Chieftain Lapu-Lapu facing Capt. Magdellan |Filipino
Martial Arts Terminology
'Arnis, 'Kali' or 'Eskrima' are some of the many terminologies to
describe the name of the Filipino Martial Arts. In the North and Central
region of the Philippines it is known as 'Arnis' while in the south
the terminology of 'Eskrima' (meaning to skirmish) or 'Kali' (ancient
Malayan term meaning weapon longer than a knife) is more commonly
Decline of the term 'Kali' and the emergence of the word
Kali declined in popularity as early as 1596 when the Spaniards authorities
discouraged and eventually banned the practice of the art in 1764
arguing that Filipinos were so engrossed in the art that they left
their lands untilled. The Spaniards also stated that the practice
of the art also led to death or injury to combatants especially when
tempers got out of hand. Sources intimated that the Spaniards may
have other reasons for discouraging the practice of Kali.
The Spaniards must have considered the art to be a threat to their
rule, since they decreed that natives found practising Kali would
be considered 'tulisanes' (outlaws), so many Filipinos practiced in
secret, often disguising it in dances and plays.
In 1967, the friars introduced the moro-moro, a socio-religious
play dramatising the triumph of the Christian Spaniards over the Muslim
Moors of Granada Spain. The play called for the use of fighting techniques
using a sword pr a similar bladed weapon. With the introduction of
the moro-moro, the Filipinos again had a chance to practice their
art, thus interest in Kali was revived. In said play, Spanish soldiers
fighting for Christianity were supposed to wear 'Arnes', a Spanish
word for the English 'harness' - the colourful trappings worn by medieval
soldiers. From the word 'Arnes' came the present word 'Arnis'. In
1853 the word 'Kali' was no longer commonplace. However, some regions
in the Philippines still retain the word Kali in their vocabulary.
Thus, we have 'Pagkalikali' to the Ibanags, 'Kalirongan' to the Pangasinense,
'Kaliradman'. to the Visayans, 'Eskrima' or 'Garote' to the Cebuanos,
baston to the people of Panay and Negros Occidental, and lastly 'Sinawali'
to the Pampangenos.