Despite decades of research, there remains an inability to resolve the migratory mystery of the philippines, dating back several thousand years. One theory postulates they came from India and Persia (Iran), whereas another says ancient Egypt. However, the next race to migrate were the Promo Malay, possibly of Mongolian ancestry, around 200BC. They specialized in bladed weapons, although skilled with sticks. Indonesians were next, and they inter-bred with the existing cultures.

Around the 5th century, the brahins came from India, and established a Hindu-Malayan empire by 1200AD. Then, in the 15th century the Madjapahit empire ( influenced by Arab missionaries ) took over, and spread the Moslem religion. Chinese immigration also escalated from the 12th century—they were trading with existing Filipino cultures for hundreds of years, and assimulated easily into the culture. From the 16th century, and for 400 years, the Filipinos fought Spanish invasion. The Spanish began settling in 1521, and brought Catholicism to the Philippines. The Filipinos were impressed with the Spanish sword and dagger system of fighting, and eventually improved upon it, using a long and short stick, calling it by the Spanish name Espada y daga, meaning “sword and dagger”, which today is one of the three basic forms of popular Arnis.

Prior to 200BC the art was called “Kalis”, a Latin word from which “kali” was derived, and which implies the use of a blade. “eskrima” is Latin, meaning “skirmish”, and specifically refers to the usage of sticks. The modern word “arnis” is derived from the Spanish word “arnes”, meaning “harness”.

There are probably over 100 styles in the Filipino martial arts, but they can be divided into three main groups: Northern, Southern, and Central. It is a complete system of self defense using empty hands, sword, stick, staff, lance, knife, projectile weapons, and more. However, there are 3 basic forms that are popular: 1. Espada y daga (using long and short stick/knife)(2) Long stick (71cm)  (3) Sinawali (2 sticks).

All of the styles have one common denominator: their principles of combat are based on a pattern of angles that all attacks must fall into, regardless of style, or weapon. The theory in Kali is to hit the hand, so that it can’t hold the weapon. If you take the fang from the snake, the snake is harmless. The main principle in Filipino martial arts is to hit rather than block, whenever possible.

Shane  Shiels