The syllabus of Kalaripayattu consists of five different levels. But even after completing these levels it takes years of regular practice with dedication, discipline and devotion to master the art of Kalaripayattu. Each new level deals with perfecting the previous levels and the introduction of new elements. The different levels are organised as follows:
In the basic level, the student learns unarmed techniques that allow mastery over body movements and balance. Forms, combinations and techniques include:
- Chuvadu (Salutation Forms)
- Adithada (Unarmed Combat)
- Pootu (Locks)
- Valivu (Throws)
In the intermediate level, the student learns to attain agility, flexibility and coordination of body movements through the above basic forms, combinations and techniques on a higher level. Additionally, the student learns:
- Maypayattu (Flexibility Forms)
As well as the basics of Rad & Neduvadi (long session staff/stick).
The advanced level deals with training in weapons:
- Rad Veesh (Long Session Staff)
The long session staff is rotated at a high speed in various ways to gain mastery and control over the stick as well as to protect oneself. Traditionally, individuals wanting to protect themselves and keep away animals from their lands would put fireballs on both ends of the stick and swing the staff at high speeds. It is believed that the movements of Nanchak (the chained stick) originate from this action.
- Neduvadi (Long Stick)
- Kuravadi (Short Stick)
- Cheruvadi (Medium Stick)
- Kathi (Dagger)
Practice with these weapons advances to a higher level, and the student learns traditional sword fighting. The different sword types are as follows:
- Valum (Long Sword)
This weapon was most commonly used during ancient warfare. This weapon can cause serious injury even without much practice, so it is considered to be one of the most dangerous weapons.
- Churika (Medium Sword)
The instructor level involves proficiency in the use of the following weapons:
- Valum Parichayum (Sword & Shield)
The combination of sword and shield is considered to be the traditional weapon of Kalaripayattu.
- Maru (Axe)
- Urumi (Spring Sword)
The Urumi is a weapon unique to India. No other country in the world has a weapon like this. Worn like a belt by the warrior, this weapon is only for the most extreme and dangerous situations, as it is one that can easily cause self-injury. When a true master uses this weapon, it has the ability to cut off a hundred heads in a single draw. If used without proper practice, this weapon can take the warrior’s own head.