Escrima And Arnis Verses Kali
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Escrima and Arnis verses Kali
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 Ð²Ð‚ÑšKrisÐ²Ð‚Ñœ. The Ð²Ð‚ÑšKrisÐ²Ð‚Ñœ 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. LapuLapuÐ²Ð‚™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 into the jungles where they were sure to find dangerous creatures and Kali practitioners who were sure to kill them. Since the FMA was a clandestine art for over four hundred years; masters and teachers would only teach a select group of people who deserved Kali training. Most of these Kali masters were concerned with preserving and passing on their art form so the world would know the Filipinos had created a devastating martial art system.
In the nineteen-hundreds the Americans came to the Philippines to make friends with the Filipinos after the Spanish-American war, but the Filipinos saw the Americans as another dictator and fought the Americans for about five years. This turned out to add yet another style of martial art to the FMA arsenal when the Americans introduced boxing. As a result of the relationship between the Filipinos and the Americans many Filipinos joined the United States Military, moved to America, and brought the FMA with them. America could probably easily be considered the second home for Kali.
Kali, Escrima, and Arnis are all used to describe the native fighting arts of the Philippines that use weapons. Arnis is used in the Northern region of the Philippines such a Northern Luzon. Escrima would be used around the Manila or central region, and Kali might be used more throughout Mindanao. Kali is older than both Escrima and Arnis, and more comprehensive to learn. Kali a true “warriors art” designed to be effective and kill the enemy before you were killed. Escrima and Arnis are not nearly as comprehensive and were developed as a quick means to teach the Filipinos to fight Spanish invaders. Kali disarms an opponent in combat by the use of violent force destroying the opponentÐ²Ð‚™s weapon, hand, or will to fight. Many times the opponent is killed by a charging Kali warrior before they even know what happed to them.
It has been said by many people that Kali is without a doubt the mother art of both Escrima and Arnis. But how do we justify this statement? Since Kali was used as a term pre-Spanish rule and Mindanao was never taken over by the Spaniards then this should be evidence enough. However, as recently pointed out Arnis is used in the Northern region and Escrima is used around the central region of the Philippines. Both of these regions were at one time controlled by the Spanish. Escrima and Arnis are both Spanish words in origin and would lend to the theory of South versus North and Central is where pure Kali would be found. Nevertheless, the word Kali