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
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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.
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.