Martial art is an integral part of the history and culture of Kerala. It is closely embedded in the social life of the locals and plays an important role in the consolidation of their cultural identity. There are many forms of martial arts in Kerala which originated in different points of history and in different regions of this state. In the olden days they were taught in Gurukul in a controlled environment where the students went to the house of their teacher and lived with them to learn the art. It took years for them to master the art where they had to go through rigorous exercises in order to strengthen their physical and mental condition. Along with tough physical training it also includes yoga and medication to have a holistic development. Today these arts are taught in special training centre by qualified trainers who are an expert in their respective arts. Many of these arts forms have their origin in the ancient temples of Kerala. It encompasses different aspects of ancient hindu mythology and are based on its stories, characters etc. Because it involves tough physical exercises this subject also includes aspects of Ayurveda as the person needs to heal himself or herself in case of injuries caused due to it.
There are many forms of martial arts in Kerala and some of the important ones are as follows –
Kalaripayattu – The term Kalaripayattu means the ‘fighting art of Kalari’. The origin of this art form is unknown but its history can be traced as back as 350 AD and is believed to be carried across the Himalayas by a Buddhist monk named Bodhi Dharma. This art form is a part of the ayurvedic physical treatment called Kalarichikista. The props of this art include both hand and different forms of weapons. There are seven levels that one has to pass to master this art and requires huge amount of concentration and attention. Once you learn this art it helps you to get rid of both physical and mental problems. Today this art is taught is different parts of Kerala like Ettumanoor, Kanjirappally, Pala, Thiruvananthapuram etc.
Parisa Kali -This art is believed to be associated with Northern Malabar region
Velakanni– Velakanni is believed to have originated in the Travancore area. This art form represents the war between the Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharatha. This art form is mainly played during the festivals at Cherthala temple and Ambalapuzha temple.
Vaaleru – in this art form the sword is used as the main prop and it’s a very famous art form.
Kunderu and Njaninmel Kali – this is a tight rope walking performance which in performed in many village fairs and mostly during the temples festivals in different parts of the state. It is one of the most famous art forms in the state.
Meythari – this art form includes jumping, twisting and quickly moving the different parts of the body. It stresses a lot on the flexibility of the body of the fighter.
Many dance forms also include various aspects of martial arts.