Desi Bridget Jones Diary

Love, Life, Relationships and a touch of the Divine!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The art of love and war

Given that Desi Brigit Jones isn’t having any luck practicing the ‘art of love’, aka the Kamasutra, she’s decided to switch to the ‘art of war’ aka Kalaripayattu! If nothing else at least Kalaripayattu will improve my flexibility that should someday help in the practice of the Kamasutra.  Ahem!

Kalari as it is commonly known, originating from Kerala (God’s own country) is meant to be the mother of all eastern martial arts, including Karate.  Traditionally Kalari is practiced in a pit dug in the ground (to keep the temperature down); my class is, however, on the first floor of a building that has wooden flooring and brick walls. Twice a week, at 6:30am, I walk past pavements filled with vendors sorting out the day’s newspapers. I see dogs performing their ‘morning ablutions’ as we say in India and at times leaving their gifts for one to gingerly step around. However, all the muck and squalor of the neighborhood disappears once I step into the Kalari class where for the next 90 minutes, there is nothing else to think about but mastering the body and mind.

We start with a 15 minute warm up exercise which includes stretches and some kicks and jumps. The first day I collapsed after the warm up which gives an idea of how strenuous the class is and how unfit I was.  From there one moves to the ‘leg exercises’ which include a range of leg movements across the length of the room, all done with the arms stretched above the head.  From sitting down in exhaustion after one length I now have graduated to doing the routine 4 lengths per exercise before I sit down and catch my breath.  The leg exercises are meant to improve balance and flexibility and form the basis for many of the ‘fighting’ moves that one learns later on.

We then graduate to the 8 basic ‘animal’ poses for who best to learn fighting from but the animals in the kingdom! I’ve so far learnt the ‘wild boar’, ‘elephant’, ‘cat’ and ‘lion’. These are various poses mainly held in a squatting position and symbolize a key element of the animal e.g.: the horn of the ‘wild boar’, the claws and languid pose of the ‘cat’.  We’re meant to hold each pose sequentially for 30seconds. Try doing squats for 2 minutes and you’ll figure out why the only way I can hold my current 4 poses in class, despite every muscle in my leg screaming in pain, is sheer will power. Yes, performing the martial arts, like all of life is more than the body – it’s ultimately a mind game that determines whether you fight or fall and whether more importantly, you rise after you fall.

The key element in any martial arts is focus - being totally ‘present’ and fully in the ‘now’. Kind of like the ‘art of love’, being totally in the now with the beloved, not worrying about what ‘may happen’ or ‘where this is going’.  

To be fully conscious of every breath, every movement such that whatever ensues then becomes living poetry – now that is the ultimate art of love or war.


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