From Medieval Combat to Adipose
An actress who made news recently, not for acting in any thespian sense but in the sense of moving from purpose to achievement, claimed she lost weight by practicing kalarippayattu, the martial art from Kerala. This is quite striking. Not the bit about a woman taking up fighting, of course. Kerala’s ballads of bravery sing paeans to the combat skills of a comely maiden of medieval times, Unniyarcha, who did not have access to a single emergency number she could call on her phone, or to a phone, for that matter, when harassed by a bullies who fancied themselves as romeos, and proceeded to beat the fully processed breakfast out of them with her kalari training. No, what is striking is the repurposing of a fierce form of pre-gunpowder combat for the modern battle of celebrity bulge.
Of course, the claim is entirely credible, to the extent that kalarippayattu involves hard physical training, meant to make the body both strong, supple and responsive — the ultimate goal is to make the entire body, and not just the eye, see your opponent’s every move. But the claim’s credibility takes nothing away from its shock value: what was once the means of conquest or defence of the realm, what decided victory or defeat, in fact, life or death, has now become a tool of cosmetic enhancement.