Martial Arts in the Philippines
Isolated in the Pacific Ocean and settled by different cultures, the martial arts of the Philippines reflect the often times violent clashes between conquerors and conquered. Sometimes separated by different islands among the chain that makes up the Philippines, those martial arts include empty-handed, stick and bladed weapons, such as the deadly kris, a weapon brought to the Philippines by Indonesian traders.

Chinese martial arts were introduced during a trade era with Tang Dynasty China (AD 618-907). In the fifteenth century Islam was introduced through the Malaccan Empire. When the Spaniards came to the Philippines in the late fifteen hundreds, they found a mixture of Islamic, Chinese and Indonesian cultures -- all with culturally mixed, but very effective fighting methods. Attempts at Spanish colonization were the cause of repeated revolts by the native population. The Spanish soon declared martial art practice forbidden, hoping to stifle future revolutions.

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However, not deterred by the Spanish decree, freedom-loving Filipinos devised ritual and cultural dances that were actually fighting art training sessions. There were dances for bladed weapons and dance routines using simple sticks -- the ancestors of today's kali, escrima and arnis fighting systems.
Kali, for instance, is an ancient martial art practiced in front of unsuspecting Spaniards in the form of moro-moro stage plays that depicted mock combat with weapons.

Philippine stick fighters, depending on which islands they came from, followed the arts of kali, escrima or arnis. When bladed weapons were declared illegal by the Spaniards, Philippine fighters switched to wooden hardwood sticks. These sticks were said to be so hard that they could break a sword blade with one blow. Before long Philippine fighters had become so accomplished with their sticks, they centered entire fighting systems around stick fighting alone. Much the same as Okinawa, where bladed weapons were forbidden, stick fighting developed to as an advanced martial skill, unseen in other Asian arts.

Sticks were considered extensions of the fighter's hands, making it unnecessary to practice empty hand forms -- a practice that exists to modern day practice.