Sunday, August 22, 2004

KaLari payattu

Interesting news from China. If only India had nurtured its traditional arts and crafts as the Chinese have done. And of course if only India had done away and extinguished a number of cruel and regressive customs and traditions as the Chinese have done. And both after Independence. Unfortunately there is little by way of inventory or record about the great martial art forms of India. KaLari interestingly is one of few (only?) martial art forms where unarmed combat is taught last - after all armed combat methods have been taught. Only the best students the most balanced ones, the most compassionate ones get to learn unarmed combat. Tamizh Naadu has its own KaLari and Varmakkalai. The Tamizh and Kerala styles are closely related. TN of course has the beautiful Silambam (staff-fighting) and Maan Kombu Kalai (fighting with metal tipped deer horns). This is a vanishing art. There are innumerable other forms in every corner of India and if the Congress-Jhola-Lal Langoti gang has its way there will be nothing left of these forms in another ten years.

Few movies have showcased the speed and grace of KaLari. There are a few Malayalam movies that have featured KaLari - Oru Vadakkan Veerakatha, HH Abdullah, ThachoLi Marumagan.... Shankar's Indian charmed us with its Indian thaatha - Kamal's - adroit use of varmmakkalai - attacking the weak points - atemi waaza in bu-jitsu. I don't know how much of this is authentic. Interesting it shd be.

A few Chinese friends of mine at school were keen to learn Yoga. Being the deracinated sort thanks to 50 years of faux socialistic and mediocre McCaulay schalaticism in India I was embarassed to say I knew little of Yoga save what my father taught me. The Chinese students of course know to paint, know quite a bit of their ideographic script, know a little Tai-Chi - so beautiful. They are also taught about the ancient links between China and India all in grade school. The Indonesians learn about the Mahabharata and Ramayana in grade school - and this happesn even in Sumatra. The Pancha Pandavas are taught to be a comparable parallel to the five pillars of Islam. And we in India have to make do with ignoramuses and "eminent historians" who know no Sanskrit or any other Indian language sitting in New Delhi or NYU holding forth on matters they have no idea of.

Last week we saw Greece shocase its heritage - Socrates, Homer, Iliad and all as it lauched its opening ceremony. The classicists will be full of civilization and democracy and the glories of Western Civilization. True I agree. The last three places I want to see before I die are Egypt, Greece and Rome. Being from India I have an ancient tradtion running in my veins. And China too would be great bt it will take a long time for the Chinese to undo to the great uprootings of the pre-Deng era.

But then aren't there other ancient traditions? It has been estimated that the traditional literature of India in philosophy, spiritulism, religion, science, aesthetics, medicine, the arts etc. is about many times as voluminous as all the "Classics" that are studied today. In Sanskrit I studied about 40 parts of speech (all taught in English of course in my undergrad years) and was told that this is a tiny part of the topic!

Certainly not to say that mine is bestest and greatestest. Others are nothing. How much richer our education would be if we could study different strands of classicism, the Greek, the Roman, the Chinese, the Indic and the many others that surely are there. I am going to trawl thru the collected works of Ambedkar to see what he has to say on the subject. Readers who are experts on Ambedkar are welcome to contribute.


Blogger jeet said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

August 23, 2004 at 11:38 PM  
Blogger jeet said...

Also, the subcontinent has a long and proud wrestling tradition, doesn't it? Imam Bux, Gama, Bhollu and all that, right?

If you want more information about the martial arts in India, both "The Way of the Warrior" by Howard Reid & Michael Croucher and "Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts" by Donn F. Draeger & Robert W. Smith devote entire chapters to the martial arts of India. Draeger & Smith are two of the best, if not the two best writers on martial arts, but their book has not been updated since publication in 1969. The Reid & Croucher is both more recent and more accessibly written but, by uncritically presenting its interviewees' assertions at face value, presents a very distorted view of the martial arts.

August 24, 2004 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Erik Mann said...

I was looking for blogs about martial arts and came across yours. Great blog you got. I have a website somewhat related you might find interesting.

January 29, 2006 at 1:27 PM  

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