September 4, 2022

10 Reasons Kalaripayattu is the Perfect Martial Art

The finesse of Kalaripayattu is perfect and unparalleled to most global armed combat formats. It is an art of warfare, passed down from generations through tales and practice from the Vedic literature. 

Not to forget, Kalaripayattu is also known to be the mother of all martial arts. It is also one of the root influences of the very well-known, Shaolin Kung Fu.

Now, if we go back to the roots, Kalaripayattu was the brainchild of Agastya, one of the Saptarshis in ancient times. He singlehandedly created the combative art of Kalaripayattu at around 15,000 BC. 

And from here on, the art of Kalari reached monks through the hands of Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, who taught these monks. And hence, the birth of Shaolin Kung Fu. 

The “Kalaripayattu Origin

The term, Kalaripayattu is a blend of two phrases. While Kalari translates to the battlefield, payattu means training. And together, it would mean the training for maximum efficiency and lethality on the battlefield. 

Kalaripayattu was an absolute necessity for guardsmen to learn to protect their Southern kings. 

Indian fighters performing Aayudha Payattu (Weapon Combat) during Kalaripayattu Marital art demonstration in Kerala, South India

The Techniques of Kalaripayattu

The initial practice stages of Kalaripayattu utilizes wooden sticks for training. During the intermediatory stages, there are metal weapons (Ankathari), substituting the wooden sticks (Kothari). Of course, hand-to-hand combat for self-defense tactics is of the essence. 

At the end of the day, as a student, you shall also need to vow on never misusing your Kalaripayattu proficiency for your benefits. Kalaripayattu is a self-defense martial art that is about utilizing the body as your primary weapon. Here, defensive stances come in effect during lethal blows. 

However, as a weaponized martial art, Kalaripayattu works wonders in understanding and syncing every part of your body. And its complete fluidity in hand-body movements is what makes this martial art stand out as one of the most revered in all of South-East Asia. 

How Kalaripayattu is the Perfect Martial Art: The 10 Benefits! 

1.You Shall be Learning the Mother of all Martial Arts

The Kalaripayattu or Kalari fighting style is known as the mother of all martial arts. And the connotation might come from its roots. According to the Vedas, martial art had its mention in the Sangam literature within 300 BC and 300 AD. Meaning, it is older than the most well-known martial arts in the book. 

Additionally, a Buddhist monk by the name of Bodhidharma imparted his Kalaripayattu knowledge onto monks. And from here, the art of Kalari went on to evolve into the Shaolin Kung Fu. 

Kalaripayattu is of course more than just a combat sport. Along with its lethality in the ring, you shall find traces of warfare, contact sports, rhythm, and more. Therefore, Kalaripayattu is the mother of martial arts from a very spiritual point of view. 

2. Effective Form of Self Defense

Kalaripayattu requires patience. And patience is what builds your mastery. It is a martial art that does not depend on quickness, but impact.

Self defense in martial arts utilizes both your hands, your weapons, and of course, your shields. Additionally, disarming the enemy is also one of the most-revered methods of protecting yourself during an armed attack.

And that is not all, as due to its performative stances, you can also engage in back-flips to steer clear of close-range attacks during a match. All in all, Kalaripayattu’s defensive styles are about making your whole body your weapon as well as your shield.

3. Kalaripayattu Allows Proficiency in Weaponry

While several martial arts have polished their combat methodologies to fit the modern self-defense tactics, Kalaripayattu imbibes weaponry to this date. 

The use of weapons in a Kalaripayattu match signifies its warrior status. You can say that it is almost a hint at the regality of Kalaripayattu. 

Kalaripayattu training comes in various formats. For example,

  • Maithari is physical combat, 
  • Valum Parichayum involves mock-fights with swords and shields.
  • During your initial training, you shall have the provision to use wooden weapons, known as Kothari.
  • As you start mastering the art of Kothari, you shall have the permission to use metal weapons and swords known to be Ankathari

And to become a true master of all weapons, as a trainee your focus should remain on the rhythmic fighting essence of Kalaripayattu. 

4. You Can Attack/Defend with Anything

While the images denote swords or wooden sticks for Kalaripayattu practice sessions, it is a hint towards the ability to use any everyday object in your favor. For example, the preliminary wooden stick is a perfect hand-held armament for 1-on-1 fights on the streets.

Similarly, metal rods, baseball bats, and various other blunt objects come in handy through mastering Kalaripayattu. Besides, as a fighter, you can combat any threats through all objects, as well as your arms. Kalaripayattu encourages a strong presence of mind that can ward off panic.

Regular practice and quick thinking are what make Kalaripayattu an indomitable force. 

Indian fighter with sword and shield performing Kalaripayattu marital art demonstration

5. Kalaripayattu is a Blend of War and Art

With timely practice, you might find a hint of theatrical essence in the maneuvers of Kalaripayattu. And this is due to the swift and methodical approach of combat, even with deadly weapons in hand. Various Indian traditional dance forms incorporate Kalaripayattu moves to their daily practice sessions. 

For example, Kathakali, and Chhau are among the dance forms to name a few. Moreover, dance steps require strength, patience, and power in every step, putting them on par with the lethality of Kalaripayattu. 

Moreover, Kalari’s impactful and striking techniques are well-known for their fluidity. The hard-hitting steps, attacks, and defensive moves are rhythmic, poised, and deadly finishers in the long run.

6. Kalaripayattu is the Martial Art of a Warrior

Alert, awareness, and controlled flow of strength are the mantras of a Kalari warrior. And the fluidity in movements can remind you of the flow of water. A Kalari warrior imbibes their physical and spiritual energy to wage war.

In totality, Kalaripayattu’s aim is not self-defense against street-fights. It was the mark of a guardsman who protects a royal king. The earthy tone of the art reflects through the oil application before a match. While the oil helps with flexibility, the metaphorical meaning concludes it to be reminiscent of water.

Here water denotes flow, strength, and patience. Similarly, all other elements, such as fire, air, and earth have various special connections and roots to Kalaripayattu. And these features of Kalaripayattu are what sets it apart from various other global martial arts. 

7. Your Body Shall Not Feel Lazy

While boxing focuses on arm movements, and karate, towards limb-attacks, Kalaripayattu is an all-body combative stance, where you use all your limbs to attack, defend, and stun the enemies. It also edges towards both armed and unarmed fighting tactics without metal weapons. 

Here, laziness can be due to stress. And stress can quicken the oncoming of insomnia. Hence, the ultimate solution would be Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu sheds laziness and can help with practicing the utilization of your whole body. 

8. The Body Will Feel More Flexible

Your whole body going through practice sessions for martial arts would also mean complete training. And with daily training, comes improved physical flexibility. 

The warm-up sequences before practice sessions help with de-stressing the body and bringing about a sense of rejuvenation. Not to forget, Kalaripayattu can help maintain an overall flexible body that can keep you away from muscle straining, skeletal harm, and more!

Meaning, both the warm-up sequence, as well as the practice sessions work wonders in improving whole-body flexibility.  You can try out personalized warm-ups, or strict ketogenic diets that can help burn fat instead of carbs. All in all, this is the perfect martial art for the trainees. 

9. Rapid and Fluid Movements

Kalaripayattu’s flexible movements complement it’s rapid and fluid combat styles. Moreover, it is not just the physical strength that a Kalari warrior depends on, rather it is the body, mind, soul, and the psyche.

As a Kalari warrior, you can train to be at peace with yourself. Meaning, with steady improvements, you shall find your mental state, fears, weaknesses, and prejudices slowly disappearing. 

And when you are at peace with yourself, an enemy at the front shall not be your worst fear. And you are now synchronized with all your senses to take on the most lethal combats in the ring. 

10. The Healing System of Kalari is Holistic

The medical methods or chikitshas in Kalaripayattu are holistic, calming, and effective in the long run. And of course, there are 3 kinds of medical procedures, namely:

  • The Thirumal: Includes walking on your back while using a rope for balance. 
  • The Marmachikitsa: Massaging and soothing the 107 energy entry points. And
  • The Vyayamachikitsa: Exercising your body daily. 

Not to forget, the oil for pre-combat massaging is herbal and medicinal. Meaning, it can heal joint aches and muscle strains.Additionally, each of these approaches or Kalarichikitshas helped heal the body after strenuous practice sessions. It might be one of the rarest forms of combat sports which soothes the opponent’s post-practice sessions. 


In conclusion, Kalaripayattu is the perfect martial art if you are ready to invest your time within the roots of combat sports.

As a Kalari fighter, you shall be learning more than self-defense, and delving into the spiritual aspect of the mother of martial art.

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

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