Monday, September 9, 2013

New kinds of ouchness...

Work sometimes provides interesting opportunities to hurt myself in various creative ways. A few weeks ago, we determined that an interesting approach to engaging audiences with our series would be to look at the martial arts aspect. This lead directly to me whacking myself in the head with a piece of wood.

OK, it was a staff, and yes I have training, and yes I got sloppy. That's all beside the point.

The series is set in South India, specifically in the Kongu region of Tamilnadu. To the casual observer this means very little with regard to martial arts, but to those in the know, it means our heroes--the legendary kings Ponnar and Shankar--would most likely have been trained in the Tamil stick fighting style called Silambam. This is supported by several passages in the original legend referring to "32 fighting postures" and positions of the sword.

As it turns out, there is no Silambam school in Toronto, so we expanded our reach and found a Kalaripayattu school instead. This style is native to Kerala, which borders the region in which the story is set and therefore has a similar cultural background.

The styles, however, are quite different. Even so, with IMPACT hosting a workshop with German kalari expert Klaus Seewald, the research opportunity was too good to pass up.

And I discovered new kinds of ouchness...

Indian martial arts are very different from Chinese martial arts where my experience lies. The postures are quite low but extremely narrow, which is where the ouch factor came from for me. It was surprising to Klaus that my quads weren't sore given the low postures, but I did confess that my back and glutes were feeling it. The angle of the stances and the positioning of the spine in the low postures were unique to me in this form, and that's where I felt it.

At the same time, there was a significant yoga factor, as we spent the first hour of each session (3-4 hours per session, three days in a row) working on stretches and breathing. I'm the first to admit that I'm not as flexible as I should be, and this is what I've been looking at improving through these workshops anyway.

Am I converted to kalari? Not really, although structurally and physiologically I can see (and feel) the benefits. There hasn't been much discussion about the martial applications of the forms yet, as it's been pretty esoteric and linked to considerations like body alignment and breathing. But all fighting styles have fighting applications to go with them, so I'm sure if that's where your interest lies you could find value in it on that level.

There's another three-day session next weekend. I'm looking forward to breaking a lot more sweat.


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