Chris Diomampo, Ph.D.
November 21, 2007
Escrima and Arnis verses Kali
In order to discover the true history of Kali we must go back to the history of the Philippines which stretches back to 900AD (e.g. After Death). Kali has always been a part of Filipino history, but numerous migrants contributed, and many indigenous tribes influenced the art. Even before 900AD in about 200BC (e.g. Before Christ) the first wave of migrants came from Malaysia and brought a long knife called the “Kris”. The “Kris” is a wavy type sword that was incorporated into the FMA (Filipino Martial Arts). In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippine Archipelago somewhere around the Samar Mountains. The Filipinos said Magellan burned their homes and tried to enslave the people. In true European fashion Ferdinand came ashore and did battle with a local chieftain named Raja LapuLapu and his men. LapuLapu’s men were armed with trademark fire-hardened Rattan Olisi weapons and Magellan was killed by the Filipinos. Magellan was killed on what is now Cebu south of Manila. Indonesians, Asian, and Chinese also had a dramatic effect on the Filipino culture and with them these migrants all brought various fighting arts.
In 1542 Spain officially seized part of the Philippine Islands and Spanish rule lasted until 1898. In 1898 Spain was conquered in the Spanish-American war, but the nearly four hundred years of Spanish rule left several effects on the Filipino culture. One of these effects was Spanish Fencing or sword fighting which provided new angles of attack. Another effect was the Spanish outlawed the Filipinos from carrying bladed weapons. This forced the Filipinos to carry the now famous Rattan Olisi and become effective with the use and application thereof. The Filipinos realized the Olisi was an effective weapon and implemented it into Kali. The Filipinos were also very receptive and intelligent. As new invaders came to the Philippines the Filipinos would study their methods of combat, find weaknesses, strengths, and add to the Kali system.
The Filipinos also named their techniques after tactics, places, and heroes in the culture (e.g. LapuLapu, Bohol, or Saboy). In addition there are over one-hundred different styles in the FMA system typically divided into three categories: Northern, Southern, and Central styles. The Philippines includes over seven-thousand different islands, but is divided up into three main islands: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Visayas islands for instance are well known for Kali and tightly packed into seven major islands named Negros, Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Masbate. There are also over one hundred dialects spoken, but the main one is Tagalog. All of these dialects, regions, and cultures sometimes leave people wondering why there are three different art forms called Kali, Escrima, and Arnis. Another common mistake is that FMA are made up of just swords and sticks. Kali, Arnis, and Escrima can all include a variety of weapons including Canes, Lances, Projectiles, Clubs, Single Stick, Double Stick, Single Dagger, Double Dagger, Sibat or Staff, Single long blade, Double long weapons, Empty Hands (e.g. punching, kicking, grappling), Flexible weapons, and a variety of other hand made weapons. However, Kali is the most complete system and incorporates all of these weapons, not just some of them.
It is also important to note the Spanish noticed the Filipinos did not cross over boundaries into neighboring tribes, so the Spanish attacked one tribe at a time like small cites until they secured large areas. At this point the Spanish outlawed FMA because they did not want the indigenous people practicing the deadly art forms. Many of the Filipinos would practice while doing dances and other practiced in secrecy. The Spanish never fully controlled all of the land in the Philippines and they dared not go...