Phillip B. Zarrilli is a British practitioner of kalaripayat. Zarrilli has also trained in variations of yoga, the Wu style of t'ai chi ch'uan, and is one of the notable Western authorities on the subject of Indian martial arts.
Zarrilli trained with Gurukkal Govindankutty Nair in 1977. Zarrilli spent a total of seven years living in Kerala learning kalaripayat. Zarrilli was the first citizen from a Western country to receive his teacher's permission to teach the art. He began teaching in the United States in 1978 following a period of advanced training under Gurukkal Govindankutty Nair. In 1988 Gurukkal Govindankutty Nair awarded him the traditional pitham—a seat on which past masters "sit," signifying mastery.
Zarrilli heads the Tyn-y-parc CVN Kalari in Llanarth, Ceredigion, Wales, a private studio, and conducts workshops throughout the world. He has produced productions of Samuel Beckett's plays in Los Angeles (2000), Austria (2001), and Ireland (2004).
Zarrilli is also a practitioner of classical Indian dance – including kathakali. He has worked with Indian choreographers on several international projects.Together with bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Gitanjali Kolanad, Zarrilli opened Walking Naked in Chennai and in 2004 went on tour in Mumbai, London, Seoul, New York, and Toronto. He adapted and directed a seventh-century Sanskrit farce for the Sangalpam, a UK-based dance and Theater Company in 2003 and went on to perform it at the Purcell Room and the Queen Elizabeth Hall (Royal National Theater, London).
Zarrilli authored the first definitive study of kalarippayattu, "When the Body Becomes All Eyes: paradigms and practices of power in kalarippayattu" published by Oxford University Press (1998/2000). In addition, Zarrilli has also authored several books including (editor) Acting (Re)Considered (2002), When the Body Becomes All Eyes (1998), Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Comes to Play (2000), and (editor) Martial Arts in Actor Training (1993). He also co-authored Wilhelm Tell in America's 'Little Switzerland', New Glarus, Wisconsin with Deborah Neff (1987) and co-edited Indian theatre: traditions of performance with Farley P. Richmond and Darius L. Swann (1990).
From 1979–1998, Zarrilli was the director of the Asian-Experimental Theatre Program at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a member of the Theater and Drama, Folklore, and South Asian Studies faculties.