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Tekkan and Vaddakan Kalari has not also just been used by the men, but for hundred of years kalari as been used the by women of India too. Long ago when their husbands, teachers and sons went off to the battlefield to fight the invading armies. Young women were often left to defend their the families and village if their men folk did not return. And so if their own village or city was going to be under siege, thus the woman were also trained in the art of Kalari to resist the invaders as a final stand rather than face a life of repression. Those who were from the higher class had a vast range of weaponry at hand, swords. Spears, equally those who were not used ordinary kitchen utensils such as a knife and vettukatti.
As we can see kalarippayatt meaning battlefield exercise training was suitable for woman, young and old alike. There are many legends of famous women fighters such as uniyarcha. Uniyarcha was a legendary heroine, who won many battles with distinction. Today, Kalari Payattu is a method of physical fitness, and an empty-handed means of self-defence. Yet, it is tied to traditional ceremonies and rituals.
The Kalari also had a place of Importance in the system of education, which prevailed in the ancient Kerala. It is worthwhile to remember that Kalari has played a decisive role in Kerala on many a crucial occasions. It supplied the best fighting materials against many an invading hoarders.
Today in Kerala there are kalari institutions were young girls are trained in the hand-to-hand combat of Kalari.
I shall cover the knife fighting skills from the Tekkan Kalarippayatt. Many people have asked me what the translation of Kalarippayatt means. In a nutshell it just means a place of Martial arts training. This means that all different aspects of Martial arts are covered, from barehanded fighting, locks, wrestling, throwing, weapons etc. Because of that name it has no restrictions over its movements in terms of understanding the 64 methods. Unlike calling it a "water flowing style or straight line style" naturally you will become bound by that restriction that the name suggest. Kalari is free, I hear this all the time in India by many masters. This means it has no restriction, of you have understand is it principals. Another question often asked to me is, if Kalarippayyatt is one of the oldest martial arts in world, why is it that not a great deal is known about it. Over the last few years we have seen some Northern Kalari on sky television, mainly the commercial demos association, but hardly any of the Tekkan style, probably the last time anything was shown on Tekkan was on the BBC way of the warrior some 20 years ago. There are some 300 Tekkan schools of Kalari in Tamil Nadu, Kerala South Indian. But some are too poor to operate on a professional basis and because of corrupt officials only a few schools get the promotion and money needed to survive. Others due to their status in life get no chance to openly expand. This is one reason I have travelled and trained with some masters in villages, rather than the commercial ones. One famous Tekkan master is Master Madhavan featured in the way of the warrior, I had started learning this art in 1991, and still continue under his son Adjit Madhavan. One of the fighting skills is the knife fight of tekkan system, also used is the vettukati a small machete like knife used to chop open coconuts. So what's the big difference in knife fighting kalari style to other arts? The first rule in knife fighting from Kalari is to move out the way, one has to move from side to side, jump, and twist out and away. This type of training is vital for knife defence, under no circumstances one should fight against an opponent blocking his moves etc whilst being in front of him all the time. One slip and this could be fatal. It takes many years of training to slip to the side of him; this is where your opponent has less of the chance to stab you with his weapon. But this training is one of the first combative rules of knife fight in kalari.
Knife fighting is becoming most common is our society, very few people fight fair these days. So some kind of defence is needed to combat this menace. Even if its just awareness will be better than nothing. But all over the capitals around the world, knife fight is becoming way of life. Some martial arts systems are not designed to combat this knife fighting, because very little movement is made with legs enabling one to get of the way. In Kalari it's a must that you move, shifting left to right, ducking, jumping. This special training programme then permits one to take the opportunity to lock, punch or a take down thus finishing the fight.
The Kalari knife fight Program
In India real knives are used for training, but here rubbers knives are a great way to train with. But when one is training its with the real implement that adds that extra touch and awareness. The first training exercise is a circle drill that requires one to always to get on the side of your opponent. This repetition training requires important function, one has to move the his leg in the correct position, that mean to come backwards out of the way so as not to expose the vital veins the flow on the inside of the thighs, this is the first training rule of circle knife fight.
The attacker with the knife attacks with four kinds of strikes changing the blade from one hand to the other. The first is a downward cut, 2nd a horizontal cut, 3rd switch blade to the other hand then a horizontal cut, followed by the 4th which is a forward lunge with an upward curve to it, similar to way a prison inmate would use a knife when wanting knife someone. These four strikes are important to work on, its take about 4 months to get it right with legs moving out of the way with arms guarding close and trying to get to the side of your opponent. Both sides are repeated, the drill will constantly go in a circle.
There are two types of grip with the knife; one is the forward grip, like holding a stick the other is the back grip used is a hammer hand type fashion. There are 12 ways to attack someone with the knife with these two hand held styles, but it's the movement of the person with the knife that will make the fight real and how the knife to used. These are swinging, lunge, stab, slice, and cut. Remember few people lunge with a knife and stay there waiting for you to grab their out stretched arm so it can be broken. Many stabs or slice, pulling back the blade for a second or third attack. Sometimes this rapid attack can have fatal consequences to specially those who believe that knife fighting is easy.
The kalari practitioner will fight against the hand held dagger or the Vettukati. Though in the beginning the attacks are made with different methods the latter stage one will have to move from an assault position attack, including the knife being thrown and blind fold training.
There are some different types of knives used, such as the Snake dagger, which is curly, straight dagger used for thrusting.
Little clothing must be worn?
Its been often asked to me, why is at the kalari practitioner wears little clothing except the loin cloth around their middle. In the olden days this was must to wear little clothing during all training in the kalari, be it long stick, short stick, knife fighting or other metal weapons. The purpose of this is to make one feel vulnerable, open and exposed. This then will teach you the art of protection by knowing your weakness and being aware of them. In battle when life or death can happen, then you can cover up to protect those areas, such as headscarves body armour etc. This type of training of wearing little clothing will increase a far better reaction due to feeling of being vulnerable. Hence in olden time such fighting with the knife was done in this fashion that would create heightened feeling.
Dug out pit
Recently in Russia an investigation experiment was made to whether training in a dug out pit had any effects on the body, it was later discovered that training in such environment gave more energy, and also kept the kalari practitioner cool during training. Such science in this old type of training had reason and how they trained had purpose, from little clothing, oiling of the body so to protect you from injury using mustard oil. To the dug out pit to maintain optimum out put of training.
Even many of the ultimate challenge fighters and now looking towards India for the want of kusti, locks, training drills etc. many of the skills and especially the escapes from lock are a perfect example. Such fighting skills go back centuries, even Hanuman the monkey god of wind was famous Mace fighter and bare arm grappler and still revered in India today as a form of worship and strength. Many Kalari practitioners offer prayers to Hanuman.
This is not take anything away from martial arts elsewhere. Even in the UK there was quarter staff fighting, and fencing and wrestling is just as effective or more so than many of the Oriental arts.
So how can kalarippayattu go unmissed? Well with a new film that is coming out with Jackie Chan and kalari may help the interest. But that's with the commercial schools of the vadakan systems. Perhaps more exposure is needed on the tekkan systems kalari; where fighting is done with open hand, knife fighting, toe hooks knife fighting, and vast array of weapons, as tekkan systems are fighting styles. But I have also met a few individuals who are not interested in exposure, and may take their knowledge to their grave. Though a sad lost it would be.
Knife fighting form
Knife fighting is done either with a single knife that is swapped in either hand or double knife fight. Though there are open hand forms that enable you to master control of the knife, the main focus is on hand combat and its possible locks. According to Padmabhavan Asan, another of my kalari teachers. This 58-year-old man made of point of moving out of the way and keeping your hand close to your chest when in knife combat. Rule 2/ when applying a lock against someone who has a knife, make sure when possible you use one-handed lock against an opponent so that the other hand is free to strike. However and double hand lock is fine if total control has been gained over your attacker. Rule 3/-body composure, the way you stand in front of your opponent is vital. Yours eyes must open wide to express determination, and your body must exhibit power. Like one of the deities in a temple that guards the directions, with the eyes expanded. This display of power must be shown during the double or single held knife fight.
The following pictures are of Master Madhavan Pannikar in the early 1940s. These series of locks against a would be knife attacker form some basis around tekkan Kalari knife fight. It must be understood that each lock can be performed on the eight body positions, these are various stances and movement.
Generally speaking when the training with knife starts, it must go on until the 2nd breath comes into play, this is when the body starts to become settled and feeling for the opponent attack, if one carries further on, the 3rd level comes into play which is like a trance like state. No time limit can be given when the 2nd or 3rd level arises. But its all due to the amount of concentration and practise you do to reach that level.
This unique method of training belongs to the South of India, namely Tamil Nadu Kerala, and Venadu. Its comprises of different stances, and according to the method taught, some stances are held high, some are held low with crouching movements. In short the Tekkan system places great emphasis on open hand skills, locking, trips, sweeps, throws are to name a few. The weapons that are used mainly are the Long stick (nedu vadi) short stick (kuru vadi), machete (vetukathi) knife fighting, sword and shield (valum parichayam). The history of the Southern Tekkan Kalari goes back to the Sage Agastya a divine incarnation of Lord Shiva to depart the science of Medicine, martial arts, wisdom, etc. living some millions of years ago with eternal life he taught 18 disciples, who then imparted the knowledge further a field, far and wide.
Tekkan Kalari begins with a certain mount of warm ups especially for the waist and hips. The first beginning forms are known as (vadachuvada) or round steps. This is where the left foot during the practise of the form is kept in one place. The other leg then goes forward, then turns to go back, then to left, then to the right, then back beginning point, whilst this is happening the hands perform certain hands skills. This is one style of (vadachuvada). Others (Vadachuvada) forms go off differently, like forward then left, then right, then back, all in all there are some 8 16 or 18 64 (Vadachuvada) fixed footwork forms. They may have low crouching moves, upright moves, spinning moves, forward moves, reverse moves, ducking moves, whilst hands, foots, elbow are neatly placed to strike one of the 108 marman points.
The first form in Tekkan Kalari is the most important. This is the salutation form to Guru, God. Actually when we start this form, we must remember Mother, father, Guru then God. Without mother and father we cannot be here, without Guru we cannot know God. This maybe in the form of whichever Sampradya you are following. The Southern system gives more importance to footwork, hands and leg attacks. Adimura, AdiThada, Tattamura, PidiMura, MarmaAdi, the locks and release of the locks and mentioned.There are also animal within the forms aswell as animal training drills, such as the crocodile press ups, Snake press ups, Lizard press up. Later, you will be taught moving steps, (tatchuvada). These forms movement covers all different patterns, duck, twist, spin, slip, jump, crouch etc. Forms cover square, circle, triangle, see below for some of its methods.
Some of the shapes that the Southern kalari forms base themselves on:
Open hand fighting known as (kai puru) or hand fight, these are sometimes long or short prearranged fight sequences designed to understand the attacking of the vital points through the complexity of the drill. The proper method of kai puru was that you be shown the vital points where each attack is made. Then with your partner, you pair off the aim at those points whilst your partner will block the incoming attacks. As if you were chasing to hit certain key points on the human anatomy. There are different types of kai puru, using elbows (kai muttu) knees (kal muttu) foot (padam) and so on. Such skills form the basics of (Adi Tada) block and strike. Other than prearranged fight there are sensitivity drills and lock drills, where you will flow in and out of locks, this is too make sure you know the escape of if a lock is placed on you. There are some 64 locks, though there are many variations of each lock. These are done on the floor, standing, crouching etc. These locks are identical to locks found in kust i. Some Tekkan kalari masters speak of the words, (Adi Tada kusti). The sciences of Kalari are based on 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 108. Also understanding of body movement is based on 3. Examples of this are as follows. There are 8 body positions that all techniques can and must be applied, Laying on the floor, on one knee, on both knees, crouching, low, middle, upright, jumping. The 8 directions as on a compass, also up and down. Understanding the methods one then combines 8x8=64 etc. This truly makes Kalari a very advanced system. The 64 locks must also be applied in the same way, thus the practitioner will cover all angles of defence.