History of the Martial Art Style of Kali

 What was the connection between Kali and the Spanish conquistadores?

Throughout Philippine history, the Kali martial arts style has helped Filipinos defend themselves against invaders. It has also proven effective on knives and machete sharpeners. The art has even been practiced by various special forces units around the world.

While Westerners refer to the stick styles of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) fighting as Kali, Filipinos refer to it as Eskrima (or Escrima). But one thing is certain: if you want to learn how to use weapons to protect yourself and break an opponent, Kali is a great way to go.

The History of Kali

The history of almost every style of martial arts is hard to break down because written records usually do not include their beginnings. Kali’s history is no different. However, it is generally believed that the indigenous Filipino styles associated with it were initiated by different tribes to defend themselves. It is also possible that these styles originally originated in or were influenced by martial arts from other places, such as India.

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However, documentation shows that Filipino Martial Arts styles were used when the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in the 1500s and generally differed based on tribe or place of origin. Like many

style of martial arts, the native practice of Kali or Eskrima was passed on to the Spaniards by disguising the practice of dances.

Having conflict in the Philippines has undoubtedly helped Kali practitioners to see what really worked in their art and discard most of what didn’t.

In recent years, training has become more systematic, making it easier to learn.

During World War II, many groups of American special operations assigned to the Philippines were introduced to Filipino Martial Arts, leading to this style reaching America despite the fact that the natives were reluctant to allow the outsiders in their secret struggles.

Most recently, Kali practitioners in the Philippines have been relatively focused on fighting without protection. Many died early in this movement, but more recently practitioners have begun to use hardwood sticks instead of knives to reduce casualties. Moreover, the practice is now illegal in Philippine society, although it is not uncommon to find matches in parks and rural areas.

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Properties of Kali

Kali focuses on the ability to move from fighting with weapons to empty handed, as there is always the possibility of losing or being unarmed. Although there are some Fencing / Kali systems in use today, most teach elements of combat weapons, striking , grappling and throwing / takedowns. More aggressive maneuvers such as biting are also taught.

Kali’s practitioners believe that hand-to-hand combat is similar to those with weapons; thus, these skills are developed simultaneously. Some of the popular combinations of weapons used are the single stick (solo cane), double stick (double cane), and sword / stick and dagger (sword). Along with this, the most frequently used weapon in training is the rattan, a stick about the length of its wielder’s arm.

Finally, Kali’s practitioners are known for their lightning -fast movement and good walking walking with weapons.

Main Objectives of Kali Martial Arts

Kali is a basic style of fighting with weapons. As such, it involves inflicting evil, often fatal damage on opponents using weapons and empty hand techniques as quickly as possible.

Also Read


Kali Sub-Style


Cabales Serrada Eskrima

Twelve Pairs of Fencing

Garimot Arnis

Inayan Eskrima

Kali Sikaran

Kalis Ilustrisimo

Lacoste-Inosanto Kali

Lameco Eskrima

Whip and Rat

Lightning Scientific Arnis (LSAI)

Modern Arnis

Pekiti Tirsia

Rapid arnis

Sayoc Kali

San Miguel Eskrima

Three Famous Kali Practitioners

Angel Cabales: The Cabales are widely considered the Father of Fencing in the United States. Along with this, he was the first to open a school in Stockton, Calif., That taught art to both Filipinos and non -Filipinos.

Leo T. Gaje: Gaje is the current custodian of the Pekiti-Tirsia Kali System. He is also an awardee of the Karate Hall of Fame (the only non-Karate Awardee) and Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Dan Inosanto: Inosanto is probably best known for learning Jeet Kune Do under Bruce Lee and for being the only person endowed with Teaching under him. However, he also graduated in Filipino Martial Arts, as well as many others. In fact, he helped to save some of the Filipino styles from extinction. Inosanto currently teaches at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts in Marina del Ray, Calif.


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