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Why Kalari faces some (basic) hurdles in its popularization

(To the uninitiated, Kalari is a martial art that has its origins in the Ithasa(mythology) surrounding Kerala. It is a martial art practised mainly in Northern Kerala, but has presence in the South of Kerala as well. The two styles are divided into the same basis:Northern (Vaddakan) and Southern (Thekkan).)

More than us being influenced by Western and Chinese films where Karate and Kung-Fu are promoted, there are some barriers to expanding the Kalari : 1)Dearth of trainers

Most People who learn Kalari are casual trainees, who will practice regularly for a year or so, and then drop out. Further more, the Kalaris are generally held by a “Gurukkal”, a traditional position, passed from father to son. Their retention rate is extremely low.  2)The Training Method & Place

Kalari, as beautiful as it is, requires the traditional floor, made of mud and clay. This is essential to train in Kalari: the floor is in such way that is soft for landing, but hard enough to host the wait of the gadha falling.  Karate uses soft mats to get over the issue flooring: but this is not a solution for kalari, as its “payattu” style requires a hard flooring. 3)The Use of weapons

Karate has only one weapon that is popularly taught in India: the Nunchucks. This weapon is a short hand weapon and can be taught easily. Kalari has a diverse range of weapons, such as the sword and the spear, which is dangerous- Trainees have to come to the Kalari to train. 4) The time period

One can easily acquire working knowledge of Karate in 2–3 Years.  Kalari, however is not like that. One has to train every day (in the Kalari) to acquire and retain the skills. Moreover, the training period is long: One maybe able to learn a few skills here and there in a crash course, but to know the art inside out, a lifetime is not enough: Just to learn all the payattus, one needs atleast 14 years.  5)The need for flexibility

Kalari requires one to start at an early age(7, ideally) to train and acquire skills required for it, flexibility is essential. This means that any one over 12 wanting to study Kalari would face difficulties. As a result of which they are discouraged from coming back, and are generally dettered by the Gurukkal themselves.

All these factors stop Kalari from expanding as a martial art. As such, the best way to encourage it according to me is: Teach basic Kalari techniques to children as a way of self defense.Encourage Kalai artistes and provide financial support to Kalaris/Gurukkals.Show case Kalari in various programmes: The best way to promote Kalari is to increase visibility in the public arena. If there is high visibility for Kalari, people will be encouraged to join & train. Books and videos on the internet will also go along way in promoting kalari.


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