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Arnis, Escrima, Kali, (A-E-K) Pangolisi and Garote are only a small number of the many names that are given to the indigenous stick based, Philippine...

Arnis–Escrima-Kali? (A-E-K) Stick Based?

September 12, 2014

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The Meanings Of Arnis, Escrima and Kali

September 7, 2014

What does the word ‘Arnis’ mean?
Arnis comes from the Spanish word ‘Arnes’. The English translation is ‘harness’. Around approximately 1637AD Spanish Roman Catholic priests trying to enhance the introduction of Catholicism to The Philippines and trying to oust the influence of Islam created the Moro-Moro play or plays. It has been said the first play was written to dramatize a recent defeat and capture by a Christian Filipino army of an Islamic fort. Another source states that the play represented a Christian Spanish victory over the Muslim Spanish in the latter part of the 13th Century. Whatever the original source it is obvious that play variations appeared but each had the theme of Christians defeating Muslims. The plays depicted fighting scenes using swords and the Filipino’s through the plays had a chance to practice their Martial Arts, as they had been earlier banned by the Spanish to practice the Arts. The plays called for the actors to wear costumes that incorporated an Arnes or a harness. From this word arnes we now have the Filipino word ‘Arnis’. It has also been called ‘Arnis de Mano’ or harness of man.


What does the word ‘Escrima’ mean?
The word ‘Escrima’, ‘Esgrima’ or ‘Eskrima’ was used by the Spanish when referring to swordfighting or fencing and was also used when referring to the many skirmishes and battles that took place in the colonization of the country. The Spanish controlled The Philippines for almost 400 years. They made Spanish the “Official” language and it has gradually replaced many older words in the different Filipino languages that represented the Martial Arts.


What does the word ‘Kali’ mean?
There are several words in the Filipino languages that denote a simple stick, ‘Garote’ or ‘Olisi’ are but two. ‘Kali’ or ‘Kahli’ as it is sometimes written, is in the Visayan language a type of stick, but the stick is used in a certain way or ways, such as it being used as a walking stick, a digging stick and/or for self defence in times of trouble. It has been described to me as a ‘verb stick’. A stick that is used for something and when not used by a human, is simply an olisi or stick. The term Kali is still used today in the Philippines as a element of some of the more remote terms such as ‘Kali–rongan’ or ‘Kali–radman’ describing the weapons based fighting arts. After the Spanish banned the practice of sword fighting for the Filipino’s, certain types of Kali were said to have been preserved by being set in native dance forms known as the ‘Sayaw/s at Sinolog’ or dance/s at fiesta. They could then occasionally hold folk dancing exhibitions to amuse their new rulers. The native weapons and shields were used in these dances and were set to music and drums. Some older Escrimadors state however that the dances have always been used, even before the Spanish came, to teach students the Martial Arts. Much like the katas or patterns that are used today by some styles to teach.

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