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In Kalari Payattu there is something called choondu marmam, which is used to attack the opponent with spiritual power. Is it real?

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Define 'spiritual power'. –  Lex May 20 '13 at 12:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The claim

From Kalaripayattu Bangalore's website:

Marmas are the specific points in the body where the application of pressure or insertion of needles (Bhedan karma) will effect the flow of vital energy or Prana along a complex system of subtle channels calls Naadis. A knowledge of such specific points is called Marma Shastra.

Marmam has three divisions according to their toughness effect and expertise.

  • Thodu Marmam - by touching.
  • Choondu marmam - by pointing.
  • Nokumarmam - by looking.

Psychological powers were once used where certain mantras were used to fight the enemy. This falls under the category of the Choondu Marmam. Noku Marmam involves the use of the index finger and eyes pointing to the major Marmas, through which enemy can be made motionless. Both these techniques were mastered in the past and are mostly ignored in modern times because of the toughness of practicing them. Only very few have a knowledge of there Marmas and they too are secretive about it. Moreover, there use is controversial as they are dangerous but are still considered the ultimate in martial defense.

We can tell from this description that choondu marmam is a myth. It is claimed to be a magical power that controls the opponent at a distance by merely pointing at them.

If choondu marmam is taken out of its mystical context, we could defend it by saying that some people do intimidate their opponents. That's not objectionable, and is quite easily proved. Intimidation is a merely social skill.

But that's not what Kalaripayattu is claiming. They claim that there is a magical force, developed through specific rituals, involving specific body parts, and making its effect through affecting a specific mystical quantity called Prana. Prana does not exist; the relationships of psychological intimidation do not relate to the specific body parts claimed, the specific rituals are not necessary, and there is no magical force involved. It makes as much sense to believe in prana or choondu marmam as it would to believe in medieval medicine's humours or the Egyptian sun god, Ra.

Magic in the Martial Arts

Over and over, we find martial arts charlatans claiming to have magical powers over their opponents. The name varies, but the method is common: controlling, injuring, or knocking someone down without touching them. What we find happening is that teachers trick their students into playing along through a cult environment and social pressure.

We've seen a supposed "kiai master" unable to use his powers against anyone but his students, the powers of Yellow Bamboo chi blasts debunked, and no-touch knockout "experts" shown to be powerless every time they try their techniques against skeptics. Often these people have tricked themselves as well as their students, and are surprised to discover that their supposed powers are merely a game that they've convinced their friends to play. These examples remind us of James Randi's repeated debunkings of "psychics", who were really just mediocre sleight-of-hand artists.

This video saying it shows choondu marmam from a kalaripayattu expert is a prime example of fakery. This instructor probably believes his own tricks. Every student he tries his "powers" on flies backwards! But this is only because the alternative is to hit someone, which nice people are conditioned to avoid doing. Hitting would involve another enormous breach of etiquette: embarrassing the instructor, whom they respect. These students have been given the opportunity to demonstrate a technique in front of the class, to perform in front of an audience including a camera. The stakes are therefore high. They will be ostracized and morally shunned if they suddenly swung full force and broke their instructor's face with a stick. They've learned, through repeated examples and a step-by-step grooming process, that they must respond in this way whenever the instructor moves like that. Someone who doesn't know what the instructor's supposed powers are, and who is really willing to hit the instructor, would not show any evidence of being affected by "choondu marmam". Don't be fooled. Find someone who really doesn't believe and have the instructor try to stop them from punching him.

Magic does not exist. Any interpretation of choondu marmam that purports to be magical is not true.

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I would suggest that, like most myths, it is based in fact. Magic, religion, spiritualism... These are all primitive methods of explaining experiences we otherwise don't or didn't at one time understand. To this day, people seek to apply order or reason to coincidence due to the superstitious nature of the mind. We like patterns, and when we see or hope to see patterns, and incorrectly give previous action a causal meaning, we have magic. Perhaps we can look at these abilities similar to religions: a source of hope, true or not. –  stslavik May 20 '13 at 16:35
    
@stslavik I tried to say that with "If choondu marmam is taken out of its mystical context, we could defend it by saying that some people do intimidate their opponents. That's not objectionable, and is quite easily proved. Intimidation is a merely social skill." Do you see a way to improve my phrasing? –  Dave Liepmann May 20 '13 at 17:03
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+1, this should be the accepted answer and taken to heart by all. –  Sardathrion May 21 '13 at 13:10
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@deepu There is no choondu parmam in that video--only a cult with enormous social pressure to act as if the instructor has magical powers when he waves his hands. No one who isn't a student or doesn't believe in this "magical" choondu parmam would be affected by this instructor's techniques. Be skeptical! If you want to experience it, you will be tricked. If you are willing to see through the trickery, willing to be socially rejected because you don't "believe" in his power, you can test his powers and show them to be fake. –  Dave Liepmann May 21 '13 at 17:18
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@Trevoke You are right, but to borrow a phrase, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The burden of proof is on the ones making the mystical claims. It is technical true that Dave has not proven it does not exist. It would be close to impossible to truly prove it does not exist. But all available evidence indicates that it probably does not exist and the minimal evidence for its existence is weak. It is safe to assume it does not exist with a high degree of certainty until new evidence to the contrary is brought forward. –  TimothyAWiseman Oct 3 '13 at 18:22

I've only started practicing Payattu*, and the students did try to convince me that such a technique exists.

Of course there is no way laws of physics can be bent in such a manner, this technique is a myth. I did try to find out where these stories came from.

First you have to understand that Payattu is thousands of years old (9th century CE). This martial art was suppressed when India was taken over by the British. But before then, mysticism was rampant. A lot of Payattu's principles were taken from ancient literature apparently handed down by 'gods'. These texts have also been used as a basis for other sciences like Ayurveda (medicine), yoga, mythology, dance, art and astrology.

In fact even now every Kalari has a shrine or two dedicated to gods and goddesses. Paying your respects to them before and after practice is a must.

There are close ties to astrology and this martial art. (In ancient times the caste that was allowed to practice this art also dabbled in astrology). In fact this technique in question is not really a fighting technique. It is a technique of an astrologer/mystic who manages to change the 'intention' of the person whom s/he wants to influence just by looking at him or her.

Back then this also may have also a means of getting more students by claiming to have such super human abilities.

Make no mistake that this is an excellent martial art and the more I learn about it, the more I love it. The attention to detail and the science involved in fighting is much more evolved compared to other martial art disciplines. But there is a leftover relics of a bygone era like casteism, astrology and magic.


* Kalari literally means 'dojo'. Payattu is the actual martial art.

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This answer is extremely valuable. Thank you. –  Dave Liepmann Jun 27 '13 at 14:29

Interesting... I very much like @DaveLiepmann's answer, and agree with his message if not always his way of saying it. I do want to expand a little on it.

Reality vs. Non-Reality

Without getting into hundreds of years (Possibly thousands) of philosophical debate on what is and what is not real, let's consider Objective vs. Subjective reality.

For something to be objectively real, it must be within the human experience that every person is in relative agreement that something is what it appears to be. That is, A ∴ A, or in more simple terms we agree that a daisy is a daisy because it appears to both of us to be a daisy.

For something to be subjectively real, it simply must fit in with our belief systems as real. It fits into my belief systems that the martial arts I've studied over the years are effective; however, this is due to my particular experience, and not due to any core unifying aspect of those martial arts that makes them de facto "good".

What is "Reality" therefore tend to be those things that are Objectively Real, and those things that we socially accept, although they are Subjectively Real, as well as anyplace these two realities intersect. "Non-Reality" then tends to be those things that are Subjectively Real but outside public consensus, and those things Objectively False ("One-eyed, One-horned, Giant Purple People Eaters").

The Subjectively Real

In this video, let's assume that the person dramatically flying around the room is, in fact, not consciously acting. For him, then, the effect being demonstrated is (subjectively) real, because he believes it (or perhaps the ability of his instructor) to be real.

To the person in the experience, somethings reality (subjective or not) may be genuine. It's easy to say, from the external point of view, that something is 100% fake; however, the external observer is not subjected to the same reality.

Consider seeing a scary movie for the first time with a friend who has viewed it 10 times already. While you jump at every loud sound, he sits next to you bored. What is different? The difference lies not in the Objective reality of what is displayed on the screen or played through the speakers, but in the subjective reality of your inexperience of the stimuli compared to his experience.

Reality of "Psychic" (Psychological) Combat Techniques

In training, especially in intense training where you might be dodging quite a bit from an unknown/unknowable varied series of attacks, it's possible to recreate this type of experience. As trained dodging is a conditioning of the flinch reflex, and repeated stimulus, exhausting as it may be, can make this flinch reaction fire subconsciously, the attacker, by observing which movements take you out of alignment, can follow up with subsequent motions to continue the flinch until you, the recipient, are completely off balance.

When I was a child, my brother would attack me in wild fits of mania. He would run into my room where I was quietly playing a video game or with my toys, tackle me, beat me silly, then run away. Naturally, my reaction became, for quite some time, to flinch forward into a fetal position. My teacher knew about this, and used it to effectively demonstrate how some of this flinches can be manipulated. Of course, I didn't know what he was doing, so he threw a few punches, and I dodge like we'd practiced, when he feinted – he knew that my inexperience would cause me to move too early, and he followed up with a series of strikes to keep me moving. I remember suddenly being bent over then flipped to the side, but he never touched me. It was my reactions that had caused me to flinch my way to the ground.

In mentalism (magic tricks performed with a theme of the mind), there's a principle called the Dual Reality principle – the trick the audience perceives is not always the trick that the assisting spectator (shill) perceives. To the class looking on, their subjective reality may be one of two things: belief ("if he was never touched, it must be psychic/magic/voodoo/hoodoo/yaba-daba-doo"), or skepticism ("if he was never touched, he must be faking."). To me, however, my subjective reality was that fear overwhelmed my senses when I was no longer able to keep up consciously, and my subconscious reacted by triggering my nervous system to cause me to continue to move, despite having lost my balance already. It was nothing magical or supernatural, but it was not objectively real either, as no one else had shared my experience.

A Final Note On "Magic"

“The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and wilfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.”

― Aleister Crowley, Magick: Book 4, Liber ABA

Outright denying experience is itself a denial of Truth. Whether you believe another's experience or not is a creation of a subjective set of rules within which you define your reality. To deny something without first experiencing it from the angle of performer and observer, and to accept the denial without thought of ones own is foolish.

What is Magic? To paraphrase Crowley again, Magic is the art of causing change to occur in conformance with ones will. In this, there is nothing supernatural, but rather completely natural. It is only our inability to explain rationally our observations – to connect the dots from cause to effect - that makes it appear supernatural. It's our own irrational explanations that do not account for both Subjective and Objective Reality that put us at odds with Truth. Whether we accept or deny on occurrence, without knowing the subjective reality of the person truly experiencing the event, acceptance or denial is the same.

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Excellent answer. –  Jeremy Jul 3 '13 at 2:47
    
This is a very valuable answer. I wonder if there are ways to vote up answers for some sort of "Hall of Fame"... ? –  Trevoke Oct 4 '13 at 23:30

See this question: What is Qi power and has it been proven to exist scientifically?

Again, these "pressure points of spiritual energy" are places on your body where important blood vessels and/or nerve clusters exist. E.g. punching someone below the ear and behind the jaw will hurt like a mother and possibly make him pass out. This is simply because you interrupted important signals traveling to-and-from the brain. You are basically causing static interference like when you use a power drill close to a television. It's not so much spiritual as it is bio-electrical.

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so, that's why you are wearing the helmet! :) "pressure points of spiritual energy" yes, but how do they spiritually give pressure to that points? –  deepu Jun 28 '13 at 8:21
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They don't. It's a farce. –  Juann Strauss Jun 28 '13 at 8:30

Choondu Marma works on the basic principal of mantra ,upasana,and some medical herbs,in kalari choondu Marma is also known as mantara ousathi prayogam. this practice or mora belongs to ashan kai prayogam .

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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This is currently terrible answer but could be a good one. You need to define and explain some of those terms, add references to where they come from, and focus on answering the question which is Is choondu marmam real? I do hope that you take the time to edit your answer. –  Sardathrion Jun 24 at 8:14

This is indeed real , if you had watched the Heegu Unte program in Tv9 ( kannada channel) there is no need of any other proof to say this is real . In this program the master does this technique to the TV anchor itself . Please watch this in youtube before you comment.

The video is TV9 Heegu Unte: [2] Spiritual Martial Art , start time is 20m 57s please click the below link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMygI-bWCMM&t=20m57s

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Sorry to trouble you Govind, but perhaps you could provide the exact youtube link and the time into the video worth watching? The "TV9 - Heegy Unte Part 1" and 2 videos aren't short and I didn't notice anything related to martial arts, but didnt watch every second. There are lots of similar youtube matches so I'm not sure if that's the right one to watch anyway. –  Tony D Feb 14 at 5:26
    
I have appended your other answer to this one. Multiple answers are fine provided they each stand on their own. Otherwise you can simply edit your answer to include more detail when you want to. –  slugster Feb 15 at 12:37
    
I hate to offer incremental criticism, but in addition to the link, it is very helpful if you can summarize the critical points of the link. That way if the link vanishes, the Q&A still has value. –  Mark C. Wallace Feb 18 at 12:41

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