Art & Culture

Mother of all Martial Arts: Kalarippayattu gains a rise again

Kalarippayattu is gaining sudden popularity among the masses nowadays. People of all age groups have started to take interest in the ‘mother of all martial arts.

man and a woman practising Kalarippayattu.
man and a woman practicing Kalarippayattu.


Kalarippayattu is the oldest form of martial art that is still alive today. The reason behind its existence is the versatility that can be blended in other martial arts as well as dance forms! Yes, many dance forms like Kathakali and Chhau find their foundation being laid on Kalarippayattu. The most fascinating fact about the art, which proves it to be an art purest in its form is that it has its own medications. These medications, like Marma Therapy and Ayurvedic-Kalari, cover both, attacks as well as defenses.

In the previous times, art used to have two kinds: Thekkan (Southern) and Vadakkan (Northern). The former included attacks and vigorous actions while the latter covered up bodily flexibility. With the passage of time, both kinds have resulted in the merging of the two. Today, at present, a fusion of both of these kinds is in practice.

According to experts in Kalarippayattu, Lord Parshuram imparted the knowledge of the art to the people of India residing in the Southern part. He did so as to make people capable enough of protecting their territories. Interestingly, the armies of Southern kingdoms were exceptional in Guerrilla warfare which had its roots derived from Kalarippayattu! Armies of kings like Krishnadev Raya and Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj were known all around the globe for their Guerrilla warfare skills and their mastery in weapons-making and exercising them.


In India, for the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of ‘Kalari’ or ‘schools/centers where Kalarippayattu is taught’. Initially from states of Karnataka and Kerala to Northern India like Delhi, NCR region, UP, and so on. People from all age groups, be it, middle-aged people, be it youngsters, especially girls, or be it college students are interested in learning this art form. Indian Kalarippayattu Federation, established in 1995 is one of the pioneers in this area. Recognized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs And Sports and Govt. of India in 2015 as a National Federation, it serves as a platform to preserve one of the ancient art forms of the nation. The federation organizes various national level competitions under the following events:

1. Meyppayattu (body Flexible Techniques)

2. Chuvadukal (hip movements and steps)

3. Chavittipongal (thigh kick)

4. Kaipporu (unarmed combat)

5. Urumiveeshal (wielding of the flexible sword)

6. Valum Parichayam (sword and shield) Competition for Sub Junior and Junior (Men and women)

Indian Kalaripayattu Federation.
Indian Kalarippayattu Federation.

In India too, film making, theatres, acts have contributed somehow to the upliftment of once the most glorious martial art. The local film industry of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and many more often use Kalarippayattu techniques in their action scenes. Even Bollywood also has initiated to give importance to ancient art. Actors like Vidyut Jammwal have contributed a lot to the promotion and awareness among the masses about  Kalarippayattu. Vidyut, who is pro-efficient in Kalarippayattu, regularly practices as well as showcases various techniques. He also conducts various self-defense programs and camps, especially for females.

In 2018, he was ranked 6th in World’s top 10 martial artists.



Foreign film industries, including Hollywood, have used the skills and techniques included in Kalarippayattu. In,2005 hit Chinese movie The Myth uses Kalari techniques in its action scenes. English movie The Last Legion has also inherited the essence of the Indian art form.

Today, many countries like Australia, France, Germany, etc. have started to teach Kalarippayattu as a subject under co-curricular activities.

Foreign universities teaching Kalaripayattu.
Foreign universities teaching Kalarippayattu.

TV Tokyo Network in 2006 brought out a Manga Series named Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, using Kalarippayattu. And a new Manga Series is going to out soon with the protagonist as an expert practitioner of Kalarippayattu. The current pace at which this art is spreading among the masses all around the world is an indication of Kalarippayattu’s rising again.

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Shashwat Malasi

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