Varma Kalai is an Indian traditional art of vital points. It originated in present-day Tamil Nadu. It combines massage, alternative medicine, traditional yoga and martial arts in which the body’s pressure points (varmam) are manipulated to heal or cause harm. The healing application called Vaidhiya Murai is part of Siddha medicine (siddha vaidyam).
Its combat application is known as Adimurai (it includes a component called Varma Adi, meaning “pressure-point striking”) can be done either empty-handed or with a blunt weapon such as a stick or staff. Varma Kalai is usually taught in the advanced stage of Adimurai,Thekkan Kalari, and Silambam practice in Kerala and Tamil Nadu;strikes are targeted at the nerves, veins, tendons, soft tissues or ligaments, organs and bone joints.
Knowledge of the body’s vital points in India was not just confined to humans but also elephants. Known as nila, learning these points on an elephant’s body was and remains necessary for mahouts. Prodding particular nila with a stick elicits various responses such as bringing the animal under control or making them kneel. Warriors would learn to attack certain nila on opposing war-elephants during battle, which could either kill or frighten the animals. The national museums of Sri Lanka have documented at least 86 nila and their functions.