The article is about Arnis. It is an arcane and deadly art known by few but practiced by people whose job is dealing pain.

It goes by several names; Kali, Arnis, Sinawali, and Eskrima. Whichever way you call it, one thing is certain: it’s scary.

Arnis is a Filipino martial art that dates back before the 16th century. It uses blades, wooden sticks, and empty hand for self defense. Arnis evolved from tribal warfare during the time when the Philippines was still made up of individual tribes competing for territory.

What makes Arnis different from other martial arts is the way it teaches its art.Initially, beginners are taught how to fight with bladed weapons and wooden sticks while only those who have mastered the basic techniques are taught how to fight with empty hands and disarm opponents.

There are three reasons for this. First, Arnis was mostly taught to farmers and hunters who were already skilled in handling blades and knives. Second, tribal wars were also fought sporadically and to death, which makes teaching lethal techniques early practical. Third, Arnis applies the same set of movements for blade, stick, and empty hand techniques. Arnis masters believe that muscle memory from blade and stick exercises help students learn empty hand and disarming techniques faster, which is why they teach empty hand techniques last.

Arnis masters only retain techniques that are easy and effective to execute. Because Arnis was formed in the battlefield, it became extremely efficient in killing opponents. Its famous victim was Ferdinand Magellan who was killed in the battle of Mactan. American Marines who were stationed in Mindanao during the American Occupation of the Philippines were not immune from Arnis despite thier superior firepower. Constant casualty and injury from rebels who use Arnis led them to reissue the .45 ACP which has more stopping power compared to the standard issue .38 caliber. They were also given leather collars to protect them from neck injury and decapitation.

Today, Arnis is practiced as both an organized sport and a method of self defense. One of its most famous practitioners is Bruce Lee who was impressed by its simplicity. Special forces also include Arnis in their training. The US Navy SEALs, Special Force, and the Russian Spetsnaz are trained by Arnis Masters called Guro, proving Arnis’ lethal nature.

As a sport, Arnis is governed by the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation(WEKAF). It established scoring and safety guidelines. To protect the athletes, they wear padded armor and use padded Rattan sticks as weapons.

Arnis is a true Philippine sport. It’s a martial art that has expanded globally through military conquest and bloodshed.

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  • Abhipray Sahoo on Jul 9, 2010

    I love Martial Arts.
    I am a black belt karate, and your article was very inspiring!

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