Several ancient ritualised arts are Keralite in origin. These include kalaripayattu—kalari ("place", "threshing floor", or "battlefield") and payattu ("exercise" or "practice"). Among the world's oldest martial arts, oral tradition attributes kalaripayattu's emergence to Parasurama. Other ritual arts include theyyam and poorakkali.
Football is the most popular sport in the state, some notable football stars from Kerala include I. M. Vijayan, V. P. Sathyan, and Jo Paul Ancheri. Cricket, which is the most-followed sport in the rest of India and South Asia, is less popular in Kerala. Other popular sports include Badminton, Volleyball, and Kabaddi. Kerala has a rich history of producing world class athletes, including P. T. Usha, T. C. Yohannan, Suresh Babu, Shiny Wilson, K. M. Beenamol, M. D. Valsamma and Anju Bobby George.
Volleyball, another popular sport, is often played on makeshift courts on sandy beaches along the coast. Jimmy George, born in Peravoor, Kannur, was a notable Indian volleyball player, regarded in his prime as among the world's ten best players.
It is from the 1990s that cricket started growing in popularity. The 21st century saw two Kerala Ranji Trophy players gain test selection. Sreesanth, born in Kothamangalam, has represented India since 2005, and is the most successful cricketer from Kerala. Among less successful Keralite cricketers is Tinu Yohannan, son of Olympic long jumper T. C. Yohannan. Dozens of large stadiums, including Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Thiruvananthapuram's Chandrashekaran Nair Stadium, attest to the mass appeal of such sports among Keralites.
Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (locally known as Kaloor International Stadium) is an international stadium in Kochi, Kerala, India. With a capacity to hold 75,000 spectators, the stadium was built in 1996 during the tenure of K. Karunakaran as Chief Minister of Kerala. The stadium in Kochi is considered to be the fifth largest in India and the third largest cricket stadium in India after the Eden gardens and the stadium in New Delhi. Originally constructed as a football stadium, it has played host to a number of international cricket and football matches. The extensive grounds of the stadium serve as venue for important exhibitions, cinema events and political rallies in the city. The stadium is quipped with floodlights for night play. The architecture of the stadium is unique compared to other stadia in India. The Most Innovative aspect of the stadium is its unique Lighting Towers of 2 kW Floodlights which when switched on fully can provide Lighting levels for HDTV telecast.The Structure of the tower is itself one of a kind in India.The four Lighting towers stand like the Vivaldi's Four Season Quartet,in silent symphony during the day. The major cricket teams here include the Kerala cricket team. Kerala football club Viva Kerala,Chetakal FC play its home matches here today.