The ten cornerstones of Kalarippayattu and their relevance in the modern world. Part-2
“Humility will open more doors than arrogance ever will” . Zig Ziglar
The more I travel and meet new people, the more often this little gem of a quote from Zig Ziglar comes to mind. In this part two of my cornerstone series, we will explore the relevance of the last five cornerstones and the relevance of kalaripayattu in the modern world.
Last time we looked at the first five cornerstones of Kalarippayattu:
2: Respect for the Guru or Master
3: Regularity in ones training and practice
4: Strength and unity in body and mind
5: The patience of waiting
As you come to know the way of Kalarippayattu and the men and women who practice it, you start to realize how such a lifestyle could initiate positive change in almost any scenario. Every sort of martial art around the world has its own code that the students and the masters live by just as we do in our own schools and work places. Kalarippayattu is no different.
Our first cornerstone that we will be looking at today not only has profound relevance in the world of Kalarippayattu and other martial arts, but also During everyday life. This is Humility.
6: Humility in all settings
Mahathma Gandhi once said that humility is a virtue that allows other virtues to grow and become cultivated through it. In modern day Kalarippayattu, the master of the Kalari is given immense respect from his students. In order for a student to learn from his master he must first consider himself without knowledge so he can then fill that void with the knowledge given to him by the Guru. Humility is something is that is very important for the student of Kalarippayattu to exercise. If a student was to become arrogant in his own abilities, this could lead to his eventual downfall. The Nair exercised supreme humility, not only to the Masters but also to each other.
Even in the world today when Kalarippayattu is practiced, one must put himself in a position of humility before the master. This is the opposite way that we in the western world are taught to act. More and more I see television shows cultivating a mentality of
“I am the only one that matters” or “first and foremost my opinion is the best”. These sorts of mentalities are being taught to children all around the world in the west and it needs to stop. We are taught to wait for the other person to apologize or admit they were wrong, but humility goes hand in hand with respect. Our generation could learn many things from Kalarippayattu and the lengths they go to, to preserve their humility, not arrogance.
8: Respect for tradition
If there is one thing masters of the Kalarippayattu can be said to preserve and nurture so well it is that of tradition. Tradition has always played a major part in the relevance of Kalarippayattu. Back two hundred years ago the masters of this ancient art continued teaching this martial art to their students in secret, even though they would be killed for it if they were found out. Today those heroes are remembered and celebrated as those who kept tradition alive, and they have set some excellent standards as to how tradition is to be respected and revered.
How many of us coming from Australia, America and Europe can honestly say that we keep alive the traditions of our forefathers and those that came before us. In a lot of cases children cast aside the traditions of their parents for more trendy things that in the long run do not last. You might be asking why it is important to keep traditions alive when we can just keep moving forwards without looking back to the past. This is a valid question, though have you ever heard the saying “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”. The Nair and the first people who practiced Kalarippayattu did so for a reason and it is a breath of fresh air to see the modern-day people here in Kerala keeping that legacy alive.
9: Respect for oneself and courage
Fear has an interesting place in the Kalarippayattu. For starters it is known that all fighters and warriors have experienced fear and accept that fear is part of being human. Though just because they realize that they have fear does not mean they will let it have any say in how they fight. The Nair were said to be courageous fighters, but how did they conquer fear? Well through a series of exercises called Mudra and Mantra they were able to put fear into to the back of their minds when fighting someone. So how long did this take? Well it is said that the warriors that were able to stave off fear the best were those that practiced the Mudra and Mantra for many years.
The Nair also had great respect for oneself. Now this is not to be confused with narcissism. The Nair respected their own body and their training so much that if they were to be challenged to a fight, they would almost always accept even if the fight were held in public. You see, the Nair knew who they were and knew they represented the king everywhere they went.
Respect for oneself should be at the foremost of our minds if we are to realize and become the people that we are meant to be. So many people in our western society have such a low view of themselves that they convince themselves that they are not worthy of glory or success. The thing that drives this anxiety is fear, fear of failure and not being able to live up to standards. If we could harness and teach people in the same way the Nair were taught to conquor their fear, then I think the world be an entirely different place.
10: The search for the discovery of peace
Is it not so many times that we hear in movies “I just and to be happy and find peace”. Peace is the driving force that motivates us to work ridiculous hours into the night, the end goal and dream of not having to worry about anything else and relaxing. In the Kalarippayattu, peace can be attained through the harmony of the body and mind, and knowing ones place in the world. The Nair of old represented the king and upheld the peace in the regions through their rigorous use of the Kalarippayattu. Here in India something that I have discovered is that the drive to uncover peace in everyday life is stronger than anywhere I have ever been before. From meditating, to showing immense hospitality and gratitude in all situations. The people of India and particularly the people of South India here in Kerala truly have the heart of the Kalarippayattu and the Nair in them.
I truly believe that if we here in the western world are to find peace and discover who we are and our rightful place, then we have to emulate the people of Kerala and India through the Kalarippayattu. There is not one person in the world that cannot benefit in some sort of way from learning the intricate art of Kalarippayattu. Now more than ever we need to find a balance between our minds and our bodies, our hears and our soul and our place in this world that is rapidly changing all the time.
I must admit, I do not think I have even begun to know the true benefits Kalarippayattu has to offer to someone like myself. But I do think that if you are thinking about learning this magnificent Martial Art then you are in for the ride of your life.
In the words of another great scholar,
“Live long and prosper”