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One of the oldest existing martial art forms which still thrive in Kerala is Kalaripayattu. Before the seeds of Chinese and Japanese martial art were sown, Kalaripayattu, the 2000 year old martial art of Kerala had already established itself. It is believed that the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was influenced by this art and he sowed the seeds of Chinese martial art after he was influenced by Kalaripayattu.

The history of Kalaripayattu can be traced to the Dhanur Vedic texts and it also has references in the Vishnu Puranas. Kalaripayattu is a Malayalam word. 'Kalari' means a school or gymnasium and 'payattu' means to fight or exercise. Kalaris were originally schools were the skills of this art were taught to the students. According to Hindu mythology it is believed that it was Parashurama who was the pioneer of this Kerala art and he created Kalaris to impart training.

Kalaripayattu is therefore an age old art of Kerala and tourists can visit the Gurukuls of Kalaripayattu in order to know more about this ancient art.