarded as a theatre art form and as a martial art for physical exercise. Training in martial arts and massage are given in the Kalari Centre of Samskrithy.


Jai Hind Kalari Sangam (Centre for Marma Treatment)

Mattam Junction
Tel: +91 481 2731500

Contact Person:Nazar Gurukkal

About the Institution:
Area of training include kalarippayattu and yoga. Started in 1985, Jai Hind Kalari Sangam has been functioning with the approval of Sports Council.

Besides its coaching classes in kalari treatments and martial arts, special marma massages and body treatments are provided for body and mind rejuvenation.

KNJ Kalarippayattu and Marma Chikilsa Centre

Tel: +91 482 2275045

Contact Person: V J Joseph

About the Institution:
This centre for kalarippayattu and kalari treatment offers training in both. The private run institution started functioning in 1986.


ENS Kalari

Tel: +91 484 2700810

Contact Person:E S Narayanan Embranthiri Gurukkal

About the Institution:
ENS Kalari was established in 1954 by the Kalari grandmaster late E N Sreepathy Gurukkal. This Kalari centre gives training in both northern and southern styles. The centre facilitates regular kalari training, kalari certificate courses, daily demo and kalari treatments.

Nava Kerala Kalari School

Near Muthukade Devi Temple
Aluva (Alwaye)
Tel: +91 484 2556835

Contact Person:Kalari Master Prasannan Gurukal

About the Institution:
Nava Kerala Kalari School was started in 1980. Activities practiced are kalaripayattu, ayurveda and yoga


St. Sebastian's Marma Thirummu Klarippayattu Sangam

Chattakalikal House
Tel: +91 481 2327756

Contact Person:Chacko Devasia

Branches: Thadiampadu, Bison Valley, Idukki District.

About the Institution:
Started in 1992. This Martial Arts training centre gives training in kalarippayattu and marma Chikilsa.

Puthenpurackal Kalari Sangam

Tel: +91 481 2239183

Contact Person: P N Kumaran Assan

About the Institution:
This martial arts centre gives training in kalarippayattu. The courses offered are not formally scheduled.

Started in 1996, the centre conducts a grand performance on the annual day, 2nd February.

Palakkad (Palghat), Kalarippayattu Palakkad

Poomullay Aram Thampuran Smaraka Trust

Poomully Mana
Tel: +91 4926 255218, 258318

Contact Person:P M Narayanan

About the Institution:
The centre offers free courses in ayurvedic practices and kalarippayattu. Coursed offered are not formally scheduled. Started in 1998, the centre is run by a trust.


Bhuvanessary Kalari Snagm

West Mankave
Tel: +91 495 2325188

Contact Person: C Chandran Gurukal

About the Institution:
Started in 1965 and run by a trust, the centre offers courses in kalarippayattu. The courses are not formally scheduled.

Paroth Kalari

Tel: +91 496 2517853

Contact Person:Karunan Nair

About the Institution:
The centre offers courses in kalarippayattu. The courses are not formally scheduled. Started in 1980, this is a private run centre.

C V N Kalari

Near Ganapathy Temple
Kundooparamba Road
Tel: +91 495 2391808, 2701249

Contact Person: T Sudhakaran Gurukkal

About the Institution:
C V N Kalari is the most reputed traditional Kalari training center with calm and quiet village atmosphere. They conduct scientific and thrilling kalari demonstrations on various stages.

Treatment for back pain, joint pain, and spondylitis is given here through the traditional kalari marma massaging system by experienced trainers.

KPCGM Kalari Sangam

Tel: +91 496 2528135

Contact Person: Madhu Gurukkal

About the Institution:
This centre offers training in Kalarippayattu. Started in 1993, this is a privately owned centre.

Kadathanad Angam Kalari

Tel: +91 496 2524147

Contact Person: M E Suresh

About the Institution:
This centre offers courses in Kalarippayattu but the courses are not formally scheduled. Started in 1970 this is a private run centre.

Kannur (Cannanore)

Sree Bharath Kalari

Shakti Bhavan
Tel: +91 497 2775814

Contact Person:S. R. D. Prasad

About the Institution:
The centre offers training in kalarippayattu. Classes are conducted all through the year and are not formally scheduled. Special short-term courses are also conducted. Started in 1948, the centre is run by a trust.


Choorakud Kalari Sangh

Tel: +91 4994 238596

Contact Person:P K Aboobacker Musiliyar Gurukal

About the Institution:
The centre offers training in kalarippayattu. The courses offered are not formally scheduled, started in 1988.

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