Few may have heard of this form of fighting system, even fewer are teaching this ancient art today. Varma Kalai was originated in the southeast Tamil Nadu region of India. Varma Kalai can be translated into “the art of vital points”. Some legends claim that the art was passed on to the humans when Shiva walked amongst the humans.
The art itself places heavy emphasis on learning the human anatomy and various pressure points of the body known as “marma”. Practitioner incorporates such knowledge of manipulating marma with other types of physical trainings which form the foundation of this art.
In addition to hand to hand techniques, Varma Kalai also focuses on weapon fighting and martial gymnastics. The gymnastics are meant to improve flexibility as well as breathing circulation.
One can find a lot of commonalities between the ancient Varma Kalai and modern day pressure points fighting techniques. The history and legend behind the origin of Varma Kalai makes it a very intriguing technique to look up. Here are a few sites which may be of interest to you if you wish to do more research on this ancient art:
In 2007 the World Taekwondo Federation formally banned female competitors from wearing traditional hijab (headscarves) under their protective headgear for “safety reasons”. This decision was recently officially overturned in hope to attract more competitors from Muslim countries to participate in the upcoming World Taekwondo Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. Whether this decision was made purely out of good faith to promote equality in the sport or not maybe something of debate; but nonetheless, this was a wise decision in part of the WTF. Taekwondo’s appeal and popularity are no doubt global. Regulations that even inadvertently bar large population from competing in such world events would only cast a bad light on the sport. This is definitely a win for TKD. Cheers to the WTF.
While surfing the web I stumbled upon an article about a local Vietnamese action film that has recently been gaining some international spotlights. The film is called The Rebel (“Dòng máu anh hung” in Vietnamese). What really caught my attention is the fact that the film prominently features the Vietnamese martial art of Vovinam.
The word Vovinam is a combination of “Vo” (martial arts) and “Vinam” which stands for Vietnam. Vovinam is part of the Viet Vo Dao system which is a generic term for a number of Vietnamese martial arts and philosophies. Vovinam was officially found by Nguyen Loc in the late 1930s. The art combines both hard and soft skills and a wide range of weapon techniques. Vovinam is probably most commonly known for its signature leg grabbling techniques, among them the iconic flying leg scissors maneuver (a take down technique by grabbing an opponent with one’s legs or feet along with the twisting of the body).
What I find interesting is that similar to Taekwondo, Vovinam’s emphasis on leg and kicking techniques is extremely prevalent in many of its demonstrations. A quick search on the web would fetch you tons of high flying leg scissor grappling videos. There is no shortage of them that’s for sure. They are abundant, but somewhat repetitive. One can easily draw the conclusion that the leg grappling technique is what Vovinam is all about…but wait, there is more.
After more searches I came across some old footage of what seems to be Vovinam’s counterattack skills. These are nothing like the aerial acrobatic kicks that I’ve come to associate Vovinam with. These are good old fashion joint locking and arm twisting techniques that resemble the likes of Aikido and Hapkido. See embedded video below:
This find has definitely cast a new light on Vovinam for me. Seeing these counterattacks puts into perspective of how Vovinam is truly a combination of both hard and soft techniques, as its founder had intended.
For those interested in the film, The Rebel, here is a trailer for you.
If you have no intention to watch the film but want to check out the fight scenes, most of them are available on YouTube. And of course, plenty of flying leg scissors Vovinam videos there too. For more info on Vovinam, a good place to start is wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vovinam
Some call it Jailhouse Rock, Stato, or just 52 for short. A fighting style that has a rather vague and controversial origin, 52 Blocks is gaining popularity these days and was recently featured in an article in The New York Times. Part of the buzz about this fighting style is its rather “dark” and mysterious origin. It was believed to have been developed here in the U.S. in the streets and prisons. Others believe that it is an indigenous African American fighting art from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the absence of concrete evidence of its origin, its true root remains a debate.
52 Blocks’ style, in my opinion, can be best summarized as a mix of boxing and hand blocking techniques that are very similar to that of various Chinese Wushu (Kung Fu) styles. 52 Blocks’ strength really seems to show in close quarter fighting where space is limited.
Below is a link to the recent New York Times article about 52 Blocks. You can watch a video there to see the techniques in action. Additional information about 52 Blocks can be found on Wikipedia. I hope you all enjoy discovering this unique style as much as I did.
Before getting into this story, we want to take a moment to annouce that we are starting a new section, Martial Extras, in our Training Blog. This new section will aim to showcase interesting and worthwhile martial arts news and info. We hope to bring informative and entertaining news to all you martial arts enthusiasts out there!
On with the story…An article that came from www.lookatvietnam.com showcases the young Vietnamese teenager Vu Tra My as the next martial arts sensation to come from Asia. At 17, My took gold medal at the 24th Southeast Asian Games and a silver medal at the World Wushu Championships. My started her training at the tender age of four and soon was training intensively in China. She became the Vietnamese national champion by age of 10 and now is leading the national team.
My’s dedication in martial arts also meant sacrificing a carefree childhood and missing families away from home. One can draw some parallels between My’s training history as well as her virtuosity with that of what Jet Li went through during his childhood. Perhaps we might also see My on the big screen soon?