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Varma kalai (Tamil: வர்மக்கலை varmakkalai, Malayalam: വർമക്കല varmakkala, Sinhala: මාරු කල maru kala, Telugu: మర్మయుద్దకళ marma vidya kala, Sanskrit: मर्म विद्य marma vidya) is a Indian word meaning "art of vital points". It is a component of traditional massage, medicine, and martial arts in which the body's pressure points (varma or marma) are manipulated to heal or cause harm. The healing application called vaidhiya murai is used to treat patients suffering from paralysis, nervous disorder, spondylitis and other conditions. Its combat application is known as varma adi or marma adi, meaning "pressure point striking". Usually taught as an advanced aspect of unarmed Indian fighting systems, strikes are targeted at the nerves, veins, tendons, organs and bone joints.
One of the stages of training in southern kalarippayattu is marma (pressure points).
Zarrilli refers to southern kalaripayattu as varma ati (the law of hitting), marma ati (hitting the vital spots) or varma kalai (art of varma). The preliminary empty handed techniques of varma ati are known as adithada (hit/defend).
Medical treatment in the southern styles is identified with siddha, the traditional Dravidian system of medicine distinct from north Indian ayurveda. The Siddha medical system, otherwise known as siddha vaidyam, is also attributed to Agastya.
Folklore traces varma kalai to the god Shiva who is said to have taught it to his son Murugan. While disguised as an old man, Murugan passed the knowledge of varmam to the sage Agastya who then recorded it and disseminated the skill among his students.
In northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, the human body is said to have 107 pressure points or marma. In southern India and Sri Lanka, the number of varma is 108. Their number on each part of the body is as follows.
|Vital Points||Part of Human body|
|25||From head to neck|
|45||From neck to navel|
|9||From navel to arm|
Siddha medicine explains the varmam as:
South Asian martial arts categorise the varmam as:
Extant varma kalai manuals include the following.