Firm Feet and Inner Wind
Introducing Posture in the South Indian Martial Art, Kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆
Kaḷarippayaṟṟ˘ developed as an intertwined martial and medical system in various styles across South India. While its final śāstric authority resides in the body and practice of a gurukkaḷ (“lineage-holder”), in contrast to haṭhayoga contexts, a kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ gurukkaḷ safeguards, consults and transmits his lineage’s manuscripts and thus this relationship between practice and text offers potential insight into traditions where that connection is either lost or never existed. Like yogis, practitioners of kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ conceive it as a form where the gross physical body is employed to activate and affect a subtler inner body with which it is fundamentally interconnected. Focussing on the CVN lineage of “northern style” or “Malabar” kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ and drawing on both its practices and manuscripts, this chapter examines how vaṭiv ̆ (“posture”) relates to the inner kaḷari body and how the foundational principle of cuvaṭ ̆, the action of the feet, initiates the circulation of vāyu, a subtle inner wind that gives virtuosity in kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆. I also consider how this lineage differentiates the control of vāyu in kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ with what is perceived to be the deeper prāṇa accessed by the more static āsanas of haṭhayoga.