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16.16) Kali/Escrima/Arnis


This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel faq@idempot.net with numerous contributions by others.

16.16) Kali/Escrima/Arnis

(Contributors: Andy Maddox - modsox@clark.net
Russ Rader - rlrader@ix.netcom.com
Tim Rivera - river@umr.edu)


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
"Filipino-American" style.

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
personal combat.


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

A further distinction that some people make is that some Filipino
styles are, at their heart, blade arts, while others are designed to
work with sticks. There are some arts, such as Sayoc Kali, that focus
on the knife almost exclusively, while there are others, such as some
lineages of Balintawak Eskrima, that focus almost entirely on the
single stick. This focus in certain lineages or styles may be the
origin of the notion that Kali is more "complete" than Arnis or
Escrima. However, this is a matter of some contention.

A distinctive feature of all of these Filipino arts is their use of
geometry. In strikes/defenses and movement, lines and angles are very
important. In addition, the independent use of the hands, or hands and
feet, to do two different things at the same time, is a high-level
skill sought after a fair amount of experience.


Filipino styles normally classify attacks not by their weapon, or
their delivery style, but by the direction of their energy - for
example, a strike to the head is usually analyzed in terms of "a high
lateral strike." A punch to the gut is treated much the same as a
straight knife thrust to that region would be. Students learn how to
deal with the energy of the attack, and then apply that knowledge to
the slight variations that come with different lengths and types of

Filipino arts place great emphasis on footwork, mobility, and body
positioning. The same concepts (of angles of attack, deflections,
traps, passes, etc.) are applied to similar situations at different
ranges, making the understanding of ranges and how to bridge them very
important. The Filipinos make extensive use of geometric shapes,
superimposing them on a combat situation, and movement patterns, to
teach fighters to use their position and their movement to best
advantage. Some styles emphasize line-cutting (a la Wing Chun), while
some are very circular (like Aikido). Some like to stay at long range,
some will move inside as soon as possible. These differences are hotly
debated, as are most things, but they all work differently for
different people.

Most Filipino arts stress the importance of disarming an opponent in
combat. This is not usually done gently, or by using a complex disarm
(although these are taught), but by "destroying" the hand holding the
attacking weapon using your weapon (break the hand, and the stick will
fall.) This is often referred to as "de-fanging the snake", since a
poisonous snake that has no fangs cannot harm you.


Latosa Escrima, Serrada Escrima, Dumog, Panandiakman, Panantukan, Sikaran.

Serrada Escrima, Balintawak Eskrima, Modern Arnis, Garimot Arnis,
Inosanto/LaCoste Kali, Sayoc Kali, Doce Pares, Pekiti-Tirsia Kali, many


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