An ancient Indian system of martial arts that appears to predate the systems of China and Japan. It includes all kinds of barehanded and weapons techniques. It is said to have been taught by the sage Agasthiya some two thousand years ago and has been kept alive by the traditional method of personal instruction from teacher to pupil. It is thought that kalari may be even older in origin, brought from the Middle East by Buddhist monks to India, China, and Japan through trade routes, where it was an essential safeguard against the dangers of such travel.
In kalari the pupil learns warm-up exercises rather like yoga postures, but active rather than static. Some of the postures and movements of kalari are also paralleled in Bharata Natyam, the ancient system of Indian dance. Kalari is also associated with the healing techniques called marma, involving specialized techniques of massage with the feet and the use of aromatic vegetable oils (see also aromatherapy ). (Marma is concerned with pressure points in the body and is also part of the deadly barehanded martial art in which a blow to various vital points can cause serious injury or death.)
The kalari system is regarded as a religious exercise and is taught with rituals associated with gods and goddesses.