Kalaripayattu Vadakkan Weapons

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In the northern system of Kalarippayattu, one starts the training with the Meythari- solo forms designed to develop the flexibility, agility, balance and coordination of the body. Once the trainee becomes proficient in Meythari, he can move on to Kolthari (use of weapons made of wood).

1.  The long staff (Panthiruchan and Kettukari)

The training consists of the basic twirling and swinging movements of the long staff and prearranged sparring with partners. Similar to the modern Olympic fencing competition, partners move forward and backward in a linear fashion while executing thrusts, strikes, blocks and parrying movements.
Sometimes a spearhead is attached to the long staff and it is used as a spear. An ideal spear will measure seven cubits in length but nowadays it is usually less than five cubits in length.

2.  Muchan vati or Kuruvati

This is a short stick measuring 3 “chans” in length (one Chan = the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the small finger when the thumb and the fingers are held in an outstretched position).
This calls for fast movements and quick reflexes. Expert masters in their prime time can make up to 100 strikes in one minute. The strikes are aimed at the vital points of the body, but trainees will not be given any teaching in the science of the vital points at this time.
Once the trainee goes through the rigors of the Kolthari, he can move up to the Ankathari or use of weapons made of metals.

3.  Otta

The ultimate training tool in the Vadakkan system. This is a curved stick used mainly to develop the coordination and to make the trainees understand the real inner meanings of many of the kalari movements. Needless to say, like any other weapon, this one too can be lethal in the hands of an expert.

4.  Katara

One cubit in length and sharp on both edges and somewhat zigzag in shape. It is held like a hacksaw and the finger guards extend upward to the forearms.

5.  Churika

Churika is a dagger cum sword which when held grip down-tip up position along the arm will reach the arm pit from the palm. The blade portion is two angula (one angula = the distance from the tip of the thumb to the first joint of the thumb from the tip) in width and broadens up to 4 angula and again narrows to a sharp tip.

6.  Valum parichayum (sword and shield)

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. Many of the graceful leaping and jumping movements unique to the northern Kalarippayattu are employed here along with very low stances. One technique said to have been used by the legend Thacholi Othenan is called Poozhikkatakan. While in the middle of a combat, one crouches down and scoops a shield full of sand/earth and throws into in to the eyes of the opponent. While the unfortunate one gropes blindly he finds his death.

7.  Urumi (flexible sword)

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 side 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. This one calls for utmost concentration even from the expert. Unlike in the southern system, a shield and urumi combination is sometimes used.

Apart from the weapons described above, in certain kalaris other weapons like mace, throwing knives etc are used in training. A full list of the traditional Indian weapons based on the Dhanurvedic tradition and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata will be provided at a later date.