How does a kalari training look like?
Usually when we come to a kalari (kalaripayattu) class, the first exercise done after a ceremonial salutation that starts the training, is different kind of kicks. Afterwards, there are sequences of steps and postures done along the long side of the room. Each exercise ends with a specific transition, which aims to maintain the flow of training and develop stamina. The next elements are done in one place and include different types of lunges, jumping, push-ups, bridges, as well as animal postures. These exercises often combine conditioning elements with stretching. The next part is movement sequences that include defensive and offensive movements. They are practised together with the group, but not in contact. The last part of the workout is empty hand combat and weapon combat which concerns only the most advanced students. This stage usually is done after at least a few months of practice.
What matters most in the training, from the very beginning, is observation and understanding of how our body works, as well as precision. Basic positions and movements are repeated later in more complex and dynamic movement sequences done both individually, as well as in contact with a partner / opponent during combat.
First kalari exercises
In the film below, the initial warm-up exercises are shown. Each of them is presented once, but during a training, we repeat them many times (especially the kicks). This part of a class usually takes a dozen or so minutes. Traditionally students in Kerala would even do just the straight kicks for months before a master would decide that they are ready to learn further elements of training.
Although at our classes we teach more than one exercise at once, we always emphasize that the most important is the precision and patience. Progress requires time and takes place on several levels such as breath control, strength, flexibility, range of movement, coordination, balance, speed, concentration and stamina.
10 kalari exercises shown in the video:
1. Straight kick (ner kaal)
2. Round kick (otta kal)
3. Cross kick (kone kaal)
4. Double kick (tirichu kaal)
5. Kick-sit-turn (irutti kaal)
6. Sliding lunge (neeki theruthu)
7. Sliding lunge with sit (neeki ammarnnu)
8. Sequence that combines the lion and wild boar postures (veedu vangi)
9. Squat with stretched arms (kai kuttu nokku)
10. Sequence with elephant posture
These exercises are common in kalarippayattu schools, although often there are small differences in some movements or postures; they can also be repeated in a different order.
Do I need to be strong and flexible to start kalari practice?
Looking at photos and films that show exercises and forms of kalarippayattu, you can doubt your condition. Of course, when new students come to a class, no such skills are expected from them – they come to learn something during trainings, and not to immediately demonstrate anything. If someone is interested in practice and they will practice regularly, they gradually will progress. These exercises are very complex and there is always something to be discovered and improved.