About Arnis, Escrima and Kali

Arnis, Escrima or Kali are some of the names used for the Filipino Martial Arts, sometimes abbreviated as FMA.

The Filipino Martial Arts are characterized especially by the use of bladed weapons, but empty hand techniques are also an essential part of this fighting art.

History of Kali

The Filipino fighting systems have their roots in the indigenous culture of the Philippine islands. In ancient times, the area now known as the Philippines consisted of many different kingdoms and tribes, who were often in conflict with each other.

Filipino warriors

Due to cultural exchanges, both peaceful and violent, the art of Kali was influenced by the fighting arts of the neighboring regions.

Kali has been battle tested against many invaders of the Philippine Archipelago.

When the Spanish explorer Magellan arrived to the islands in 1521 he got into a conflict with a local chieftain, Lapu Lapu and was killed on the shore of Mactan island near present day Cebu.

During the period of Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Kali was banned by the authorities. The arts were practiced in secrecy throughout the colonial period.

Later, the Filipino fighting arts were used against the American troops in the Philippine-American war from 1899 to 1902.

During the Japanese occupation in World War II, the native martial art was used by the Philippine resistance in guerilla operations against the Japanese.

Even today, security in the Philippines is complicated with organized crime in many cities and Islamic and communist insurgencies in many areas.

Many branches of the Filipino armed forces and law enforcement are still being trained in the deadly art of Kali.

Training methods and principles

The training system of the Filipino Martial Arts is a rich cultural treasure and there are many different masters, each teaching their own system. Still, there are some unifying principles of the training in this deadly art.

A special emphasis is put on the handling of weapons. The students usually begin their practice with sticks made of Rattang wood and only later progress to the empty hand techniques.

Some of the tools used when training Filipino martial arts

An other important component of the skillset is the ability to move fluently between and past multiple opponents. Here the use of the Balangcas, the triangle pattern, Tatsolok is practiced. In the beginning stages, Rattang sticks might be laid out on the ground triangular or rectangular patterns. The student then needs to practice moving smoothly along these patterns. Later, the student will move along an imaginary pattern and in the final stage the footwork will happen intuitively.

The student has to be able to strike from every possible angle. That’s where the clock principle, the Orasan comes in.

Even though Kali is famous for the use of weapons the system makes heavy use of punches, slaps, locks and low kicks. All of these empty hand skills need to be mastered along with grappling techniques found in the Filipino wrestling, Dumog.

Sparring with live opponents is also required and can be done using sticks or empty hands.

On the higher levels of training the precise use of sharp weapons is practiced. It’s important to be able to handle both long and short blades with safety and precision.