Philippine ‘kali’ (arnis): World’s deadliest martial art to conquer Hollywood

Image by Pulahan-Derobio Eskrima

Kali was originally used to deter foreign aggressors. The skill of learning this martial art was kept hidden for centuries among clans; and to share it with strangers is strictly forbidden.

‘Kali’ as described in Wikipedia as ‘skrima’ or ‘arnis’, is the national sport and martial art of the Philippines with an indigenous style of close-range combat using sticks, knives, bladed weapons and other various improvised weapons. It is also known as Estoque (Spanish for rapier), Estocada (Spanish for thrust or stab) and Garrote (Spanish for club). In Luzon they may go by the name of ‘Arnis de Mano’.

Globally, the word ‘kali’ has been identified as a Filipino martial arts.

There are no documentations and written records as to where kali originated, but early Filipino tribes had been using it to defend themselves.

Accordingly, because of the booming trade industry between the Philippines and many other Asian countries, ‘kali’ was believed to have been possibly influenced by martial arts of neighboring countries like India.

It was also presumed that kali has already existed when Spaniards conquered the Philippines in 1500s. Under their ruthless occupation and hundreds of years of cultural genocide, the Spaniards didn’t know that a Filipino has a secret weapon.

In the battle of Mactan, where Lapu-lapu, local chieftain, slashed down the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, kali might have been put to use.

Some American troops, who were taught the skills of the Filipino martial arts, would have brought back kali in the United States during World War II.

The sole purpose of kali is to protect the family and all its possession.

For kali, the family is always the foremost concern as it is the most important aspect of the Filipino culture. This was where kali was believed to be forged.

Unfortunately, by the mid of 20th century, old kali practitioners were dying in the Philippines and there were a few sons and grandsons to hand down the secret family knowledge to, thereby making it close to extinction.

When the wars were over and there were no foreign invaders anymore, those who have obliterated the ranks of the kali practitioners have ironically became the catalyst of the Filipino martial arts for its ultimate conquest — the Filipino diaspora.

Many of the sons and grandsons of the old kali masters were leaving the Philippines in 1960s and early 1970s. Soon after, Filipino communities began to sprout up from New York to California, from London to Budapest, united by the same ideals and cultures which held the Filipinos during years of foreign invasion, and now will bind them in foreign lands through family and traditions.

Filipino martial artists from different provinces throughout the Philippines began to congregate and communicate – exchanging ideas and their fighting styles to each other.

Kali has then became an instrument they could use to survive in foreign lands and a symbol of their culture that would make them earn respect and for the world to recognize them.

Finally, after centuries of secrecy, the Filipino martial arts was revealed to the world. This last generation of classical kali grandmasters, who risked the fury of their forefathers, were the real saviors of kali.

If you’re in business of saving the world, kali is the best martial art for you.

Combat instructors at Coronado or Fort Bragg, or even the spies at Langley and Kremlin – they all agree.

Unlike what has been practiced for many years back, Kali today has become a primary fighting system among the world’s top and elite military, law enforcement, spies, combat instructors – even in Hollywood action flicks, who see the fatal effect of it usage.

Watch the “Bourne Identity”, “John Wick”, “The Equalizer” or any other films which depict a super-soldier-assassin-spy characters, working for or against any secret government agencies, kali is definitely their all-time favorite.

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