ABOUT KALI / ARNIS / ESKRIMA
From Mark V. Wiley's Filipino Martial
The recording and documentation of history is
an arduous and often difficult undertaking. While reading about
history we frequently believe the point of view of the author;
however, this is often incomplete and inaccurate. In particular,
when tracing the origin of an art of war, such as Eskrima, it is
often difficult to string together the bits and pieces of fragmented
information into chronological order. Also, since the exact origin
of the art was never documented by those who were directly responsible
for its founding, much is left to speculation and the cross-referencing
of pertinent information to historical events in the surrounding
Centuries old, the Filipino warrior arts have
long been the backbone of Filipino society. It was the practice
and preservation of these arts that have kept the Philippine archipelago
from permanent domination by a foreign power. There are several
hundred styles of these warrior arts presently being preserved
and taught throughout the Philippines. Although known by many names,
often descriptive of the styles and names of their founders and
enemies (i.e., Binas Arnis, Italiana style), the Filipino warrior
arts can be classified by three distinct territorial styles --Arnis,
Eskrima, and Kali -- that are found in the northern, central and
southern Philippines, respectively.
It has been postulated that the Filipino art of
Escrima originated in India and that it was brought to the Philippines
by people who traveled through Indonesia across a land bridge known
as the Riouw archipelago that linked the Malay peninsula to Sumatra,
and across another land bridge that connected Malaya to the Philippine
islands. Indonesian Tjakalele and Malay Silat Melayu are two forms
of combat said to have been introduced to the Philippines via these
now-sunken routes. The ninth century Tang dynasty brought goods
to the Philippines from East Asia and Malaysia. These countries'
combat methods of Kuntao and Silat had a great influence on the
development of Kali, which is the "mother art" of the
Philippines. Legends claim that ten Datus (chieftains) left Borneo
and settled in Panay where they established the Bothoan in the
twelfth century. The Bothoan was a school where the Datus taught
Kali along with academic subjects and agriculture. It was a kind
of preparatory school for tribal leaders.
During the fourteenth century, a third migration
of Malaysians to the Philippines took place. These immigrants were
the ancestors of the Moro (Muslim) Filipinos of Mindanao and Sulu.
They spread their cultural-religious beliefs as well as their Kali
systems, which utilized bladed weapons of varying lengths. Datu
Mangal is credited with bringing the art of Kali to Mactan Island;
Sri Bataugong and his son Sri Bantug Lamay were said to have brought
the art to the island of Cebu during the Majapahit Empire. Raja
Lapu Lapu, the son of Datu Mangal, through constant struggle and
war, developed a personalized Kali subsystem known as Pangamut.
In the sixteenth century, he and Raja Humabon, the son of Sri Bantug
Lamay, began to quarrel. A battle was mounting as Lapu Lapu accused
Humabon of wrongfully taking land that belonged to his father.
The battle, however, was never to take place, as the Philippines
were unexpectedly visited by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand
In the early part of the sixteenth century, the
Spanish set sail in search of a westward route across the Pacific
to the Indies. Commander Ferdinand Magellan's fleet of ships accidentally
stumbled upon an unknown archipelago. On March 16, 1521, Magellan
came upon the island of Samar. He decided that it was in his best
interest to wait to attack, and thus dock at a nearby island. This
island was uninhabited and so Magellan's fleet took a few days
of needed rest.
On March 18, the Spaniards took note of a boatload
of natives coming toward their ships. Commander Magellan, seeing
a strange opportunity, greeted them in friendship. This friendship
was to develop, and the native islanders familiarized Magellan
with the names of the surrounding islands that made up the archipelago.
With assistance of the ship's priest, Magellan baptized Raja Kolambu,
the chief of Samar, and also Raja Humabon, the chief of Cebu, converting
them to Catholicism and ultimately Spanish allegiance.
On April 27, Magellan led an expedition to nearby
Mactan Island in hopes of conquering and then presenting it as
a git to Raja Humabon. Unfortunately, as he and 49 Spanish conquistadors
disembarked from their ships, they were confronted by 1,050 islanders,
led by Raja Lapu Lapu, armed with iron-tipped fire-hardened bamboo
lances and pointed fire-dried wooden stakes. Greatly outnumbered,
Magellan was killed by the spears and arrows of Lapu Lapu's men.
In 1543, Ruy de Villalobos, sailing from New Spain
(Mexico), landed south of Mindanao and proceeded to name the entire
archipelago the PHILIPPINES after King Philip II of Spain. It was
not until 1565 that Miguel Lopez de legazpi, authorized by Philip
II, colonized the island of Cebu, and a foothold was secured in
the Philippines. When the Spaniards traveled to the island of Luzon
in 1570, they found it inhabited by Filipino, Chinese and Indonesian
cross-cultures, and upon their arrival they were confronted by
Kalistas (Kali warriors) whose fighting method far exceeded theirs.
But the Spaniards, using firearms defeated the inhabitants of Luzon.
From then on, the art of Kali was prohibited, but it was still
practieced and perfected by a dedicated few. The arts were then
preserved in native ritual dances called sinulog that had mock
battles with swords as finales. Ironically, these dances were often
performed for the Spaniards' enjoyment.
Kalistas practiced their arts diligently, and
hence developed extreme accuracy, speed, and agility. These attributes
were a must. Because the Spaniards' swords were sharp and readily
cut through the Filipinos' wooden weapons, many strikes to nerve
centres along the body and limbs were mastered, allowing the Kalista
to disarm and disable his opponent with a flurry of attacks.
During the 330 years of Spanish reign, after many
skirmishes with Spanish fencing exponents and after careful observation,
the art of Kali was altered. Many training methods were dropped
and many new concepts and techniques were added. This, coupled
with the influence of Spanish culture and language, prompted the
evolution of Eskrima (aka. Arnis de Mano). It was the Spanish rapier
and dagger systems that had the greatest influence on the development
of Eskrima. The use of numbered angles of attack as well as what
have become traditional Eskrima uniforms, were both influenced
by the Spanish. It is also interesting to note that although Tagalog
is the national language of the Philippines, many of the top Eskrima
masters still teach their arts in Spanish, today.
About Doce Pares
San Miguel Eskrima
Presas, The Man Behind Modern Arnis