This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
(Contributors: Andy Maddox - email@example.com
Russ Rader - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Rivera - email@example.com)
Kali, Escrima, and Arnis are all terms for the native fighting arts of
the Philippines, specifically the arts that use weapons. 'Arnis' and
'Escrima' (or 'Eskrima') are words rooted in Spanish, while 'Kali'
shows up in various pre-Spanish Pilipino dialects.
Some authorities say that Arnis is a term used in the northern parts of
Luzon Island, Escrima or Eskrima is used more commonly in the middle
parts of the Philippines, such as Cebu City, and Kali is used in the
southern island of Mindanao. Some of those who say that Kali is the
term for the southern styles claim that, since Mindanao was never
conquered by the Spanish to the extent that the rest of the Philippines
was, Kali more closely resembles the original pre-Spanish arts of the
area, and is more "complete" (covers more combative possibilities).
There are also some who claim that the word Kali is part of a modern
attempt to marginalize the Spanish (and other European) influence on
Filipino martial arts, and some go so far as to refer to Kali as a
However, most people tend to say that the words don't matter - every
village, and often every master, has a distinct style, and that's what
the important thing is - "do you study Illustrisimo, Caballero, or
Cabales style?" Not "do you study escrima or kali?"
Origin: The Phillipines
Filipino martial arts are the result of the interaction of Spanish and
possibly Italian and other European styles of sword-fighting (cut and
thrust rather than fencing, probably) with the native arts that existed
at the time. Although the European influence is probably mostly
Spanish, there is some evidence of Italian and possibly other European
mercenaries present in the Phillippines, and they probably used (and
possibly taught) their own native fighting styles.
The most popular legend concerning the Filipino arts is that Datu
(Chief) Lapu Lapu killed the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in
There are many different styles of Filipino martial arts, but general
categories can be drawn along the lines of range. Largo Mano styles
tend to prefer staying at long distance from their opponents, and using
well-timed and placed strikes to the hands of their opponents to disarm
them. Corto or Serrada styles are the opposite, tending to crowd into
their opponents, where the opponent will hopefully be uncomfortable and
unprepared, while the Serrada practitioner, by virtue of his practice,
will feel at home at this range. Other styles prefer the medio, or
middle range, which is between Largo Mano and Serrada. There are also
styles, such as Lameco Escrima, that address all three ranges. The
name Lameco even comes from these ranges; (La)rgo Mano, (Me)dio, and
The different Filipino styles typically cover some (or all) of the following
1 Single Stick (or long blade) 2 Double long weapon 3 Long & Short (sword & dagger, e.g.) 4 Single dagger 5 Double Dagger 6 Palm Stick/Double-end Dagger 7 Empty Hands (punching, kicking, grappling) 8 Spear/Staff, long weapons (two-handed) 9 Flexible weapons (whip, sarong, etc.) 10 Throwing weapons 11 Projectile weapons (bows, blowguns) 12 Healing arts