Techniques of Kalaripayattu

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The three schools of Kalaripayattu includes Vadakkan (Northern) Kalari, Thekkan(Southern ) Kalari and Thulunadan( Tulu region) Kalari.. The schools are primarily divided according to the geographical region of Kerala where its practiced. The fighting techniques were written in ola or palm leaves and different families or Kalaris ( training schools ) kept them for generations. The knowledge and techniques of Kalaripayattu was imparted from masters to students orally for several generation


Kalari is the school or gymnasium where Kaalripayattu is trained. Its like a dojo in Karate. It will be treated with the respect of a temple and perfect discipline should be observed while entering a Kalari. In the kannimoola (South west corner) of the Kalari a lamp will be lighted before klarai devta ( deity ) and every practice session starts by Vandanam( bowing before) the diety. Weapons will be kept here. During Navratri festival, the weapons will be kept for pooja,

Schools of Kalaripayattu

1.Vadakkan Kalari

This is prevelant in the northern parts of Kerala. This is regarded as original frm of Kaalripayattu. It enables the fighter for physical combat. The spirit behind the competness is that ” Meyyu Kannakanam”. This means ones body should be made like an eye( when a weapon or foreign body comes near eye, it automatically closes. Like that one should be able to recognize an attack on the body fast and react quickly). Lord Parasuram is said to be the propagator of this style of Kalaripayattu

2.Thekkan Kalari

This is usualy found in Southern Kerala and Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Its founder is supposed to be Sage Agastya. It has the influence of Silambattam and Adi murai found in Tamil Nadu.

3.Thulundan Kalari

Its is common in Northern most part of Kerala and Canara region of Karnataka. The region was earlier Tulu region. Its less practised style

Training phases

The Kalaripayattu training is divided into 3 phases:

  1. Meythari
  2. Kolthari and
  3. Angathari


Meythari is the initial phase of learning.( It is advisable to start learning Kalaripayattu at the age of 7-8 years) . It is a set of execises with for improving the body’s strength, flexibility and stamina. Once the Guru ( master) feels that the student has reached enough stamina, focus and balance he/ she is allowed to start next level of training. The techniques include Salutation form, how to throw, lock and combat without weapons ( chuvadu or steps, vadivu or postures etc are trained at this stage). chattam ( jumping), ottam ( running), amarcha (excecise to keep body very low) and marichil ( summersault) will be trained during this period.


In the next phase of Kalaripayattu learning, the student is allowed to practice the fighting with kol(wooden weapons). In this Intermediate level of Kalaripayattu training, students learn more advanced techniques. 


Angathari is advanced phase of Kalaripayattu learning. Its the combat training with weapons. Weapons like swords, Kataram (dagger), Urumi ( Whip like sword) etc are trainined during this period.


Its the fighting using sword and shield. Conceptually sword and shield represent Lord Shiva and his Wife Parvati.


Its the fighting with bare hand.In this fight the opponents nervous system or vital points ( marma) are attacked to kill the opponent or paralyse him / her.


It includes the twists and turns of the body.

Weapons used


Its whip like sowrd. Both the sides of the blade has sharp edges making it a lethal weapon.


A short sword with double edges

4. Kuntham

Kuntham means spear in Malayalm.The fighters will be using the spears for fighting.

5. Kathi

Its the fighting using Kathi or knife. The fighter may have knife in one hand or both hands. The when someone fights with the Knife, a cloth is used as the weapon for blocking.

6. Otta

An S shaped sharp wooden staff. It will have sharp edge at one end.

7. Vadi

Vadi means stick in Malayalam. Sticks of different length will be used . Neduvadi ( long stick) and kuru vadi (Small stick) are commonly used.

Kalari massage as a treatment

The Kalaripayattu has great connection with the Ayurveda and Siddha streams of medicine. One becomes master by learning the 108 vital points( marma) in human body during the training of Kalaripayattu. This helps in healing. Kalari massage / Uzhichil helps in reliving pain. It helps to increase blood circulation and detoxification of the body.Kalari massage is used for muscular, ligemental, neurological and bone related ailments .This therapy helps to improve flexibility and agility of the body and makes one more energetic.

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Photo courtesy : By Rajib.hyderabad – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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