Arnis De Mano: Philippine Stick Fighting
ARNIS DE MANO: PHILIPPINE STICK FIGHTING
Arnis de Mano is a Philippine martial art that makes use of a stick or a bladed weapon in training or fighting. The names comes from the colorful; trappings – harness de mano – on the arms of the moro-moro performers. In different areas of the Philippines, it is known by different names, escrima, pananandata, garote, pagkalikali, kali and didya. It is practice in many provinces, especially in Cebu, considered as the cradle of Philippine stick fighting.
It is be believed by many teachers of "arnis de mano" that Philippines stick fighting evolve out of ancient tradition called kali – a kind of mother art that existed in the islands and was slowly lost or forgotten during the Spanish conquista. I inclined to agree that there was such a warrior tradition, whatever its name, although there doesn’t seem to be any literature on the subject and historians haven’t written anything about it. We can see from the narratives – descriptions of battles, martial dances to entertain the visitors, fast sailing boats manned by warriors and weapons – that there was a pervasive knowledge of fighting and weaponry that could only have come from a culture of martial training.
While we don’t have much literature on our ancient martial arts, there is documentation that the Philippines had sophisticated martial weaponry – spear, bow and arrow, blow guns and a variety of swords. Along with this combat equipment were herbs and poisons, and techniques of fighting and healing and medicine. An scholarly study entitled “Barangay” by Willian Henry Scott have several extended reference to warfare, weaponry, strategy and medicine. Not so much of this tradition remains, but if we go to the barrios, we can still find practitioners of a few of these ancient arts.
In his annotation to Morga’s Sucesos de las Filipinas, Jose Rizal lamented the lost of the ancient martial heritage. “the ancient Filipinos had army and navy with artillery and other implements of warfare. Their price krises and kampilans for their magnificent temper and worthy of admiration and some of them are richly damascened. Their coats of mail and helmets, of which are specimens in various European museums, attest to their great achievements in this industry.”
Antonio Pigafetta in his description of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage and the battle of Mactan shows the tactical know how and proficiency that Lapu-lapu and his men exhibited. The battle was fought on April 27, 1521 or 490 years ago.
Another common belief in the martial art community is that kali was propagated in tribal schools called bothoon. There is no factual basis for this belief but it is consistent with the experience that an art that is used for survival of the family or clan usually studied by everyone, thus requiring a kind of training school.
Where this ancient martial art originated is not really known, although there are strong opinions that it came from Indonesia because of the similarities of names and techniques. Felipe Jocano Jr. a professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Philippines and a martial artist himself, said in a well argued letter, that are indeed a similarities but that doesn’t mean that our martial arts are an importation from outside. “Similarities”, he said “are proof of influences and interactions in past times.” He lamented the dearth of original documents on the research into our martial art systems.
There are apparently remnants of the ancient Philippine art.
Dumog or wrestling is considered one of them.
Sikaran or kicking is another.
Suntukan (boxing) is yet another.
Kuntao or silat, the art that closely resembles the martial arts of Indonesia and Malaysia are still another.
Practitioners of kali have techniques for different weapons, including the spears and staff and flail called tabak-toyak. Arnis de mano and its different styles are probably the most visible manifestation of the warrior tradition.
Rapid Journal Volume 2 No. 2
Filipino Martial Arts by Inosanto, Dan
Arnis De Mano by Marinas Mat