Kalaripayattu for fitness: How this Alappuzha native kept breaking records

Harikrishnan S, founder-Gurukkal of Ekaveera Kalaripayattu Academy in Alappuzha, was just 10 when he was introduced to Kalaripayattu. His interest in the martial arts grew along with his age and he went on to acquire mastery over the northern, southern and central Kerala styles of Kalaripayattu. He later won gold medals in the national Kalaripayattu championship for three consecutive years from 2013. He also won gold in the sword fight at the national level championship in 2016. A trained fighter in Silambam, the traditional martial art of Tamil Nadu, Harikrishnan finds Kalaripayattu the most perfect martial art to keep the body and mind sound. He shares with Onmanorama how the art drives his activities.

How do you see Kalaripayattu as a fitness regime?

Those who practice Karalipayattu wake up very early in the morning, which is the first step towards success. Besides, waking up early is said to have a positive result on one's mental health. The exercises and workouts as part of Kalaripayattu burn out the redundant fat in the body and help improve agility and life expectancy.

Your diet to keep yourself fit

It is my daily routine that is keeping me fit. I wake up at 4 in the morning. Then I drink three glasses of hot water. After that, I begin my breathing exercises. Then follow Kalari exercises. I have my breakfast at 8 am. The food comprises mainly fruits and vegetables. I have lunch by noon. My dinner is at 7 pm and I take no food after that. I go to bed by 8.30 pm. I believe that I can control my body and mind as I strictly adhere to this routine.

How did you begin the journey with Kalaripayattu?

My grandfather was an army man. He was a Kalaripayattu expert as well. My mother used to tell me a lot of stories about him. That's what instilled in me the taste for the martial art. I was initiated to Kalaripayattu at the age of ten.

Please elaborate on your record-breaking feats

I entered the Arabian Book of World Records on September 18, 2018 and the Limca Book of Records on December 1, 2018 by swinging double urumi (a long slender sword) 230 times in 37 seconds. On December 1, 2018, I entered the India Book of Records in the same category. On March 12, 2020, I got into the Guinness Book of World Records by cutting with a sword 61 pineapples perched on the heads of people. It was America's Ashrita Farman who had held the record till then by cutting 22 pineapples. The event was conducted at St. Michael's College in Cherthala on December 15, 2019. I was also the first in the world to hold a Guinness record in Kalaripayattu.

How do you compare Kalaripayattu with other martial arts?

Like Kalaripayattu, other martial arts too help keep the body fit and mind stable. However, what makes Kalaripayattu stand out is that it has a systematic routine. If the combat art is practised under a good trainer one will be able to fulfil his or her ambition very fast.

Is age a factor? As a Gurukkal (master), what advice would you give to an aspiring Kalaripayattu artist?

There is no age limit to learning Kalaripayattu. I can say this because, at Ekaveera Kalaripayattu Academy, there are students whose ages range from 4 years to 68 years. In addition, trainees in the academy include those with physical disabilities.

Do you have online training and how effective is it?

My Kalaripayattu Academy is based in the Alappuzha district. Three branches of the centre function at Punnapra, Alappuzha Town and Cherthala.

Kalaripayattu can be instructed online. It was during the lockdown following COVID-19 that we thought of conducting online classes for our students.

It's tough to train even the in-person students. So one can imagine how tough online classes for Kalaripayattu would be. So I prepared a separate syllabus, which helped students learn and understand Kalaripayattu with ease. I think we are the first ones to start online Kalaripayattu classes in India. Now several Kalaripayattu aspirants from various parts of Kerala, outside Kerala and even abroad are getting trained through the online classes of our academy.

About your family, other areas of interests

My father is late Saseendran and my mother is Rajeshwari. I have an elder brother named Sarathchandran. Professionally, I was an Ayurveda nurse and used to work in a hospital. I resigned from the hospital job as I could not concentrate on both with equal focus. Now, I am a full-time Kalaripayattu trainer with around seven hundred disciples under my tutelage.

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