Kalaripayattu (pronunciation: [kɐɭɐripɐjɐt:ɨ̆]) or "Payattu" is an Indian martial art from the southern state of ancient Kerala. One of the oldest fighting systems in existence, it is now practiced in Kerala and contiguous parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well as northeastern Sri Lanka and among the Malayali community of Malaysia. It was originally practiced in northern and central parts of Kerala and the Tulunadu region of Karnataka.
Kalaripayattu includes strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods. Regional variants are classified according to geographical position in Kerala; these are the Northern style from Malabar region in north Kerala, the Central style from inner Kerala and the southern style from Travancore region of south Kerala. The southern Payattu system is now extinct and the Tamil style of "Adi Murai" is classified as the southern kalarippayattu by Kerala Kalarippayattu association.
The northern style was practiced primarily by the Nairs and the Ezhava (Thiyya), the two communities primarily associated with the martial arts practice in Kerala.as well as some Mappilas and Saint Thomas Christians. The southern style, called Adi Murai, was practiced largely by the Nadars and has features distinguishing it from its other regional counterparts. Northern kalaripayattu is based on elegant and flexible movements, evasions, jumps and weapons training, while the southern "Adi Murai" style primarily follows the hard impact based techniques with priority in empty hand fighting and pressure point strikes. Both systems make use of internal and external concepts.
Some of the flexibility training methods in northern Kalaripayattu are applied in Kerala dance forms and kathakali dancers who knew martial arts were believed to be markedly better than the other performers. Some traditional Indian dance schools still incorporate kalaripayattu as part of their exercise regimen