The founder of Kalari is a man named Parashurama. he was a Shiva devotee who is said to have been trained in martial arts by Shiva himself. Shiva is God of rhythm, timing, martial arts and music among other things.
It is said Parashurama founded many temples (of Shiva) and founded the martial art as a means for allowing the devotees at the temples to be able to defend themselves as well as to be able to maintain their health.
It is said he also made or commissioned statues, statues which bear postures as a means of preserving specific instructions.
Parashurama is said to be alive today, being an immortal Avatar (the sixth) of Vishnu. The Mahabharata tells that in a certain location he appears twice a month and can be consulted by those who seek him. He is said to be the one who will instruct Kalki in martial arts in the Kali yuga.
He is also known as Old Teacher.