Why You Should Never Turn Your Back on a Predator

From the March-April 2008 issue of Desi Life:

Gitanjali Kolanad: A Force of Nature

Force of Nature: Graceful yet powerful, Kalaripayat is inspired by a wilder world

Some scholars estimate that Kalari (also written as Kalari Payatte or Kalarippayattu) dates to 12th-century India. According to one legend, Kalari is the world’s first martial art.

Gita Kolanad is 54, but she looks, and moves as though she were at least a decade younger. Born in Kerala, she moved to Winnipeg at age 6. She used to do yoga, but says she found it boring and took up Kalari in her 30s to keep in shape for dance.

“Kalari is a real holistic system. It’s not just the martial art, but the healing aspect and the focus aspect,” Kolanad says. “When you get into the weapons, it’s a constant lesson in focus. When you lose your focus, you immediately get hit. I know that yoga has this aspect of meditation, but you don’t get any feedback on whether you’re doing your meditation right. Here you’re constantly getting feedback,” Kolanad says. “That’s why I love Kalari and I think it’s poised to be bigger than it is right now.”

At the highest stages of Kalari practice, it is said “the body becomes all eyes.” Masters become totally aware of everything around them. Kolanad doubts she will get to that point, but says that’s not a concern: “I enjoy every aspect of it.”

Kalarippayattu teacher tackled by lion

From Chris Crudelli’s Kick Ass Miracles


  1. thx for sharing me this article in my comments section in my blog, I love it:) It gives me such an inspiration, that even big cats when they’re attacking, they do move very soft & swiftly so gentle, just like our cats at home…

    my brother -who is very keen & addicted to any martial arts- and I discussed why this lion tackled her down, coz at the time when she was demonstarting this unique martial art, she had “the intention” to attck within herself in her spirit & mind, and this lion is very sensitive and can sense that, so the lion make his first move to ‘counter attack’ her by tackling her down like that….well, just a thought:)

  2. You are a stupid woman. You try to imitate the moves of a lion but when you do this you interperate the moves into what you want them to symbolize. You try to make them what you want them to be. You want to capture functionality and spirit into systematic movements but the lion lives in the moment and has no pattern to what it does, it does it to suit itself. Biologicaly and chemically you are different from the lion so you cannot understand its motivation for what it does any better than you can truly relate to a sociopath or mass murderer. The lion lives in a state of redieness that you and I cannot duplicate without adding chemicals to our bodies. Unless the lion is sleeping they stand firmly ready to kill and eat ANYTHING they can overpower. It is a level of survival that we cannot duplicate. I don’t know how to explain what the lion feels while being at the end of a leash but if you want to come close try injecting yourself with hundreds of times more testosterone than you make on your own, then add some adrenaline, and have someone who really pisses you off jump around in the room while someone holds you back with dental floss. You will act like the lion that attacked you. I have to say that the lion has no ill will toward you but you are acting wrong. You think you are “safe” with a lion because you are in a studio. Take that same lion to the African wilderness and remove the super safe leash and act a fool. You wouldn’t. because you know your in Africa and lions kill and eat mamals. It’s the same lion dummy. You put a lion in a studio, you didn’t change the lion inside. The lion evolved over thousands of years and many generations. I don’t care where you got that lion from there are thousands of lions inside of him pushing him without thought to chase and attack animals, especially animals with erratic movement (they look weak or injured). I’m glad you know some “forms” but you jump around just like a wounded animal. You made a mistake. I think you should thank whatever god you worship that you are still here and realize that the lion could have killed you by moving the paw that knocked the air out of you up to your throat.

  3. I agree with bob and wayne the lion is a killing machineno ammount of martial arts training will be able to stop it.

  4. This comment was obnoxious

    “It is a damn shame the lion didnt eat your stupid ass”

    but I’m afraid this was very much true:

    “I’m glad you know some “forms” but you jump around just like a wounded animal.”

    That’s the problem. Pouncing, at that point, is ingrained, instinctive behavior for any cat. You were relating to it and its behavior as if it were a very big, furry, four footed human being. It isn’t.

    Think of a game we sometimes play with our de-clawed cats: scatching a finger on the couch until they pounce, or walking one’s fingers toward them, until they pounce, or moving a plastic mouse here and there until they … yeah, pounce. Notice the pattern, and think of the movements one uses to get that response. It’s cute and it’s fun, but here’s the difference – the cat only weighs 5-10 lbs and is dwarfed by you, the human. With a lion, the balance of power is a little different, and what would be a cute response out of a house cat, becomes a life threatening one out of this much larger, but related species. Even if it doesn’t mean to hurt you, it easily can.

    And there’s the thing – house cats have been breed in captivity for thousands of years, with lasting effects on their heredity and instincts. That lion is at most a few generations out of the wild, and probably not even that. It is a lot likelier to revert, so please use better sense before you become a snack. That animal could have killed you in about as much time as it takes you to blink. The next animal just might, and if you really want to be as the animals, for whatever reason, please think of the most basic trait of any wild animal.

    The instinct for self-preservation.

  5. And of course here we are, writing to Ms. Kolanad as if she had posted this, which, of course she didn’t. This is a partial repost of an article written about her.

    Maybe somebody ought to track down her homepage and try to reason with her. I’m not optimistic about the likelihood of her responding in anything other than a defensive manner. Consider her age and the nature of the mistake she is making; she is probably too set in her ways to really listen. But, at least somebody would have tried.

  6. Joesph, I see no need to add insult to injury as previous commenters have done. With a few fractured ribs, it seems Gita learned this (basic) lesson the hard way. And yes, she will probably be reading these comments.

    Wayne, the lion was clearly playing around, calmly if a bit roughly, and didn’t attack anyone.

  7. I feel that most people who are commenting on this are missing the point. This was to be a typical photo shoot for a magazine. Gita was not (intentionally) challenging the Lion to “mortal kombat” , she was caught of guard by a natural predator. To her credit, I think it is good to note that she only suffered a few broken ribs after being tackled by the beast. Imagine if she had not been practicing any martial arts.

  8. I also think many of you owe her an apology for your rude comments. I don’t feel she is in any way “stupid”. I believe this was a simple accident. Although there were some warning signs (the first few scraps with photographers, etc), who is to say what they would have done in her position.

  9. It is ironic what this woman did. She practised the LION FORM and got attacked by a lion.
    Not the best way to promote a martial art!

  10. That lion was only playing, if it had done a real pounce she wouldnt’t have got back up so soon- if at all.

  11. I agree with the poster “THINK” . Reading some of the comments such as from Wayne, I am suddenly made aware that ignorance is such a dangerous thing.

    I’ve bothered to watch the video and read up on what happened and can only conclude that nobody was really at fault.

    Firstly, she was not challenging the lion and made no attempt to challenge the lion. Anybody who suggested this obviously did not bother to watch the video properly or otherwise do not really understand English.

    Secondly, it was a photoshoot and as far as photoshoots are concerned, it was arranged by the magazine, not by her. She, being the person interviewed, must have been assured that this was something safe to do.

    Thirdly, in most likelihood this is not the first time that the lion had been in that kind of situations. I think that this lion is one of those animal actors which are commonly used in advertisements, movies, shows and yes, photoshoots.

    Fourthly, if this was something dangerous, neither the magazine people nor the lion owner would have suggested or agreed to the photoshoot.

    Therefore what happened here was something totally unexpected.

    Fifthly, why is everybody blaming Ms Kolanad ? If anybody is to be blamed, shouldn’t it be the lion handler who should have ensured that nothing like that happened ? Was he being unattentive ?

    In any case, I think that the lion wasn’t really in a predatory mood. If it had, Ms Kolanad would have seriously injured, if not killed. Notice how the lion let her go rather easily after being kicked in the face and pulled away. And how it rather easily deferred the second time just by the man pushing it away.

    It’s quite obvious that the lion was a bit playful as well as curious, and it was not using the full force of his weight in at both times.

    I also notice that Ms Kolanad is actually the second woman to be tackled by the lion in this video. The woman in red was attacked first, and if you noticed later when the lion ran for Ms Kolanad when she was down, it attempted to bring down the woman in red by swiping her feet.

    Could it be that this lion was perhaps feeling amorous ? Were the women’s natural odors, something only the lion could smell, attracted it to them ?

  12. I’m just saying, there’s a reason brazilian jiu-jitsu calls it the “Mata Leo”…

  13. It was not Gita Kolanad’s fault at all. She never professed to be an expert on big cat behaviour. The handlers told her to ‘do her routine, and then they lost control of the Lion.

    Watching the movements of that form, I can understand a big cat thinking WTF? That looks like Gita was a) showing off or b) acting like dinner. Watching the video closely the trainers don’t seem to be keeping the Lion under control, nor on a short enough leash.

    Those writing rude comments about Gita should ask themselves why they blame the victim, rather than the Lion handlers who told Gita ‘do your routine’ and then they lost control of the Lion.

  14. i think Gita is a twat
    i mean as if it wasnt obvious not to turn your back, dance like a pratt, and go down low in front of a predator anyway, lets release a book on it shall we plankhead? lets all laugh at you, what a jerk
    and then u cry about it whilst commenting the video of it on youtube
    grow up

  15. So much hind-sighted wisdom…

    There is nothing ironic in the lion attacking a person doing a lion form. That’s what lions do to *other lions* anyway.

    Kolanad teaches a martial art that inspires it’s movements from big cats. That’s all there is to it. She doesn’t claim to have lion super powers or preternatural wisdom, and whoever feels she should have, didn’t outgrew watching too many 80’s ninja films.

    Whenever you handle big cats you are at risk. No matter how good a handler you are. Kolanad and everybody involved accepted taking the risk, and some of the risk manifested. For the angry couch warriors who think running this kind risk is not wise, well, go find some subject of interest other than martial arts and big cats, to begin with.

  16. what a joke ”your body becomes all eyes ”she’s supposed to be a teacher of this ,and said I didn’t hear see him coming [lion] and couldn’t react to get out of the way the only thing she was master of was being caught up in herself

  17. I challenge anyone to hear a big cat approaching. Their paws are soft padded, with very soft hair between them — take a look at your house cat. The design is perfect for silently approaching. I doubt any human could hear the approaching of a big cat that was purposefully prowling silently towards them. Again, stop blaming the victim and focus on the “handlers” who seemed to be doing a lousy job.

  18. Alan Pine, you’re clearly dyslexic. Try asking a friend to read the article for you. She clearly says she doesn’t expect to attain master status, in which your body becomes all eyes.

  19. Point well taken about turning your back on a predator. On John Zimmer’s blog My Self Defense Blog, there is a post about what can happen at parties. The guy got clocked because he wasn’t paying attention. Always stay alert. By the way, you can stare a cat down, but not a dog. But a lion, I share the sentiments of other commenters on this post. The lion is not called the king of the jungle for nothing.

  20. I stared down an angry homeless man a month ago, and then showed my back. It was an absurd risk.
    This guy was disrespectful by pulling up a chair and trying to hit me up for change as I sat with my wife at a three person table, with only a few minutes before she was departing. I was stuck in the hospital as a patient next door. I gave him a donut and took my wife to the streetcar stop.
    Then I returned, and woke him up at the booth he attempted to sleep at. He was a bully type, and I’d seen him in action before. I made it very clear he’d disrespected me and my family by pulling up a chair, and I told him he better not do it again. I actually grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him up. He was 6’3″, a few inches taller than I.
    From a brief experience hanging out with street folk fifteen years ago, I learned that if people disrespect you, and you take no action, they will disrespect you even more in the future, so I felt obligated to set this guy straight. I knew I would be encountering him again has he was hanging out at the donut shop beside the hospital were I was a patient.
    The resulting near fight in the donut shop was my fault as I went back to ‘set him straight’. He lifted his fists and I brought up my fists and told him to lower his. Then I walked out giving him a very public finger just before I turned my back on him. That was risky, even though it was only for a few seconds; I checked my back when I reached the door.
    Even if you buy the psychological theory on not letting someone disrespect you, turning my back after giving him the finger was a foolish risk. All in all, I think I should have just let the thing blow over and not have returned to the donut shop to confront him.
    He had little to lose, and I had a lot to lose.

  21. It was two dogs at once, actually. One ran to my front and the other circled around to the back. I was alone and had no weapon. We held a contest of pure aggression, and they lost. Quite the surreal experience.

  22. I just watched the video on YouTube. Everyone in that room was incredibly irresponsible. Was it really a good decision to be in the same cage as a tiger to do a cool photoshoot? Did they really think they could hold the tiger back with a leash? It’s a wild animal and it pounced on her. The trainers should have removed the animal immediately after it made contact. Instead they kept it in the same room and it kept moving towards her. I don’t understand why people torment these poor animals and think that they’re not going to act like tigers. Tigers like to hunt for food. Tigers weigh 500 lbs. and they cannot be controlled. Even if they’ve been “good” and un-tiger-like for years, at any moment when they’re around humans, especially 6 humans in one room, one must expect that at some point they’re going to exercise their nature and do some hunting and live like they’re meant to live. When will people begin to understand that you can’t change the nature of any creature. Tigeres are not pets. They’re not a prop for a photoshoot. They’re wild creatures. It’s not a game and you can’t control them no matter what you do. Ms. Kolanad, there is no question that you lucked out. If they didn’t take that tiger out when they did (it was still way later than they should have) you would probably be quite a mess of scars, etc. and may not even be around. If it wasn’t you though, it would have been someone else in that room. You’re a beautiful, successful woman. It just doesn’t seem worth a photo to risk being disfigured or killed. Plus, it put the health and life of others at risk as well. The tiger’s well-being was also compromised.

  23. quite the irony that she was attacked by a lion while practicing the “lion” form,next time sweetheart,try the rabbit form lol…

  24. As well I have walked a mountain lion male while doing similar extreme body awareness sport

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