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Kalaripayattu gets a world audience

Kalaripayattu, according to Wikipedia is probably the oldest martial artform in the world (video here). It is now mainly practiced in Kerala and said to be the basis for most of the Chinese martial arts. Around the 16th century, chekavars (people trained in Kalari) were used to settle disputes between people, kind of surrogate warriors and they have been immortalized in Kerala folklore. (If you want to see life of people of that era, the best movie to watch is Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha, written by M T Vasudevan Nair in which Mammotty played the best role of his career)

While there have been many Malayalam movies about Kalari only one Tamil movie (Indian by Shankar) I know of and no Hindi movie has shown this martial artform. Now thanks to Jackie Chan, Kalari is getting a world audience.

Last year, Chan happened to see a CD the Kerala Tourism Department sent him, requesting him to be the brand ambassador of its tourism initiatives.

Kerala Tourism could not get Chan, but Sathyanarayanan — who performed the traditional Kerala martial art Kalaripayattu in the CD — impressed Chan so much that the superstar invited him to be part of his new film.

Sathyanarayanan flew to Shanghai for a 30-day shoot with Chan for The Myth; the film includes Tony Leung Ka Fai, Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat and television actor Sudhanshu Pandey.

Since then, Sathyanarayanan has not looked back. “I am getting a number of offers from Hollywood. All because of Jackie Chan only,” he told rediff.com.[Jackie Chan and the art of Kalaripayattu]

Now Sathyanarayanan has been invited to act in another Hollywood movie and there are few enquiries from other film companies abroad.

6 Responses to Kalaripayattu gets a world audience

  1. Desi Pundit June 10, 2005 at 4:49 pm #

    Kalaripayattu all over the world

    Varnam writes about Kalaripayattu getting a world audience via a Jackie Chan movie. I guess, its time the Chinese lose the monopoly on martial arts and no better way than to get a Chinese to make a movie about it.

  2. desi Sab June 21, 2005 at 10:45 am #

    This site (http://www.kalariworld.com) provides more information for kalarippayattu. Looks good

  3. ranjith ravi September 14, 2005 at 9:30 am #

    greetings to people like sathyanarayanan for the effort they take to keep alive the martial art of kerala despite the lack of interest in them by natives these days. any ppl want to learn kalari but they need it in a sudden and kalari needs practice of years. but still i dont think kalari teachers are teaching bits of kalari for easy money.hats off to them for still keeping live the ethics and spirit of kalari.

  4. Dante September 14, 2005 at 8:10 pm #

    If you actually look at the history of martial arts, most people believe that they developed independently from one another.

    This is from another website that has been discussing this matter:

    “As to kalaripayattu….
    There is no association historically between kalaripayattu and shaolin kung fu or any other martial arts. This only came about recently and has been pushed strongly by practitioners of kalaripayattu as an association (i guess to try and generate interest in the art). Unfortunately, the general pracitioners of kalaripayattu are unwilling to admit (although Zarilli’s book and almost all other books on kalaripayattu reference this) that the earliest suggested birth of kalaripayattu is around 11th-13th century a.d. and that the earliest proof of kalaripayattu was from portuguese records in the 16th century a.d. No credible records of kalaripayattu exist before this.

    The association between indian martial arts and chinese martial arts is between the legend of Bodhidharma (an Indian or Central asian monk, depending on the legend you use) who founded the Shaolin temple. The rumor began in the 1600’s A.D. and was written by a Chinese Taoist monk who did not like the Shaolin monks….

    The first explicit association of Bodhidharma and the Shaolin martial arts is made in a text from no earlier than 1624 written by Zining Daoren (literally “Zining, the Taoist”) and it states in the text that Bodhidharma created the exercises that developed into Shaolin quan in a cave in China after staring at a wall for nine years without moving. Between the founding of the Shaolin temple (600A.D.) and 1600A.D. no association has ever been made about Bodhidharma and Shaolin Kung Fu.

    From this legend in the 1600’s A.D., kalaripayattu practitioners and other people have been trying to push that maybe Bodhidharma was a kalaripayattu practioner. If he was a kalaripayattu practitioner, then that must mean that kalaripayattu was created in the 600A.D. and is the progenitor of Shaolin Kung Fu and hence all martial arts! Of course, this disregards the other martial arts traditions in china that go back to before Shaolin kung fu by a few centuries.

    There is physical and written evidence in China that martial arts as practiced by the Shaolin monks predate the 6th century A.D. and that most martial arts in most countries developed to some degree independently of each other. The “Extensive Records of the Taiping Era” record that, prior to Bodhidharma’s arrival in China, monks practiced wrestling for recreation. Shaolin monastery records state that two of its very first monks, Hui Guang and Seng Chou, were experts in the martial arts years before the arrival of Bodhidharma.”

  5. dazzaji December 8, 2005 at 12:10 pm #

    maybe u should read the book “searching for vedic India” by Swami Devamrita

    India is the oldest civilisation.That means everything was from there at one point of time

  6. kenneth house July 6, 2006 at 11:01 am #

    Greetings, All,

    Kalaripayattu is, certainly, a beautiful martial art. However, while the origins of Asian martial arts, and, indeed, of martial arts generally, is a complex subject, given the rather unlikely chance of discerning origins in any finite manner, it’s a subject that should not be followed too passionately.

    There are, currently, for example, plenty of African amrtial arts, none of which owe their origins to Asia generally, nor Kalaripayattu particularly.

    Likewise, one could equally argue that African civilizations (I dislike this rather, IMO, arrogant term to define societies relative the developement of each) have the greatest antiquity. At the end of the day, it is of little relavence. What matters most is what each culture, and human being, brings to the human experience. To honor a culture’s traditions is to pay respects to its journey. That is the only point, IMHO, worth honoring.

    Thanks,

    Ken House

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