Posting Date: October 19, 2009
Students observe rare martial arts demonstration at Kennesaw State
By Scott Singleton
Photos by Scott Singleton
Four internationally renowned martial arts experts performed on campus in a demonstration of a unique art from Kerala, South India known as "kalarippayattu." In a workshop that included both lecture and performance, Gurukkal Sathyan, Rajan Nair, Raam Ravikumar and Balakrishnan Hari demonstrated their practiced art of kalarippayattu and allowed students to experience impressive martial arts along with the values and traditions of South Indian culture.
The artists have an impressive amount of experience in international performance with multiple visits to Russia, China, Japan, Italy and France. This was their first visit to the United States, and they also performed in N. Y. and Calif. Sandra Saldanha, instructor of theatre and performance studies, trained with two of the artists years ago and heard of their visit to the United States. With the help and enthusiasm of Ivan Pulinkala, director of the KSU Dance Program, and Karen Robinson, associate professor in theatre and performance studies, Saldanha arranged for the artists to visit KSU.
Kalarippayattu is an art that combines both meaning and tradition with every movement. According to Saldanha, “The deep serpentine movements of kalarippayattu are reflected in many traditional art forms of the region. The form is composed of postures taken from the movements of animals, kicks, jumps, and leaps performed in sequences.” Despite the constant movement, one of the goals of kalarippayattu remains a unique quality of stillness that allows the “whole body to become an eye.”
During the demonstration, students observed the ease and grace with which the artists handled the weapons, and several students noted the way the weapons functioned as an extension of their bodies. One of the primary reasons for this observation remains the way the artists kept their eyes deeply locked on each other during the weapons work. Never moving their gaze to the weapons being used, the artist’s attention always remained on the other as they expertly wielded their weapons. On this, Lauren Winecoff, theatre and performance studies major, noted that the “artists' control of their bodies with weapons was remarkable.”
Sean Haley and Andrew Puckett, both theatre and performance studies majors, also commented on the unique blend of combat and tradition. Sean described the demonstration as “terrifyingly beautiful” and noted that it was “a chance to witness something you will not get to witness anywhere else, unless you go to India.” Andrew, along with many other students, enjoyed the process of watching the “dichotomy of the master and student” as the master continued to refine the movements of the student during the demonstration.
Focusing on the other aspect of the demonstration, Samantha Bonilla, theatre and performance studies major, says, “Most would say their favorite part was watching the combat, but for me it was not only the discussion, which enriched your look on the Indian culture, but also the steps which lead to the art itself.”