Kalaripayattu the martial art form of Kerala is regarded as the oldest and most scientific of its kind in the world. Training in combat is given at the Kalari (training school). The principles of Kalari education stipulate that training in martial art begins with an oil massage of the body which goes on until the body is agile and supple. Feats like chaattom (jumping), ottam (running), marichil (somersault) etc. are then taught, followed by the lessons in the use of weapons such as daggers, swords, spears, maces, the bow and arrow and so on.
Kalaripayattu training aims at the ultimate co-ordination of the mind and body. The traditional training in a kalari includes specialisation in indigenous medical practice too. Kalaris are also centers of religious worship. The general guidelines to be followed in Kalaripayattu demand that once the course is complete, a person should undergo oil massage and engage in the practice of the feats regularly to help him keep in shape.
This spectacular martial dance is performed by men in some of the temples of southern Kerala. The dancers, clad in the traditional clothes and colourful headgear of the medieval Nair soldiers, engage in vigorous movements and dexterous sword play, to the accompaniment of an orchestra comprising the maddalam, ilathalam, kombu and kuzhal. Velakali originated in Ambalappuzha where Mathoor Panicker, chief of the Chempakasserri army, promoted it to boost the martial spirit of the people. The dance form is a regular feature of the annual festivities at the Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna temple in Alappuzha district.