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The first written records of Indian combat appeared in the Lotus Sutra (600-500 B.C.), in which it was written that nata (a form of boxing) was learned through dancing. Perhaps the first famous warrior of India was Gautama Siddartha (aka Buddha), who was an expert fencer and pugilist and was possibly schooled in vajramushti, a brutal fighting art.

When vajramushti was combined with Buddhist teachings, it gave birth to yoga and later became the foundation for the fourth-century art of kalaripayattu (aka kalari payat or kalaripayit,) which stressed attacking pressure points, weapons, yoga stretching and pranayama (breath control). The art was required learning for high-ranking Buddhist monks like Ta Mo ((Bodhidharma), the man who in 527 A.D. introduced martial arts to the Shaolin Temple in China.

Although it is thought that Sage Parasurama founded kalaripayattu (art of wielding weapon in the arena, i.e., battlefield training) in the Indian state of Kerala, warrior Chieftain Thacholi Othenan, from the North Malabar area of Kerala, popularized the art in the 16th century. Varying styles of kalaripayattu are distinguished by geographical location within Kerala: the northern region features hard techniques; the southern, soft techniques; and the central, a convergence of hard and soft techniques.