The ancient Tamils paid a great deal of attention to physical care and
development of the body. They believed that looking after the body was a
very important aspect of life and if the body was not carefully tended
to, all the education and wealth gathered in life was of little use.
Hence, in the olden days, tamil people encouraged youth to get involved
in games, sports and various kinds of physical activities.
here were many exercise centres similar to today's
gymnasia. They were known as Poravai, Murankalari etc. Kalari is a word
used to denote physical training centres and martial art training
centres in Kerala, even today. The teachers who train
students in these arts are known as 'Kalaripanickar'.
These physical training activities were mostly popular with the young
men. Men had the duty to protect the motherland and hence needed to be
well informed about martial arts. During times of peace, they kept their
pysical fitness at optimum level by involving in competitions and
tournaments of all sorts.
During the Pallava and Chola period, there was a revival of interest in
developing the martial arts. The Pallava reign saw a great improvement
in the art of wrestling. Narasimhavarman, a Pallava king was an expert
in this art and had the title 'Mamallan', meaning a great wrestler.