Health and Wellness Project
Kalaripayattu is more than just a physical form of attack and defense. Research has shown the impact it has on mind-body coordination, the ability to improve focus and create greater awareness of all that is happening around the practitioner, even while concentrating on the task at hand.
At the primary level, Kalaripayattu improves physical well-being because of the sheer physical nature of the exercises. The exercises are designed to build balance, agility, stamina, and strength through the different postures, movements, and sequences that are practiced. Studies on respiratory functions in Kalaripayattu practitioners have shown the increase in lung capacity and oxygen intake, of Kalaripayattu artists, as compared to even footballers who do a lot of running during the course of a game.
The greater benefit, though, is derived from the particular sequence of exercises that are performed in a repetitive manner, which contribute to building excellent mind-body coordination skills. Eugenio Barba, in his book, A Dictionary of Theatre Anthropology, has underscored the importance of Kalaripayattu as a training technique, and how performers and dancers benefit greatly from Kalaripayattu exercises because of the intense motor coordination skills that these exercises demand.
The intensity of the workout and the extreme focus that Kalaripayattu demands also enhance the concentration and focus of practitioners. The use of weapons during training ensures that trainers cannot allow their concentration to waver for even a second, as the consequence of such distraction can be disastrous. More importantly, as the trainer progresses to bare-handed combat level, the training enhances their ability to be aware of the environment even as they remain focused on neutralizing the immediate threat facing them. In this phase of training, they learn to overcome the fear of death even, thus enabling them to face any challenges in life with equanimity and poise.
This ability to bring total awareness to oneself is akin to the meditative states that a yogi attempts through meditation. In a sense, Kalari can be considered to be a dynamic meditative form.
One of the unique aspects of Kalaripayattu is the treatment and healing techniques associated with a martial art form. Kalari Marma Chikitsa is the traditional healing technique employed by Kalaripayattu practitioners in treating warriors who get injured during practice or war. This branch of healing deals with issues relating to bones, joints, muscles, tissue, and nerves. The study of the vital points, known as marma points, is a key aspect of the training. While Kalaripayattu employs the marma points during attack and defense, the treatment form uses these vital points to release blocks, and increase vitality.
The treatment methodology places a lot of emphasis on overall wellness and rejuvenation, as much as it does on healing and recovery from injuries. It is for this reason, that Kalari Chikitsa is closely linked to the rejuvenation of the body and mind, and related Ayurvedic treatment forms known as Kayakalpa.
As part of the overall plan to revive Kalaripayattu, the healing aspect is perhaps the most esoteric, yet most important and relevant aspect of Kalaripayattu in today’s world of extreme physical and mental stress. This project intends to create a mechanism to incorporate modern techniques of measurement and cause-effect studies thereby allowing these treatment forms to join the mainstream healing methodologies in a scientific and process-oriented manner. The project will also encompass building labs and special rooms for practicing rejuvenation techniques like Kayakalpa.
An important element of the project will be the documentation and research aspects, which will systematize the use of medicinal herbs and plants, and document techniques while attempting to recover a lot of the lost knowledge in this branch of science.