Kalaripayattu is considered the oldest known martial art. According to legend, its first master was Parasurama, the sixth Avatar of Vishnu and re-claimer of the Kerala kingdom in Southern India. Historians agree that in the beginning of this era, many temples had special training rooms called Kalari, where aristocratic youth trained in martial arts, either in hand-to-hand combat or by using cold steel. The young prince Bodhipatra trained in such a Kalari before changing his name to Bodhidharma. As a Buddhist monk, he reformed the Shaolin monastery by introducing meditation and kung-fu. Throughout history, Kalaripayattu masters have studied the secrets of the human body. They use their knowledge to both heal discomfort and injures through massage and to know the vulnerable areas that, when struck, can kill an opponent instantly. The medical knowledge is extremely helpful, since even the sporting version of Kalaripayattu can be dangerous, especially when using real weapons such as stilettos or twisted sticks. But the most striking aspect is the incredible agility of the contestants. Each duel is an astonishing performance of wonderful choreography and perfect timing that seems to defy gravity. So it’s no wonder that contemporary Kalari train fencers as well as Kathakali artists of the frenetic dance theatre. Both are directly influenced by martial arts and the lives of its legendary heroes.
Tomasz Gudzowaty was born in 1971. He obtained a degree in law at the University of Warsaw. Among his interests are humanistic photography and the classic form of the black and white photo-essay. He began with nature photography and then turned to social documentary and for the last few years he has been focusing on sports photography.
Gudzowaty is particularly interested in non-commercial sports, and also those that are not present in the media, sports that are exotic, atypical or somehow outside the mainstream. His photos have been published in Max Magazine, L’Equipe, The Guardian, Newsweek, Forbes, Time and Photo and he is also the author of several albums. He is a multiple winner of the most important photography contests, among others the World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year, NPPA Best of Photojournalism. He cooperates with Focus Fotoagentur in Hamburg and Warsaw’s Yours Gallery.
Images and text © Tomasz Gudzowaty.