History of Arnis/Kali

Kali is the mother art of all Filipino Martial Arts and dates to at least the Sri Vijaya and Majapahit empires of Indonesia.   Records from the Sri-Vishaya empire dating to the 8th century A.D. refered to Kali as the martial art of the Philippines.  According to history, the ten Datus of Borneo island brought their fighting methods to the island of Panay and their art eventually became known as Kalis (the "s" is silent).

The art was then subsequently influenced by trading with powerful neighbours like India, Malaya, Indonesia, China, Arabia, and much later, Spain.

Originally, Arnis was not practised in groups or class format, but is highly dependent on a one to one transmission, or one master to a small group of students.  Even though teaching to a group, the actual teaching itself is always one to one, which is similar to expert personal tuition from a western fencing coach.

In order to suppress opposition to their rule, the Spanish, during their 400 year occupation of the Philippines, banned the teaching of Kali/Arnis.  However, this prohibition was effective only in major towns and the art survived in the rural and mountain areas which were not under effective policing.  In the major towns, elements of the art were hidden in folk plays and native dance, and overtime, some Spanish fencing methods were incorporated. Under Spanish cultural influence, the art became to be refered as Eskrima, Estocada, Arnis de mano or Arnis.

Traditional Arnis is still practised in remote rural areas, in secret as usual.  Training in secret is, and has always been, the usual mode and characteristic of the old practitioners of Arnis.  This fact is much misunderstood even by practitioners of modernFilipino martial artists due to the legacy of Spanish repression of native culture.

Historians have cited at least a few hundred styles of Arnis-Eskrima-Kali.

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