Filipino Kali

During all the war and strife, the art of Arnis de Mano struggled along. In early times, it was not known as Arnis de Mano. It was called Escrima and was practiced primarily for self defense by the pre-Spanish Filipinos. These people were noted for their friendly nature and legendary hospitality. The older Filipinos, who made stick fighting an art, preferred to hit bone and preferred a stick to a blade. The stick left shattered bone instead of a clean cut. The hitting end of the stick can travel many times the speed of the empty hand. It feels nothing, whether it hits bone or flesh.


With the migration of the Malays, about 200 B.C., came the long knife. They were experts with daggers, swords, spears, and the bow and arrow of both the reflex and long bow design. Other bladed weapons were brought when the second migration of Malays occurred in the early years of the Christian era and continued until the 13th century. The third Malay migration began at the start of the 14th century and continued until the middle of the 15th century. This migration brought religious fanatics, steeped in Mohammedanism. They favored bladed weapons but were skilled with sticks, bows and arrows, and explosive projectile weapons. Early trade relations with China brought T’ang dynasty Martial Arts skills.


When the war with Japan broke out in 1941, the Filipinos enlisted in the American services. During one training session, a Filipino enlistee used his Arnis techniques against the American fighting techniques. The instructors were so impressed that they permitted the Filipinos to train their own style of fighting instead of using the American techniques.

During the war with Japan, and afterwards, Escrimadors and Kali men traveled to Hawaii and California. Once they arrived there they had to take any job they could get. They were forced to give up their proud heritage and resign themselves to domestic labor.

They could not forget their art altogether though. They would rise early to practice and stay up late at night to practice their art. Their children knew little of the art. Their practice brought curious onlookers, some of which were their own children. The offspring soon demanded to learn what was rightfully theirs by heritage. They wanted to learn the art of Arnis de Mano. The old .’masters” began teaching the art once again. That basically was the beginning of Arnis de Mano in America.

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