Kalaripayattu is an ancient martial arts form based in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The name is derived from the words kalari, which means gymnasium or school, and payattu, which means exercise or fight. Kalaripayattu consists of a series of intricate and progressively difficult movements that establishes and taps into the synergy between mind and body. It requires an intricate knowledge of the human body, including the human marmas - 108 highly sensitive, vulnerable and vital parts of the body. Weapons used in Kalaripayattu include otta (curved stick), urumi (a flexible sword), and kettukari (long stick).
Kalari Chikitsa (treatment) is an Ayurveda-based treatment form that was traditionally used to treat Kalaripayattu students of musculo-skeletal problems that they incurred during training. Gradually people outside the Kalaries became aware of this unique system of physiotherapy and its curative value.
The C.V. Narayanan family has been crucial in popularizing Kalaripayattu and reviving the highly effective Kalari Chikitsa form of treatment. C.V. Narayanan Nair was born on December 23, 1905 to Sri Kunhunni Nambiar and Smt Savithri Amma. Narayanan Nair started to immerse himself in the practice of Kalaripayattu at a very early age, under the guidance of Sri Kottakkal Kanaran Gurukkal. By the time he was 21 years of age, he was already an expert at the various fighting styles in Kalaripayattu. In 1928, at the request of the Theosophical Society of India, Narayanan Nair started an institute for teaching Kalaripayattu in Thalassery, Kerala. He performed numerous stage shows across the country to popularize the martial art form. After sustaining an injury during one such performance, he breathed his last on 27 June 1944.
After Narayanan Nair's death, his younger brother, C.V. Balan Nair took over the institute. Balan Nair established various C.V. Narayanan (C.V.N.) centers across Kerala, and imparted Kalari training (both fighting and healing) to C.V. Narayanan's sons. One of his sons, Govindankutty Nair established the famous Kalaripayattu center in Thiruvananthapuram. Another of his sons, K.V. Rajagopal, continued the Kalari Chikitsa legacy in Bangalore.
K.V. Rajagopal started training in Kalaripayattu when he was 10, and in Kalari Chikitsa when he was 14. Kalari Chikitsa and its knowledge and secrets are passed on orally and through apprenticeship and training from one generation to the generation. At the beginning of his apprenticeship, Rajagopal would assist his uncle in plucking herbs, grinding, filtering, and boiling these herbs in oil, and preparing poultices. In time, he started accompanying his uncle when he treated patients, and eventually, started helping him with massage and diagnosis. Rajagopal is also a trained graphic artist and worked for Focus Advertising in Bangalore for several years. In the mid-1970s, he set up the Kalari Chikitsa clinic in Bangalore and became a fulltime Kalari Chikitsa practitioner.
K.V. Rajagopal's son, Babu Shivanand, also started his training in Kalaripayattu and Kalari Chikitsa at a very young age. He received his training and apprenticeship in all aspects of the martial art, and Chikitsa from his father. He also pursued a career in advertising for a few years, before becoming a fulltime Kalari Chikitsa practitioner. He has over 20 years of experience in Kalari Chikitsa, and on his father's retirement, took over the clinic. He now runs a very successful practice in CV Raman Nagar in Bangalore.