What is Kalaripayattu?
Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest martial art forms in the world. It has been taught for thousands of years in the Southern Indian state of Kerala and has its roots in Dhanurveda, the ancient Indian science of warfare.
The name Kalaripayattu is derived from the two words ‘Kalari’, meaning the training space, and ‘Payattu’, meaning practice.
Kalaripayattu has been interwoven with the social and cultural life of Kerala from time immemorial. During the medieval period, this martial art was considered a way of life for many, playing a vital role in the education of the youth and the training of the warriors. During this period, Kerala consisted of several small feudal principalities that were in constant clashes, and Kalaripayattu, as a highly developed martial art, attained great prominence.
In the early 1500s, Portuguese traveller, Duarte Barbosa, wrote his account of life in Kerala describing the martial art as an integral part of society.
‘The more part of the Nairs when they are seven years of age, are sent to schools, where they are taught many tricks of nimbleness and dexterity. There they teach them to dance and turn about and to twist on the ground, to take royal leaps and other leaps, and this they learn twice a day as long as they are children, and they become so loose-jointed and supple that they make them turn their bodies contrary to nature; and when they are fully accomplished in this, they teach them to play with the weapon to which they are most inclined, some with bows and arrows, some with poles to become spearmen, but most with swords and bucklers, which is most used among them, and in this fencing they are ever practising.’
Excerpt from The Book of Duarte Barbosa, Volume II, Duarte Barbosa
Kalaripayattu almost ceased to exist when it was banned during the British occupation, so as to prevent opposition and rebellion. Punishments of exile and death were common for those found teaching the native art. However, its practice continued in secret by a few dedicated Masters, thus keeping this art alive and safeguarding it for the benefit of future generations.
The suppressed and hidden art of Kalaripayattu resurfaced in the 1920s. The lost glory and its former honoured status were slowly and steadily regained.
Today, those who have kept this tradition alive are working to share and promote the great legacy of Kerala’s warriors to benefit the modern human being. This warrior tradition continues to be practised in our modern world, while remaining rooted in its long traditions.
Contact us for training or treatments
Australian School of Kalaripayattu is dedicated to teaching and sharing the warrior tradition of Kalaripayattu. We aim to impart the true depth of this martial art and preserve the great legacy of Kerala’s warriors.
Kalaripayattu class location
Granadilla Street, MacGregor
(In the hall next to DM Henderson Park)
Wednesdays - Children's class
5pm - 6.30pm
Wednesdays - Adults' class
6pm - 7.30pm
Saturdays - Mixed class
8.30am - 10am
@ Kalari Ayurveda Centre