background image


History of Kali – Arnis – Escrima

We are pleased to present Filipino martial arts are part of the CMAF curriculum. The rich history of this expansive system draws on global influences as readily as it affects martial arts styles all over the world.

Filipino Kali is the art of stick fighting using hard bamboo sticks to strike and defend. Filipino Kali teaches weapons fighting before bare hand-to-hand combat.

Kali is an ancient term used to signify the martial arts in the region of the Philippines. In the Southern Philippines, it is called Kali-Silat. Silat refers to the movements of the lower body. Filipino stick fighting was entrenched in the island’s culture long before the Spanish arrived in 1521. When the Spanish arrived, they saw a wavy-edged sword about 30 inches long made of wood called a “kalis.” During Spanish occupation, they forbade the practice of Kali. The Spaniards called the art Eskrima or Arnis. That is why all three words are used to describe this art.

Kali is also used in India where Kali is the name of an Indian God. It is also found in Indonesia where they fight more with Silat low body movements than with Kali. In Pentjak, Silat includes a study of the body’s center of gravity and how to constantly topple it. In the Southern Philippines, Silat is used in dance, as martial arts, and in games. Kali stick fighting developed over many centuries and evolved to counter the fighting styles of various aggressors.

Martial arts are taught and practiced by both men and women in the Philippines. Combat was used among neighboring tribes and warlords. The Filipinos have a long history of women fighting in battle, wars, and combat. The Filipinos pride themselves in believing that the martial arts of their nation were a self-originated art, not borrowed from the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, or Spanish.

The Philippines’ colorful history records the immigration of several cultures to the islands, all of which influenced the Filipino Martial Arts. Kali, Eskrima or Arnis de Mano stick fighting was developed over a period of many centuries in the Philippines as her people fought for their independence from foreign invaders. Each skirmish with a new culture added to the Filipino Martial Arts as Kali warriors developed techniques to combat foreign styles. Subsequently, more than 100 different Filipino Martial Arts styles developed, which can be grouped into three complete self-defense systems that utilize sticks, swords, empty hands and other weapons. The systems are called Northern, Southern, and Central. “Kali,” the mother of Eskrima and Arnis de Mano, is the preferred reference by its practitioners. Always assuming the use of the blade, whether it is the sword or knife, Kali employs many techniques, including strikes, stances and weapon handling. It draws on influences from China, Arab missionaries, Indonesia and Spain due to immigration, invasion and occupation.


Member Links