Brief History of Eskrima/Kali/Arnis

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A Brief History Of Eskrima/Kali/Arnis

According to the International Kali Arnis Eskrima Federation, "Over the centuries and with the influence of the various tribes and cultures in the Philippines, the martial arts developed to be highly effective. Certain tribes had limited stick fighting skills, such as only fighting at long range or short range, these were eventually combined which made the art a highly effective combat system.

The three best known names are Kali, Eskrima, and Arnis. Kali is the oldest term and has its origin in Cebuano, a dialect of the middle island groups, " Ka " stands for camot " hand ", and " Li " for lehok " movement ". As a whole, Kali can be translated into " movement of the hand ". A practitioner of Kali would be a Kallista.

The Spanish occupiers named the martial arts of the Filipinos " Eskrima ". That derives from the Spanish word " Esgrima " describing a brief fight or fencing. At first the Philippine martial arts were well regarded by the Spaniards. They eventually thought it to be too dangerous. By 1596 this art became unpopular, and in 1764 its practice was entirely forbidden. In the Filipino alphabet there is no "C" so the correct Filipino usage of the word would be Eskrima. Whereas Esgrima by westerners was some times changed to Escrima and an acceptable variation. Due to the Spanish origin a practitioner of Eskrima would be an Eskrimador.

This means was an attempt to destroy the entire Philippine culture. Books were burnt, and the use of the native alphabet was forbidden. In a disguised format the Filipinos kept their culture alive by incorporating the Kali movement into their religious Moro-Moro dances and by weaving the alphabet into the artistic needlework of their garments. Impressed by the dances, the skillful movement of the hands, the Spaniards named this art after their hand protection, the "arnes". Over time, this word evolved to "Arnis". Following the Spanish origin a practitioner would be an Arnisador.

For combatives of the style please refer back to the Eskrima, Arnis & Kali page.

Video of Eskrima Techniques

Reference Sources

  1. International Kali Arnis Eskrima Federation, History of Filippino Martial Arts,, Added - 01/03/14

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