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History of Filipino Martial Arts

A scene from the Moro-Moro play. Image from The Philippine Islands (1895)

Eskrima, Arnis, and Kali refer to a class of Filipino Martial Arts that emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, blades and improvised weapons.

Although training starts with weapons, empty hand techniques, trapping, and limb destruction are core parts of these arts as the weapon is considered merely an extension of the body. Eskrima, Arnis, and Kali are the most common among the many names often used in the Philippines today to refer to these arts.

The teaching of the basic skills in Kali are traditionally simplified. With limited time to teach intricate moves, only techniques that were proven effective in battle and could easily be taught en masse were used. This allowed villagers, generally not professional soldiers, a measure of protection against other villages, as well as foreign invaders.

This philosophy of simplicity is still used today and is the underlying base of eskrima. Because of this approach, Kali and the Filipino martial arts, in general, are often mistakenly considered to be “simple”. However, this refers only to its systematization, not effectiveness. To the contrary, beyond the basic skills lies a very complex structure and a refined skill set that takes years to master.

Premier Martial Arts studios have adopted a modern simplified version of Filipino Kali along with Krav Maga and Kickboxing that accents their core curriculum focus on realist street self-defense.

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