A History of the Terms
Arnis, Eskrima (or Escrima), Kali, Pangamot, Panandata, Kalirongan, Didya, Kabaraon, Pagkalikali, Sinawali, Kaliradman, Pagaradman, Estokada, Estoque, Fraile, Armas de Mano or Arnis de Mano.
These words all mean one thing: Filipino Martial Arts.
Why so many names? The Philippine Archipelago has 7,107 islands, although only about 2,000 of them are inhabited, there’s still a lot of different dialects to contend with.
Among all these names, however, Filipino Martial Arts is most known by three: Arnis, Eskrima and Kali.
There are three major regions in the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Luzon occupies the whole northern portion of the country and in this region, Filipino Martial Arts is more commonly known as Arnis. The southern portion of the country is shared by the regions of Visayas and Mindanao, and both commonly call the martial art “Escrima.”
Image from http://www.era.com.ph/philippine-energy/
The Philippines was under Spain’s rule for 333 years, so many of the terms in various Philippine dialects will reflect Spanish influence. “Arnis”, for example, comes from the Spanish “Arnes”, which is a term that means armor. “Eskrima” on the other hand comes from the term “Esgrima”, which is the Spanish sport of fencing.
The word “Kali” refers to an old broad sword from the Indo-Malay region, which was commonly used in the martial art before the Spanish rule.
Lapu-Lapu: The “First” Filipino Martial Artist
The exact origin of Kali/Eskrima/Arnis is unknown, but what we are sure of is that the martial art was first exposed to the world by Lapu-Lapu, the Philippines’ first hero.
Lapu-Lapu was one of the two chieftains of Mactan at the time when the Spanish conquistadors, led by the Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, first arrived in the Philippines.
Lapu-Lapu’s monument in Cebu,
Rajah Humabon, who ruled the entire sultanate of Cebu had immediately converted to Christianity and pledged his allegiance to Spain. Lapu-Lapu refused to pay tribute and bow down to Spanish rule. With Rajah Humabon’s encouragement, Magellan decided to make an example of Lapulapu.
On April 27, 1521, Magellan took sixty of his men and twenty to thirty war boats full of Humabon’s warriors to Mactan. He demanded that Lapu-Lapu swear fealty to Rajah Humabon and pledge allegiance to the Spanish King.
Despite the imminent threat, Lapu-Lapu refused Magellan’s offer. When dawn broke over the shores of Mactan, he and his 1,500 warriors, armed with iron swords, bows and bamboo spears faced Magellan and Humabon’s combined forces.
Lapu-Lapu was known as the foremost master of “Pangamut” (the old term for Filipino Martial Arts), and he had trained his men for the eventuality of a battle. Magellan and his army were not prepared for the fierceness of Lapu-Lapu’s men, or their skill with weapons. They eventually retreat, but not before many of the men were killed, including Magellan himself.
The Battle of Mactan
How Stick-Fighting Evolved
When the Spanish eventually conquered the Philippines, they banned the practice of Kali, for fear that the Filipinos might use their skills and turn against them. As the 19th century approached, Filipinos were able to circumvent the ban and practice the art again, by disguising it as part of stage plays called “Moro-Moro” and other native dances. In order to avoid suspicion, they used wood training pieces called “bahi” or bamboo sticks of “rattan” to practice their moves. The only time the martial artists were able to even hold a sword, was during the finale of the Moro-Moro plays—which were often performed for the Spaniard’s enjoyment.
Because they would go up against the Spaniard’s sharp swords and daggers, Kali practitioners learned to develop speed, agility and accuracy. They developed ways to strike nerve centers along the body and limbs they could easily disarm and disable any opponent using a flurry of attacks.
Many training methods were altered and new concepts and techniques adapted due to the influence of the Spanish culture and language. The Spanish sword and dagger were incorporated into the martial arts and certain concepts were given Spanish terms. Kali became more widely known as Arnis or Eskrima.
Eskrima became the popular name for the martial arts when the first Arnis organization was established in Cebu City during the early American rule. The Labangon Fencing Club used the term “Eskrima” for the art, and even after the group was dissolved in 1931, the term stuck.
In 1932, The Doce Pares Association was founded by the leading martial arts masters, and became the force that drove the martial art to evolve into the competitive sport it now is today. The curriculum they developed and the sparring rules and regulations they set became widely accepted by Arnis schools and organizations throughout the country.
The Founders of Doce Pares
In 1989, the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF) established itself as the international governing body for the sport, and has helped in the study and promotion of Filipino Martial Arts. Today WEKAF has a presence in more than thirty countries, and the followers and practitioners of the sport continue to spread the word about it.
Filipino Martial Arts is young compared to other Eastern martial arts, but it is already widely used in military training of different countries, as well as in Hollywood fight choreography.
Filipino Martial Art
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