The Kalari

The Ashram is home to the World-renowned Indian School of Martial Arts (ISMA) where the ancient art of Kalaripayattu is practiced and taught.

ISMA was originally started in 1983 by Guru Balachandran Nair to impart training in Indian Martial Arts to younger generations. Over the years, ISMA has imparted training to several thousands of students all over the world and gained wide popularity through several documentaries and films. In 1993, ISMA Vazhuthacaud was established in Trivandrum city. As the Ashram was inaugurated in 2003, the headquarters of Kalariyil Dharmikam Ashram was shifted to Parasuvykal. Both the centers are active and accept students interested in learning kalarippayattu.

The Tradition of Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu is the oldest existing martial art form, and its tradition dates back more than 12,000 years. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Khaluriga,' which means warfare. It is considered the most dangerous martial art because of the application of power and speed to ‘marma' (pressure) points of the body. According to tradition, this art originated from the Dhanurveda, which encompasses all the fighting arts. It is one of the eighteen traditional branches of knowledge according to the Vishnu Purana.

Origins of the Kalaripayattu tradition

Kalaripayattu is indigenous to the Southern state of Kerala, where the sixth incarnation of Vishnu Lord Parashuram is said to have been created from the ocean. In order to protect this land, Parashuram passed his knowledge of Kalaripayattu to his 21 disciples. According to tradition, he then sent these disciples to various parts of Kerala. Keralites, therefore, consider Kalaripayattu to be God's own martial art that has the power to protect God's own country. The knowledge of this art has passed through many generations, from its beginning to the present day.

Because the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma took Kalaripayattu from India to China in the fifth century, Kalaripayattu is also the predecessor of Chinese martial arts. Once it was brought to China, practitioners of Kalaripayattu merged the art with existing fighting forms. This merging marked the birth of Kung Fu.

Later in the tenth century, the Portuguese traveler Durad Barbossa recorded in his travel log that he witnessed the Nair warriors practicing this art.

Kalaripayattu is part of the honor, inheritance, and culture of India, especially of the Keralites. Their warrior clan believed that fighting for the sake of the country was a great honor, and practiced the art as their birthright. Centuries ago, the Travancore armies fought many wars using these techniques, including three wars against the Dutch Navy. Veluthamp Dalawa and Pazhassi Raja are just two of the many warriors who used these martial arts against the British. Intimidated by these freedom fighters, the British banned martial art during their rule in India. Those who wished to preserve the art had to practice Kalaripayattu in secret.

The Two Schools

There are two distinct traditions of teaching: the Northern and the Southern schools. In the Northern tradition, Masters emphasize progressing from body exercises to combat using weapons, and finally to unarmed combat. In the Southern tradition, the patron saint of Kalaripayattu is the sage Agastya, whose strength and powers of meditation are legendary. The Southern tradition emphasizes footwork, movement, and the ability to strike at ‘marmas' in the opponent's body, 108 points of which are lethally vulnerable.

One who practices Kalaripayattu learns how to fight and defend oneself. However, he not only strengthens the body but trains the body and mind together, through the spiritual nature of the art. Once the body and mind are strong, the two are synchronized into one channel, which is a crucial part of the practitioner's spiritual progress. Kalaripayattu, therefore, has an essential role to play in eradicating the root causes of moral degeneration. Additionally, there is the service to society; as it helps students to grow physically and mentally strong, which fosters confident, well respected, and disciplined citizens of India.

At this time, the tradition of Kalaripayattu is being kept relevant and revered by a few great masters, such as our Satguru Hanuman Das, who have dedicated their lives to keeping the tradition alive for future generations.

Kalaripayattu Training Courses

It's a step-by-step training schedule demanding discipline and dedication. It advances through different levels and a general timeline is provided below based on students’ ability to understand the tenants of the practice and demonstrate mastery of the level. After each level, a test will be conducted to assess student performance.

  1. Basic Level: Includes various fitness, flexibility training, and unarmed techniques through which the student achieves mastery over his body movements.
  2. Intermediate Level: The student is trained to attain agility, flexibility, and coordination of body movements. They start practicing with blunt weapons.
  3. Advanced level: Training includes both practice with blunt weapons such as Kuruvadi, Long session staff/ Neduvadi, and sharp weapons dagger/kathi, etc. There is basic level training in marma or vital points.
  4. Instructor Level: Involves proficiency in the use of advanced weapons and marma points.
Basic Level 13-4 monthsBasic Hand movements
Basic Leg movements
Forms – 3
Locks – 2
Throws – 2
Red 3
Ozhivu (evading techniques)

Basic Level 26 monthsForms – 6
Stances – 8
Locks – 6
Nedu Vadi Veeshu 3
Red 6
Finish Basic Hand movements
Basic Leg movements

Intermediate Level 16-8 monthsForms – 10
Stances – 12
Throws – 10
Koluthu – 9
Thattu – 9
Red – 10
Nedu Vadi Veeshu 6
Kuru Vadi Adistana Chuvadu – 6
Kuru Vadi Chuvadu 4
Kuru Vadi Payattu 4

Intermediate Level 26-8 monthsForms – 12
Fighting Comb. 18
Thattu – 18
Koluthu – 18
Red – 18
Nedu Vadi Veeshu 12
Cheru Vadi Adisthana Chuvadu – 6
Cheru Vadi Chuvadu – 6
Cheru Vadi Payattu 6
Kuru Vadi Prayogam – 12
Kuru Vadi Chuvadu – 12
Kuru Vadi Payattu 12
Nedu Vadi Exercises – 12

Advanced Level 16-8 monthsForms – 15
Kuru Vadi Chuvadu – 18
Cheru Vadi Prayogam – 12
Cheru Vadi Chuvadu – 12
Cheru Vadi Payattu – 12
Cherumam Adhistana Chuvadu – 6
Cherumam Chuvadu – 8
Cherumam Payattu – 8
Double Red

Advanced Level 28-12 monthsForms – 18
Nedu Vadi Prayogam – 18
Cheruvadi Chuvadu – 18
Cheruvadi Payattu – 18
Cherumam Prayogam – 18
Cherumam Chuvadu – 18
Cherumam Payattu – 18
Kathi Adhistana Chuvadu – 6
Kathi Prayogam – 6
Kathi Chuvadu – 6
Kathi Payattu- 6

Junior Instructor3 yearsKathi Prayogam – 18
Kathi Chuvadu – 18
Kathi Payattu- 18
Randu Kathi Chuvadu – 6
Randu Kathi Payattu – 6
Vettu Kathi Adhistana Chuvadu – 6
Vettu Kathi Chuvadu – 6
Vettu Kathi Payattu – 6
Vettu Kathi Prayogam – 6
Val (Sword) Adhistana Chuvadu – 6
Sword Chuvadu – 6
Sword Payattu – 6
Sword Chuvadu Prayogam – 6
Val Chuzhatti (Sword Swinging) – 10

Senior Instructor 14 yearsRandu Kathi vs Neduvadi – 10
Vettu Kathi Chuvadu – 18
Vettu Kathi Payattu – 18
Vettu Kathi Prayogam – 18
Sword Chuvadu – 18
Sword Payattu – 18
Sword Prayogam – 18
Randu Val Chuzhatti – 10
Valum parichayum (Sword and Shield)Adhistana Chuvadu – 6
Sword and Shield Chuvadu – 6
Sword and Shield Prayogam – 6
Sword and Shield Payattu – 6
Kuntham (Spear) Adhistana Chuvadu – 6
Spear Veeshu – 6

Senior Instructor 24 yearsSword and Shield Chuvadu – 18
Sword and Shield Payattu – 18
Sword and Shield Prayogam – 18
Spear Chuvadu – 18
Spear Veeshu – 10
Spear Payattu – 18
Spear Prayogam – 18
Spear vs. Sword and Shield – 18
Marma Stick – 54
Urumi Veeshu – 6
Gaddha Prayogam – 18
Gaddha Payattu – 18

Master Level4 yearsUrumi Veeshu – 18
Urumi Payattu – 18
Urumi Prayogam – 18
Urumi Chuvadu – 18
Urumi vs. Val
Urumi vs. Spear
Randu Urumi
Pantham veeshu (with fire) – 18
Marma Stick – 108

Benefits of Kalaripayattu in combination with Kalari Chikilsa Treatment programs:

  1. Improves strength, balance, and flexibility.
  2. Improves skeletal alignment, which can aid in back pain relief.
  3. Tones and strengthens muscle, which can ease joint pain.
  4. Increases metabolism.
  5. Reduces stress, and aids in sleep.
  6. Improves energy through deep breathing and improved oxygen levels which can help stabilize mood.
  7. It helps one manage stress through the focus of the breath, gaze, and body movement synchronicity.
  8. It connects you with a supportive community.
  9. Promotes discipline which aids in all aspects of self-care.

Indian School of Martial Arts – Vazhuthacaud School

Located in the heart of Trivandrum city, Vazhuthacaud School was started in 1993 by our Guru.  The school has trained many students worldwide and was featured in many documentaries and renowned magazines. The school continues to impart training in kalarippayattu for all ages. Registration for admission is through the general office number listed in the Contact information.

Online classes for senior instructors around the world are provided weekly.


Contact us through the website or in person at the ISMA Office.


  • All students are expected to maintain the decorum as detailed in the Dharmikam Ethics Statement.
  • We do not support or encourage the use of this martial arts for any purpose other than its spiritual and physical well-being.
  • Students are strictly forbidden to use illicit drugs, smoking, etc. and, use of this could result in immediate termination.
  • We strictly forbid any political, religious, or other discussions within the school premises.
  • We strictly forbid discriminatory behavior based on age, sex, race, or ethnicity.
  • Since both males and females practice together, we require the utmost respect from all students and any derogatory statement or communication will result in immediate termination.
  • All students are expected as part of their learning to do seva or volunteer service within the Ashram premises.