'Kali' The beautiful and deadly Filipino Martial Arts
'Kali' The beautiful and deadly Filipino Martial Arts
In the Philippines, one need not become a brown or blackbelt to study the classical weapons... On the contrary, the weapons take precedence over the unarmed methods, hence the 'Kali' the generic name of all the Philippines martial arts. During the Spanish era, the practice of any form of 'Kali' was completely banned in the Philippine Archipelago, The name Arnis de Mano or "Harnis de Mano" in the north, while Eskrima or "Escrima" in the central islands. But the weapons could not be banned... And even the sharp blades confiscated, the natives could still crack a skull or two of their helmeted conquerors... Being situated in the tropics, the island were blessed with hardwoods, that could smash metals. Only when surprised, or disarmed, would a Filipino fighter resort to bare hand and foot fighting.
In most systems, skills with weapons and with empty hands (unarmed) are developed concurrently using training methods designed to emphasizes their common elements. The most common varriations used are singled stick (solo baston) double stick (double baston) and sword/stick and dagger (espada y daga). Rattan, a cheap wood from a type of vine in the Philippines, is the most common mterial for sticks and staves, hard and durable, yet light weight, it can be fire hardened''''' thus making it a safe training tooland this aspect also makes it very useful in depending against blades.
The teaching of the basic skills in FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) are traditionally simplified. With limited time to teach flashy and intricate techniques, only skills that were proven effective in battle and could easily be taught en masse were used. This philosophy of simplicity is still used today and is the underlying base of the FMA.
Because of this approach, the FMA are often mistakenly considered to be "simple" fighting arts. However, this refers only to its systematization, not effectiveness. To the contrary, beyond the basic skills lies a very complex structure and a refined skillset that takes years to master...
Many different systems of Eskrima exist and can trace their origins to a single tribe or region. Some of the most famous systems from and in the Philippines are Mandirigmang Kaliradman, San Miguel Eskrima, Doce Pares, Balintawak, Modern Arnis, Kalis Illustrisimo/Bakbakan and the Black Eagle Eskrima, while in the United States the Inayan System of Eskrima, Sayoc Kali, Cabales Serrada Escrima, Lameco Eskrima and Dog Brothers Martial Art are popular. (source: http://www.onthemat.com/wiki/index.php/Eskrima and http://www.arniskenpo.com/arnis.htm)
Kali, escrima or arnis de mano, stick fighting was developed over a period of many centuries in the Philippines as her people fought for their independence from foreign invaders. Each skirmish with a new culture added to the Filipino Martial Arts as Kali warriors developed techniques to combat foreign styles. Subsequently, more than 100 different Filipino Martial Arts styles developed, which can be grouped into three complete self-defense systems which utilize sticks, swords, empty hands and other weapons. The systems are called Northern, Southern, and Central.
"Kali," the mother of escrima and arnis de mano, is the preferred reference by its practitioners. Always assuming the use of the blade, whether it be the sword or knife (dagger), Kali employs many techniques, including strikes, stances and weapon handling, which have influence from China, Arab missionaries, Indonesia and Spain. This is due to immigration as well as invasion and occupation. The Philippines’ colorful history records the immigration of several cultures to the islands, all of which influenced the Filipino Martial Arts. The Madjapahit, who settled in the Southern stretches of the islands, where influenced by Arab missionaries and became know as fierce Moslems (called "Moro Filipinos") who violently opposed foreign peoples on their native land. During the American occupation of the Philippines in the early 1900s, Moros, marked by tiger-eyes and red headbands - signifying a resolve to kill until killed - strode singly down the streets blading everything in their path, embracing the belief that every slain Christian assured their places in heaven. So tenacious was the Moros’ rampage that hundreds of reports by American soldiers surfaced, stating that the slugs of .38-caliber pistols failed to stop the advancing Moros. As a result of those reports, the .45-caliber pistol was designed and issued to American servicemen. Although the Moros’ religious fervor was a crucial element in their destruction, it was the use of their bladed weapons that allowed the bloody chaos to succeed. The art they so deftly employed was Kali.
Spanish conquistadors, led by Ferdinand Magellan, invaded the islands in the early 1500s. A pirate according to Filipino history, Magellan was slain by the heroic chieftain Lapu Lapu and his men. The armor-clad Spanish, overpowered by the fierce islanders and their fire-hardened sticks, retreated. In the 1570’s, unable to match the conquistadors’ muskets, the Philippines fell under Spanish rule. The Filipinos preserved their Martial Arts by integrating it into native costumes and dances, often performing Kali movements in the form of dance for the pleasure of Spanish dictators.
In 1935, the Philippines were recognized as an independent nation until occupied by Japan during World War II. Welcoming U.S. intervention during the occupation, Filipinos eagerly enlisted in American services. Known for close-in, hand-to-hand combat with bolo knives, the Filipino troops established themselves as fierce guerrilla forces, marching in triangle formation with the point, or lead, man disabling enemy soldiers, leaving the following formation to finish the job.
Following the war, many adventurous escrimadors and Kali men left the Philippines for Hawaii and California. There they grouped together, working as farm laborers and practicing their art in secret, still adapting it to their environment by utilizing farm tools -asparagus knives, machetes, hoes and the like - as weapons.
After years of clandestine practice, the old masters have begun to teach a younger generation the beautiful and deadly Filipino Martial Arts. The "old men" of Kali and escrima believe the art is dead in the Phillipines. However, they teach the younger generation to respect the art by a salutation, shown by touching the closed fist of the right hand to the forehead and the open hand to the heart. Some of these masters of Kali who have continued the art are Angel Cabales, Regino Ellustrisimo, Leo Giron, John LaCoste, Ben Largusa, and Floro Villabrille.
The following are excerpts, by Gilbert Johnson’s "The Filipino Martial Arts," of some of the modern masters who influenced the development of Guru Dan Inosanto's Escrima and Kali.
An eskrimador, kalista or mangagali (as some modern practitioners called themselves) is a practicioner of 'Eskrima', whlie Arnisador is also used for the variant name 'Arnis'.
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