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Kalari Marma Chikitsa

An Ancient Kalari Treatment

For one who does physical exercise, it is not easy for an enemy to overcome.
One who exercises will not age quickly either.
For such a person when he undergoes massage using the feet (chavittu uzhichil),
Diseases will avoid him like how serpents will not go near Garuda.

Kalari Marma Chikitsa is an integral treatment form associated with the Kalaripayattu tradition.  It evolved as a treatment form to treat injuries incurred during training and in battles.  Based on the principles of Ayurveda it has evolved as a healing methodology that promotes health while retaining those aspects of treatment to deal with injuries to bones, muscles, joints, tissues, and nerves.  As practicing physicians, the Kalaripayattu masters follow the fundamental principles of Ayurveda when treating patients.

Treatment Methods

An ancient text on Kalari Chikitsa describes the benefits of Kalari treatment thus:

Na Cha Vyayaminam marthyam mardhayanthyarayo balan
Na chainam sahasaakramya jaraasamadharohathi
Vyayamakshunna gathrasya paadBhyamudhvarthithasya cha
Vyadhayono pasarvvunthi vainatheyyamivoragao

The main distinguishing feature of the Kalaripayattu master’s medical expertise is the physio-psychological training as a martial artist and the practical knowledge of the body’s vital spots (marma). 

Typical ailments associated with injuries received during training and or in battles that affect the musculoskeletal system include bone fractures, joint dislocations, bruises, sprains, and major shocks to the body or vital spots.

The treatment methods include:

  • Massage techniques

  • External bandages

  • Internal medicines

  • Applying splints 

Massage therapy uses various kinds of medicated oil preparations, and the nature of these oils depend on the location where they are applied. The medicinal combinations are usually different from classical Ayurvedic texts and are confined to family traditions.

Relevance of Kalari Marma Chikitsa Today

The practice of Kalari Chikitsa is very popular in the northern parts of Kerala. The practice of healing are based on sound principles of Ayurveda and has therefore been found to be very effective, especially in the treatment of simple fractures, sprains, joint dislocations, and similar musculoskeletal injuries. People in northern Kerala still prefer to go to a Kalari master to treat such injuries rather than go to a hospital.

There is also empirical evidence to suggest that expensive and complex surgeries can be avoided in the treatment of ailments relating to the lumbar region and spondylosis.

Kalari Chikitsa has also been found to be very effective in post-operative orthopedic rehabilitation and in restoring health in patients who have suffered strokes.

Kalari Chikitsa is very relevant in the context of sports injuries and it is evolving as an alternative to conventional physiotherapy.  Indian Sports medicine is a promising area for aspiring Kalari students who want to straddle the field of medicine and sports.

The knowledge of Kalaripayattu and medicine puts this treatment form on a unique plane with scope to deal with psychological and physical aspects of treatment, especially in the area of rehabilitation, and restoration of sports persons to normal active life.

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