The name kalaripayit is taken from two words used by the Malayalam speaking people of Kerala India. Kalari means battlefield or place, and payit means practices. So the term literally means ëbattlefield training or practiceí. Kalaripayit is divided into two styles, northern and southern.
Northern Kalaripayit is practiced in a building of fixed dimensions with thick walls and a floor that is below ground level. This building or battleground is the property of the master, who may also use it as a surgery and massage parlor. Students always practice indoors and at night, to maintain secrecy.
The northern style is characterized by very high jumping and kicking techniques, long strides, low stances, and blows & blocks delivered by arms and hands that are fully extended.
The southern style is often practiced outside during daylight hours. Some masters use outdoor pits or hollows as training grounds, others simply teach under palm trees. This style contains more circular movements and perhaps looks cruder than the northern. Strikes and blocks are usually delivered with open hands and arms bent.
Both styles of kalaripayit are composed of four branches of combat techniques. There is unarmed training; training with bamboo or rattan sticks; training with a range of weapons; and for the very advanced secret techniques of striking vital points, known in India as marma-adi.