On 14th November 2017 in the late evening we arrived to Sreerangom CVN Kalari, where we were supposed to train kalaripayattu.

This place turned out to be a hospital! Fortunately, closeby was a small building, where the kalaripayattu training takes place.

We were first foreigners, who came here to train Kalaripayattu in the last couple of years !!!

How the Kalaripayattu training was organized?

The kalaripayattu training takes place every morning (even on Sunday) at 6:30 till 7:40 for local children and adults. We received a private lessons afterwards at 7:40 (1h30min or longer), and in the evening from 5:30 till around 7:00.

When everything about the training was clarified, it was time to check out our room. The other surprise was awaiting us. Our room was in the hospital !!! It was not the nicest room, but it had everything we needed.

It was weird at the beginning to sleep in the hospital. However, pretty soon we saw many advantages connected with it, like:

  • regular room cleaning,
  • clean water and water with a herbal medicine (purifying a blood) available anytime for free,
  • cheap, tasty food, which we could order directly to the room.

Next day we were ready to train.

But, not so quick.

KALARIPAYATTU INITIATION CEREMONY

Before that we needed to attend a traditional ceremony of introducing us to the Gods, past Gurus and living Guru of this place. We needed to give a special fruit, called areca nut (similar to the lemon) and a symbolic money wrapped in a betle leaf to the Guru, master of this place. He was an older Indian man, who I couldn’t really imagine training.

Afterwards we gave respects to the Gods and past Gurus protecting the training place.

Entering the kalari the first thing the person sees is an altar with different Gods and kalaripayattu past Gurus.

The left corner (south – west direction) is dedicated for Kalari Poothara, which means in Malayalam language “a platform of flowers”.

It is made of 7 semi-circular steps narrowing towards the top. The seventh step is a lotus-shaped Kumbha (pot) placed at the top.

Kalari Poothara represents Seven Mothers, who look after the world:

  • Bhrahmi,
  • Maheswari,
  • Kaumari,
  • Vaishnavi,
  • Varahi,
  • Indrani,
  • and Chamundi (AlsoChandrika).
It is also said that it represents seven abilities that each person should acquire:

  • Vignesva (strength),
  • Channiga (patience),
  • Vishnu (power to command),
  • Vadugashcha (posture),
  • Tadaguru (training),
  • Kali (expression)
  • and Vakasta – purushu (sound).
Our Gurrukal (teacher) said that kalari Poothara guards the Kalari and although it refers to the female energy in the form of Durga, we need to remeber that this Hindu Goddess is undivided from Shiva (the male energy).

The other interpretation says that 7 steps of kalari Poothara are relevant to 7 Chacras from Yoga system:

  • The Root Chakra,
  • The Sacral Chakra,
  • The Solar Plexus Chakra,
  • The Heart Chakra,
  • The Throat Chakra,
  • The 3rd Eye Chakra,
  • The Crown Chakra.
On the right side of kalari Poothara stands a decorated stool, which represents a God of snakes – Naga. Close to him is Hanuman – a monkey God and Ganapathithara (Lord Ganesha) – known as the remover of obstacles.
Also among the Gods figures there are two decorated stools reserved for the kalaripayattu past Gurus (Guruthara). Among the three photos in Sreerangom CVN kalari temple the middle one is reserved for C.V. Narayanvan Nair with his teacher Kottackal Kanaran Gurukkal. C.V. Narayanvan Nair contributed  greatly to rebuild the Kalaripayattu technique after it was banned under british rules.

On the left side is a photo presenting a son of C.V. Narayan Nair. Whereas the photo on the right side (the man sitting in the chair) represents the student of the previous and the founder of this kalaripayattu school (he is also a father of the main Gurukkal and Chief Physician of this place).

In the right corner of Kalari (west – north direction) resides Bhadrakali – the fierce form of Durga.

In the north – east corner is reserved for Mookambika – another form of Shakthi (Durga).

Whereas the east – south corner, the last place, where the respects are given, represents Ayyappa – God of growth, son of Shiva and Mohini (again another form of Shakthi – Durga).

From now on we had to give respects to the Gods and past Gurus every time we entered or left the kalari. It is said that these entry rituals both protect practitioners from harm and help them to focus the mind on practice by clearing away mental obstacles.
After the ceremony the regular class started. Our new teacher wasn’t an old Guru, but his son – Sri Nath. He turned out to be a young man (25 years old).

APPLYING AN OIL BEFORE KALARIPAYATTU TRAINING

It is also worth to mention that before each class, which means twice a day, we needed to put an oil on our whole body.
At the beginning we thought that we could apply any oil and we bought a coconut oil. However, Sri Nath immediately corrected us and explained that coconut oil cools the body down. Applying an oil before training should not only help the skin to be more elastic and the muscles to be more flexible. At most applying an oil should ensure that the muscles are warmed up properly, which prevents from injuries.
This is why the best oil for kalaripayattu training is sesame oil. It has warming up qualities. Although it’s smell was not so appealing as the coconut oil’s, it definitely made the body warm.
Applying an oil also meant that after each class we had to take shower and wash the clothes.

To be honest, if somebody would ask me what was the most difficult/ unpleasant part of kalaripayattu training, I would say – washing my clothes (sport bra, underwear and pants) twice a day, six days in a week. There was no washing machines and the clothes were all in oil. So you can imagine …

Daniel as a man didn’t have so much work. He was wearing langoti, special pants created for guys to train kalaripayattu “comfortably” (I am not sure if Dani would agree with that expression). Accordingly, he just needed to wash a small piece of cloth.

KALARI RULES

The atmosphere during the training was very relaxed and friendly. We asked Sri Nath many nurturing us questions. Patiently, he was answering all of them.

– Kalari means school, a place, where the person learns – he explained. – It’s synonyms can be Japanese dojo.

There can be cooking kalari, where you learn how to cook or dancing kalari, where you learn dancing.

– Payattu means practice.

Kalaripayattu is considered the oldest form of martial arts. Even kung fu has its roots in kalaripayattu. It was developed in Kerala. Kalaripayattu training in south Kerala differs from the one practiced in the north. Our teacher said that the most traditional kalaripayattu comes from the north, the place we were studying it.

We have learned that kalaripayattu is not only a martial art, but also a spiritual path with many rules and rituals, which we could already experience at our first class (the initiation ceremony).

One of the rules, which surprised me the most, was that the girls during their period cannot attend the classes. The kalari (the place, where we trained) is considered as a temple. The women during the menstruation detoxicate their body, meaning they are impure in that moment. We couldn’t really understand that concept.

Other, less controversial rule was entering the kalari. In order to reach the entrance, we had to go down the stairs and turn left. When we finished the class, we took right direction. In that way we were completing the circle. Every time going clockwise around the “dojo”.

KALARIPAYATTU TRAINING

It turned out to be pretty difficult, especially because we didn’t do any physical activity for a month. What was awaiting us were high kicks and a lot of horse position, which is different than in kung fu. All this exercises requires a lot of flexibility, mobility and strength.

CLICK HERE

If you want to know exactly how our Kalaripayattu training looked like.
Already, after the first class, we could feel the muscle sore. It was difficult to walk. The muscle pain though was different than the one I used to get after kung fu training. I felt more gelly. The pain was from stretching and working with the muscles I rarely used.

At the beginning I was missing a warm up – running – that I have been doing in Shaolin School. However, already after two days, I got used to the new way of exercising and my body started to adapt.

Kalaripayattu is a famous martial art, which has become the centre of attraction for people across the globe. This oldest existing art dates back to 2000 years. Considered as the forerunner of Karate & Kung-fu.

The birth of Kalaripayattu dates back to those times, when people did not understand how to fight each other. They used martial arts to tackle animals. Once, when a group of people travelled across Himalayas to China, the wild men attacked them.

At that time, the travelers used the martial arts that they had learned to fight the wild animals. Once it was used on men, a complete transformation was seen in the martial arts. The art evolved into a standing up type and reached China and other parts of Asia. Shaina Kurani (www.bigchitheory.com)

CONTINUE READING ABOUT KALARIPAYATTU:

1 Month Kalaripayattu

Training Experience – Part 2

 

KICKS Kalaripayattu

Training In India

 

ANIMAL EXERCISES

Kalaripayattu