What we learn today as martial arts essentially had evolved from South India. There lived a man by the name of Agastya Muni, very small-built, but with great eagerness to travel endlessly. When he traveled, he used techniques to fight the wildlife. During that time, tigers roamed in numbers, unlike these days where we only see really few. Along with that, there were other dangerous animals. To counter that, Agastya Muni learned how to fight the wildlife. For instance, if a tiger came near to him, he knew how to take care of it.
Kalari retains the format even today. It is not just fighting with men. The part about fighting men came much later. Agastya Muni used it to teach people how to manage wildlife when they were traveling. That system still lives today. Some of the schools still associate their system with his system.
What happened was, people were traveling to China too, crossing the Himalayan borders. They faced wild men who were always attacking travelers. So, the travelers used the martial arts on them. Thus, it evolved: from crouching kind to standing kind is how you will see the shift from India to Chinese, to further into South-East Asia.
A different format was born. And the martial art was used to kill those wildlings since they wouldn’t just stop. They were cannibals, feeding on people as food. To insure that they turned away, you had to make sure that you show them you are going to be a difficult food. Only then, they are going to turn away for easy food. The transformation of martial arts thus shifted from avoiding to be food to killing. If you look at Kalari and Karate, that is how you see the transformation.
Later, people started to use the system to fight men in India too. But the art was not transformed much because they started picking weapons. That is why Kalari is not that effective when using it with men than Karate. In Kalari, the position is always lower down, much like a defense for wildlife. In Karate, men stand on two legs, with a great intensity to fight men.
Parashuram is known to be one of the greatest teachers of Kalari. With great martial art capabilities, he slaughtered armies single-handedly. His method used a lot of weapons: hand weapons, throwing weapons, and the other kinds. Agastya Muni was all about hands. So there lied the difference. Also, Parashuram is known in the North of Malabar, while Agastya’s school lies in the South.
There aren’t good teachers of Agastya’s form left today. Many follow the Parashuram school. Sadhguru says that people are looking to shift towards Agastya Muni’s school, just to honor him, as well as to take the spirituality of him that was so phenomenal in every possible way.