Kalaripayattu is the comprehensive system of martial arts of Kerala, regarded as one of the oldest and most scientific in the world. Kalaripayattu training aims at the ultimate co-ordination of mind and body. The traditional training in a Kalari includes specialisation in indigenous medical practices too. Kalaris are also centres of religious worship. This martial art form is indigenous to the Southern Indian state of Kerala which, legend has it, was created by the warrior saint Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, by throwing his axe into the sea which receded till the point where it fell. Parasurama then established forty-two Kalaris and taught twenty-one masters of these Kalaris to protect the land he created.

Kalaripayattu is a traditional psycho-physiological discipline emanating from Kerala's unique mytho-historical heritage as well as a scientific system of physical culture training. The historical antecedents of this martial art form combines indigenous Dravidian systems of martial practice such as 'varma ati' or 'marma adi' with an influence of Aryan brahman culture which migrated southwards down the west coast of India into Kerala. There are two distinct traditions in Kalaripayattu-the Northern and the Southern schools. There were Kalaris strewn around the state which are recognized by the Government as the official training centres for new recruits in the armed force.