The Martial Arts Tradition of India
Originating in the southern Indian province of Kerala, kalaripayat is the most ancient of the Eastern martial arts. Yet today it has been practically forgotten. Former CBS war correspondent, Patrick Denaud, looks at this neglected tradition, whose history spans millennia, from the time it was transmitted by the god Vishnu to the sage Parasurama and his twenty-one disciples, the original Gurukkals, to its present-day practice.
More than an art of combat, kalaripayat is a way of life and a spiritual discipline. Its martial techniques are designed to create states propitious for deep meditation. Long the jealously guarded art of the Nair warriors of southern India, kalaripayat was banned by the British East India Company in 1793 and was long believed by outside observers to be extinct. Several Gurukkals continued a clandestine practice and secretly trained the students who would transmit the teachings to today's keepers of the art, such as Gurukkal, Pratap S. Balachandrian.
Like other spiritual disciplines, kalaripayat draws from the science of breath. Focused, silent breathing creates highly concentrated trance states and helps control the inner circulation of vital energy. The practitioner learns, not only how to be a capable fighter with or without weapons, but, also, an accomplished healer. The emphasis of this practice on circulating energy throughout the body is, not only of interest to martial arts practitioners, but, also, to all those interested in the harmonious development of the self.