Kalaripayattu Thekan Weapons

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After sufficient practice of the solo forms and then mastering the empty hand sets and prearranged sparring with partner the student of Thekkan or southern style Kalarippayattu moves on to the study of the use of weapons. The various weapons used in the southern or Thekkan system are:.

1.  Long staff or pirambu or neduvati ( means rattan stick)

This usually is as long as the distance from the ground to the ear of the practitioner while standing. Needless to say that the length of the staff varies according to the height of the user. Most kalari practitioners use rattan sticks about .05 inches to 1 inch thick and of the prescribed length. Training begins with the practice of many of the turning, twisting and swirling movements done as Chuvadu or solo forms. Long practice of these gives the trainee the necessary skill to hit from any and every angle and more importantly turn and block attacks from any direction or angle, even from positions of disadvantage. In many of the Thekkan schools a special equipment or training device called “Rattu” is used to prepare the trainees for the rigors of the long staff training. The next step is the prearranged sparring with partners. This is very dangerous since no protective equipments are used. Constant, dedicated practice of long staff develops the fighting skill along with terrific strength in the wrist and forearm regions.

2.  Kurunthadi

This is a short stick made of the trunk of the palm tree or coconut palm and measures about 2 feet in length and about an inch and an inch and a half thick. Striking and blocking techniques along with some grappling and submission holds are practiced with this weapon. Another important aspect of this weapon is that it prepares the student for the next stage of training i.e. , knife fighting, as many solo drills and prearranged sparring with the short stick forms the base for the first few drills in the knife fighting.

3.  Knife / dagger

This training begins after a pooja (performing of religious rite) on an auspicious occasion and is the stepping stone to the world of weapons made of metals. The practice and training revolves around prearranged sparring and is designed to simulate the use of knife in attack or defense in every conceivable way. Evasion, parrying, blocking and disarming techniques are taught. Again no protective gear is worn and even a split second relaxation of vigil on the part of the practitioners can spell disaster.

4.  Vettukathi ( a form of machete or Kukri)

Almost same as the knife training but with additional techniques for the cutting movements of the machete. Many sparring techniques using a combination of the knife and Vettukathi are used. Since this a common implement (and hence “legal”) used for the daily chores both in the households and by people working in the coconut plantations, learning these techniques can be handy in a street brawl.

5.  Valum parichayum ( sword and round shield)

Moving up to the training of swordsmanship in Kalarippayattu means graduation of the student. The most famous of all kalari weapons are the sword and the shield. The training demands unwavering concentration, utmost agility, fast foot work and quick reflexes form the students. Apart from the sword and shield combination, fighting with one sword without any shield and two swords (one in each hand) and against multiple opponents are included in the training.

6.  Churika

This is a weapon mostly used by the northern stylists, (and in the northern system it is called Katara. Churika in the northern system means another weapon) but some Asans (Asan = guru or teacher) incorporate the Churika training in their training. Thrusting, parrying and blocking movements are performed in linear fashion moving forward and backward.

7.  Chuttuval (flexible sword)

This is called as Urumi in the northern system. It is a flexible band of steel measuring in length from the fingertip of one hand to the finger tip of the other hand when the hands are held outstretched to the sides and1 to 2 inches wide. Here agility and mental sharpness counts more than strength or aggression. Twirling and controlling urumi is an art by itself possible only for those who spend long hours in the kalari. One false movement can slash the eyes, calves and many other parts of the practitioner.

Thekan Weapons

This one calls for utmost concentration even from the expert trainees. Some times two blades are attached to the handle so that the urumi can be made more lethal. If used in a crowded situation when attacked by multiple opponents, the urumi can save the dedicated kalari student by inflicting heavy injuries to the aggressors. Urumi has another advantage – this weapon can be worn like a waist belt and can be drawn when demanded.

8.  Kottukampu or Thavikkana

A small stick about the thickness of one’s thumb and measuring in length about the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the smallest finger when the fingers and the thumb are held in an outstretched position. This weapon can be extremely lethal in the hands of a trained kalari master. It is used to strike the vital points or Marma points while blocking strikes of an opponent and/or while attacking. It is made from the trunks of palm trees or areca nut trees. Only those students stay with the Asan or master long enough to pass through the other stages of training will be considered eligible for training with this weapon. Understanding of the science of the vital point striking is a prerequisite for this training.