Kalarippayatt is the traditional martial art of Kerala. It is believed to be the forerunner of all eastern martial arts . It has played a significant role in the technical development of all other performing arts in Kerala. Its roots can be traced back to the 12th Century when skirmishes among the feudal principalities were common. Kalarippayatt is still taught in Kerala. The CVN Kalari Sangham in Thiruvananthapuram imparts training and the founders of this Sangham played a significant role in the revival of Kalarippayatt. There are Kalries in north Kerala, especially in Kozhikode.
Masters of Kalarippayatt are called Gurukkal. Kalarippayatt is taught inside a special arena called kalar, which is part school, part gymnasium and part temple. A kalari is constructed following traditional principles. Its rectangular design is always aligned in an east-west direction and deities are represented at each corner. Training in Kalarippayatt begins at a very young age. Boys and girls are taught. Learning requires ritual stretching and flexing exercises to achieve balance and concentration. To increase suppleness of limbs, body massage is given. Training in the use of weapons like the sword and shield are also imparted..