This workout not just strengthens arms and legs but also makes the pelvic region flexible.
I have been a Kalaripayattu practitioner for the past two decades. While it is famous as an indigenous form of martial art, its immense potential as an exercise technique has not been appreciated well enough.
Here, I am introducing five different exercises that are part of the Kalari movements (Chuvadukal). If done in a relatively slow pace, these can keep the body in good shape. The exercises are mainly of two types — Otta Chuvadu, which comprises keeping the left leg fixed and moving the right leg and both hands and Koota Chuvadu which involves keeping both the legs fixed and moving only the hands.
Unlike other forms of exercises that concentrate only on a single body part, these make all the major joints of the body flexible. They also strengthen the arms and legs and make the pelvic region flexible and are a preventive measure against any kind of back pain. In addition, these exercises provide ample amount of stretching required for the neck muscles and abdomen.
The basic position before starting any exercise is standing erect by crossing both arms by the chest. This is the most important position in Kalari which is essentially a self defence method.
Begin by standing in a squat position, stretch both the hands, then bend and try to touch the ground and rotate the upper body. Repeat this both clockwise and anticlockwise. This stretches the upper body muscles and increases the strength of both legs.
Vettu means to chop. Chuvadu means step. Doing the basic vettu chuvadu is an exercise for both hands and legs. Stand in a diagonal position with both legs stretched. Stretch the left hand in a medium pace as if you are blocking the opponent. Keeping the left leg unmoved, bring the right leg to the front, and block with right hand so that you will turn to the opposite direction. Repeat this with each hand as well as in all four directions.
Keeping your left leg fixed to the ground, turn to each direction, chop and block with each hand and kick with right leg. With constant practice, the pelvic region will become flexible and the tummy will reduce drastically thus helping you raise your legs high. This provides immense strength to the legs and the pelvic region.
This is a combination of the second and third exercises. As in exercise 2, stand in a diagonal position with legs stretched apart. Stretch your right hand and right leg, chop and block like before. Now you will find yourself standing in the opposite direction. Lift your left leg and try touching it with right hand. Repeat the exercise in different directions. Take a step forward and repeat. Unlike the earlier exercises, you do not do this exercise by keeping either of the legs fixed. This exercise will enhance your body balance to a great extent.
(Unnikrishnan Gurukkal runs a Kalaripayattu school in Kottayam, Kerala)