The Levels and Weapons of Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu is an ancient and probably the oldest martial art still in practice. Originated in the Indian province of Kerala, it is a hugely diversified art that needs immense courage, dedication, and skill to practice. The beauty of Kalaripayattu lies in the fact that apart from a set of physical abilities, the art is a collection of life lessons. Every step in Kalari is more or less associated with the journey of life. Different tiers of Kalaripayattu training resemble the stages of life where one has distinct roles and responsibilities to play depending on the ability. Lets learn about the various levels and weapons of Kalaripayattu.

There are primarily five Kalaripayattu training levels that consist of an introduction to various sets of weapons in each tier.

Preparatory Level

The primary level of Kalaripayattu is mainly about the mind and body preparation. Trainees go through a number of physical and mental practices in the quest for attaining enough spirit prior to going for the intense training. Practices such as Warm up, Meditation, basic yoga session, etc., dominate the prefatory training of Kalaripayattu.

Training of Flexibility

After getting prepared, students go through a series of applications to make the body flexible enough for the rigorous training. In Sanskrit, this step is called Mei Payattu, meaning the School of Movements. Students learn the art of fighting using the body parts. The core of this training is the coordination of the body with respect to the mind. The art of moving the body quicker than a peregrine falcon is attained during the Secondary level of Kalari.

Training of Wooden Weapons

Introduction to weapons actually begins at this stage. Aspirants learn about different wooden weapons such as-

  • Staff: This training includes the art of rotating a long staff with a high speed. Along with long staffs, one also learns about Otta, Neduvaali (long stick), Cheruvadi (short stick), and Kuravadi (short stick).
  • Edged weapons: Use of sharp weapons like daggers, katara, etc., are also taught.
  • Gadha: Gadha is a heavy weapon with a sticky handle.

Training of lethal weapons

This step is called the Senior level. Students get introduced to the various deadly weapons like Valum (sword), Katar, Trishula, etc. In ancient days, soldiers were taught to use these weapons to fight with the enemies. In fact, the sword has long been associated with kings and mythological characters like Lord Vishnu, Goddess Durga, etc.

Trishula, another weapon is used in the training is the personal weapon of Lord Shiva.

The level of proficiency

The master level is the last and final stage of the Kalaripayattu training. Students study the application of multiple weapons at a time. They are expected to have complete mastery over the weapons of Kalaripayattu at this stage. Knowledge of the highest standard of war weapons like Shield and sword, Spear, Maru, Urumi, etc., is given to the trainees. After the training, a student becomes a prodigy in the art of Kalari and its weapons.

The coaching of Kalaripayattu is extremely structured and highly influential. The training is tough but enjoyable. One comes out with an extensive range of experiences after completing the program. If you are eager to learn about the beautiful weaponry art, you can opt for one of the numerous Kalaripayattu training Schools in Kerala.


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