In Ancient times in North-Kerala, to impart Kalaripayat, classes were generally counducted in three different types of kalari's namely 'Anga-kalari', 'Cheru kalari' and 'Kuzhi kalari'. 'Angam' means 'duel of death'/'death fight' and 'kalari' means 'Training arena'. Before the preparation of death fights on the Anga-thattu - wooden stage used for death fights, kalaripayat practices were done for several days by the Anga-chekavan or Warrior who is engaged in death fight, along with the best fighters and the Guru himself, to refine his skill and to impart him the agility of a tiger or transferring the final skills. There was no 'Foul-play' or chathivu as it is known in malayalam, in those days. A man could marry a girl in those days only if he had won at least a single Angam or death duel. The Rajas or kings and landlords - the naduvazhikals, used to select the best fighters from a kalari as his soldiers or personal body-guards. Very few were given the honour to become 'Chaaver-pada' - soldiers who sacrificed there life for the sake of king or the landlords, and fought till death when the king's life was in danger or when attacked by enemies.
Kuzhi kalaris were the next type of kalaris. 'Kuzhi' means 'pit dug in the ground' and 'kalari' means 'school'. Hence known as a 'school in the pit'. The pits were 4-5 feet in depth and the soil removed from it. The length of the pit was 42feet and the width measured 21 feet. Internal areas were prepared and levelled for the students to practice. Then the side walls are built around it which are almost 1.5 feet high and Thatched roof - made of dry coconut glades, were constructed. So altogether the side walls from the bottom of pit to the tip of wall was 6feet high. The centre portion of the Kalari or Schools, was 12 feet high.
Yet another type of smaller kalaris used were the 'Cheru-Kalari'. 'Cheru' means 'small'. There were lot of cheru kalaris in kerala and very few Anga kalaris.
In the Vadakkan style kalari's, there existed in the south-west corner of kalari known as the Poothara or the place of flower-worship, next to it comes the Nagathara - dedicated to Serpent gods, Ganapathi thara - dedicated to lord Ganapathi son of Lord Shiva, and also the Guruthara - dedicated to the generation of Gurus or teachers who promoted the martial-art, kalaripayat.
Students follow the Indian tradition of Kalari by bowing to the deities of worship normally by touching them in respect which also includes the touching of the feet of the Guru who teaches. Similarly at the end of session also the bowing is practiced.
Where as in the muslim areas of Malappuram, and trivandrum their were no deities worshipped in the Kalari or schools. The Muslim students prayed to the Omnipotent Allah and just shook hands with the Guru in Kalari before they started the practice. Also the Muslim Gurus never insisted the students on touching there feets compared to the students of the Hindu Kalaris who touched the Gurus feet and took the blessings. Similarly very few Christian Masters also who conduct the Kalaris place the picture of Samson - represented might or strength, or St.George - destroyer of satan or serpent or dragon. These masters who lighted candles or incense sticks or lamps and started the kalari classes. There were no idols or deities in the Christian kalaris.