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Filipino martial arts (FMA) (Filipino : Sining panlaban ng Pilipinas) refer to ancient Malay and newer modified fighting methods devised in the Philippines. It incorporates elements from both Western and Eastern Martial Arts, the most popular forms of which are known as Arnis, Eskrima, and Kali. The intrinsic need for self-preservation was the genesis of these systems. Throughout the ages, invaders and evolving local conflict imposed new dynamics for combat in the islands now making up the Philippines. The Filipino people developed battle skills as a direct result of an appreciation of their ever-changing circumstances. They learned often out of necessity how to prioritize, allocate and use common resources in combative situations. Filipinos have been heavily influenced by a phenomenon of cultural and linguistic mixture. Some of the specific mechanisms responsible for cultural and martial change extended from phenomena such as war, political and social systems, technology, trade and practicality.
Filipino martial arts have seen an increase in prominence due to several Hollywood movies and the teachings of modern masters such as Venancio "Anciong" Bacon, Dan Inosanto, Cacoy Canete, Danny Guba, Mike Inay, Remy Presas, Wilson Pangan Sr. (Grand Master), Ernesto Presas, Doug Marcaida and Carlito A. Lanada, Sr.
There have been numerous scholarly calls on the inclusion of the many martial arts of the Philippines into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. As of 2019, a total of nine elements scattered in eight countries, such as Thailand, Georgia, and Korea, have successfully inscribed their martial arts in the UNESCO list.
Today there are said to be almost as many Filipino fighting styles as there are islands in the Philippines. In 1972, the Philippine government included Filipino martial arts into the national sports arena. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports also incorporated them into the physical education curriculum for high school and college students. In recent history, Richardson C. Gialogo and Aniano Lota, Jr. helped the Department of Education (DepEd), former Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, in the promotion of Arnis in the public schools. The Task Force on School Sports (TFSS) headed by Mr. Feliciano Toledo asked Richard Gialogo and Jon Lota to conduct national, regional and provincial seminar-workshops all over the Philippines under the auspices of the Philippine government. This resulted to the inclusion of Arnis in the Palarong Pambansa (National Games) in 2006. The efforts of the two and Senator Miguel Zubiri resulted in Arnis being declared as the National Martial Art and Sport of the Philippines by virtue of Republic Act 9850 which was signed into law in 2009. Knowledge of the Filipino fighting skills is mandatory in the Philippine military and police.
Filipino martial arts are considered the most advanced practical modern blade system in the world and are now a core component of the U.S. Army's Modern Army Combatives programand used by the Russian Spetsnaz (special forces). The Government of India used Filipino martial arts to train their Para (Indian Special Forces) of Indian Army, National Security Guard, MARCOS of Indian Navy and Commandos of Central Armed Police Forces.
Filipino martial artists are noted for their ability to fight with weapons or empty hands interchangeably and their ability to turn ordinary household items into lethal weapons. Weapons-training takes precedence because they give an edge in real fights, gears students to psychologically face armed opponents, and any object that can be picked up can be used as a weapon using FMA techniques. Empty hand training techniques are translated from the use of the Daga (dagger) or Baston (stick).
Another thing to note is that the Philippines is a blade culture. The Southern Philippines with the Moros were never really conquered by the Spaniards or the Americans; nor the Northern mountains of Luzon with their feared headhunter tribes so they kept their weapons and their fighting skills. For the more "Christianized" provinces and the towns where citizens had been "disarmed", bolos (a cutting tool similar to the machete) and other knife variants are still commonly used for general work (farming in the provinces, chopping wood, coconuts, controlling talahib (sword grass), which could grow higher than roofs if not cut, etc.) and the occasional bloody fight. Production of these weapons still survives and there are a few who still make some. In the province of Aklan, Talibongs are still being made in the remote areas. Until the 80s, balisong knives were still commonly used in the streets of Manila as general purpose pocket knives much like Swiss army knives or box cutters until new laws on allowable kinds of knives made it illegal to carry them in public without a permit or proof that it was a vital to one's livelihood (e.g. Martial arts instructor, vendor). They're still openly sold in their birthplace of Batangas, in the streets of Quiapo, souvenir shops and martial arts stores, wielded by practitioners and street gangs. Thus, even when fighting systems were outlawed by the Spaniards, Filipinos still maintained their centuries-old relationships with blades and blade fighting techniques that survive from ancient times and are still much alive as they have been adapted and evolved to stay relevant and practical in colonial and modern times.
What separates Filipino Martial Arts from other weapon-based martial arts like Japanese Kendo & Kenjutsu, European Fencing and traditional Chinese Martial arts that teach the usage of classical Chinese weapons is that FMA teaches weapon use that is practical today: how to use and deal with weapons that one can actually encounter in the streets and how to turn ordinary items into improvised weapons. No one walks around with sabers, katanas or jians anymore, but knives, machetes, clubs and clothing, (called Sarongs), are still among commonly encountered weapons on the street and in the field, thus making FMA very practical and geared towards military and street fighting.
Traditional weaponry varies in design, size, weight, materials, and the way these weapons are used. But because of similar techniques Filipinos can use any object and turned into a weapon by a Filipino martial artist as a force multiplier.
The triangle is one of the strongest geometrical structures and stands for strength. Many training halls incorporate the triangle into their logo. It represents numerous underlying philosophical, theoretical and metaphysical principles in the Filipino martial arts. Applications of the triangle are found in defensive and offensive tactical strategies, including footwork, stances, blocking and disarms.
The triangle also represents a trinity of deities. Majority of ethno-linguistic groups in the country are known to have a trinity of ancient gods and goddesses, embodying the number three as sacred.
During training, non-verbal gesture communication and recognition is used in teaching and identification. This sign language, utilizing hand, body and weapons signals; is used to convey ideas, desires, information, or commands.
The three combat ranges in the Filipino martial arts are corto (Spanish for close-range), medio (Spanish for medium-range) and largo (Spanish for long-range).
Filipino martial arts contain a wide range of tactical concepts, both armed and unarmed. Each art includes several of the methods listed below. Some of these concepts have been taken in isolation to serve as the foundation for entire fighting systems in themselves.
Arnis, also known as Kali or Eskrima/Escrima, is the national martial art of the Philippines. The three are roughly interchangeable umbrella terms for the traditional martial arts of the Philippines, which emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, knives, bladed weapons, and various improvised weapons, as well as "open hand" techniques without weapons.
Stick-fighting, stickfighting, or stick fighting is a variety of martial arts which use simple long, slender, blunt, hand-held, generally wooden "sticks" for fighting, such as a staff, cane, walking stick, baton, or similar weapons, including kali or escrima sticks. Some techniques can also be used with a sturdy umbrella or even with a sword or dagger in its scabbard.
Modern Arnis is the system of Filipino fighting arts founded by Remy Presas as a self-defense system. His goal was to create an injury-free training method as well as an effective self-defense system in order to preserve the older Arnis systems. The term Modern Arnis was used by Remy Presas' younger brother Ernesto Presas to describe his style of Filipino martial arts; since 1999 Ernesto Presas has called his system Kombatan. It is derived principally from the traditional Presas family style of the Bolo (machete) and the stick-dueling art of Balintawak Eskrima, with influences from other Filipino and Japanese martial arts.
Doce Pares is a Filipino martial art and a form of Arnis, Kali and Eskrima, that focuses primarily on stick fighting, knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat but also covers grappling and other weapons as well. In reality, the stick is merely considered an extension of the hand, and is meant to represent almost any weapon, from sticks to swords to knives to anything else you can place in your hand and use as a weapon in the modern context. Doce Pares was founded in 1932.
San Miguel Eskrima is one of the major systems of eskrima, a martial arts from the Philippines. Founded by Filemon "Momoy" Cañete of the Doce Pares Club, SME served as vehicle for his own personal expression of the art and methodology of the club of which he was a co-founder and instructor. The name San Miguel is taken from Michael (archangel), the slayer of Satan, and is one of the major strikes used in Eskrima.
Kombatan is a Filipino martial arts system. The founder of the system was GGM Ernesto Amador Presas. The current head of the system is Ernesto Presas Jr. The style is known for its double stick techniques, but it features other stick and blade techniques, as well as empty-hand methods.
Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is a style specific to Filipino Martial Arts. Pekiti-Tirsia Kali was founded in 1897 and is the system of the Tortal family. The sole heir and guardian of this system is Leo T. Gaje Jr.. Pekiti-Tirsia is strictly a combat-oriented system, as opposed to a sport-focused fighting style. It is a fighting system that focuses on edged, impact and improvised weapons. PTK has been adopted as the preferred combative training program by elite military and law enforcement units around the world. It claims to be a very lethal fighting method for self-defence.
A kalis is a type of double-edged Filipino sword, often with a "wavy" section. The kalis has a double-edged blade, which is commonly straight from the tip but wavy near the handle. Kalis with fully straight or fully wavy blades also exist. It is similar to the Javanese keris, but differs in that the kalis is a sword, not a dagger. It is much larger than the keris and has a straight or slightly curved hilt, making it primarily a heavy slashing weapon.
Lameco Eskrima is the system of Filipino martial arts founded by Edgar Sulite based on his training and experience with various Philippine Martial Arts masters, with heavy influence from Jose Caballero and Antonio Ilustrisimo.
Sibat is the Filipino word for spear, used as a weapon or tool by natives of the Philippines. The term is used in Tagalog and Kinaray-a. It also called bangkaw, sumbling or palupad in the islands of Visayas and Mindanao; and budjak among Muslim Filipinos in western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago.
De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal is a form of Filipino martial arts. The majority of its techniques are based on fighting with a single stick as opposed to the double stick method used in most Filipino martial arts.
Ciriaco "Cacoy" Cañete was a Filipino martial artist of the Doce Pares Eskrima Club. He was the last surviving member of the club, which was founded in January 1932. He was also a 12th degree black belt. His version of the Doce Pares Eskrima system is known as Cacoy Doce Pares. In 1951 he developed a personal system of his named Eskrido.
A knife fight is a violent physical confrontation between two or more combatants in which one or more participants is armed with a knife. A knife fight is defined by the presence of a knife as a weapon and the violent intent of the combatants to kill or incapacitate each other; the participants may be completely untrained, self-taught, or trained in one or more formal or informal systems of knife fighting. Knife fights may involve the use of any type of knife, though certain knives, termed fighting knives, are purposely designed for such confrontations – the dagger being just one example.
Garimot Arnis is a Filipino martial art developed by Gat Puno (Chieftain) Abon "Garimot" Baet. He is the 5th generation inheritor of his family art. Garimot Arnis is a system composed of three basic parts: arnis de mano (weapons), buno (wrestling), and hilot (healing). The defining characteristic of the system is in keeping yourself safe. This is done by meticulously studying the footwork, angles, and distancing of largo mano to keep yourself out of your opponent's range while keeping him in your range. In corto (close) range, the opponent's ability to attack must be shut down as quickly as possible, through a disarm, lock, or manipulation of the opponent's body, which sets up the finish. Above all, knowledge of hilot allows you to keep yourself healthy by helping to fight illness and injuries, especially injuries caused during arnis and buno training.
Master Santiago “Sonny” Umpad was a Filipino eskrimadors. He was born in Bogo, Cebu, Philippines. As a young man, Umpad was exposed to the traditional Filipino martial arts of Eskrima; in his region the term “estocada” was also used to describe these arts. Umpad gave full credit to the Balintawak Eskrima and Doce Pares systems, which made up much of his early training. When he went to the United States, he continued his training with Master Raymond Tobosa in the art of Villabrille Kali.
Arnis in popular culture reflects the impact that the Filipino martial arts of Arnis/Eskrima/Kali have made outside of the martial arts community. The three terms are roughly interchangeable and for the purpose of convenience, the term Arnis will be used throughout the article. These arts emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, blades, improvised weapons and hand-to-hand fighting which is formally known as Mano Mano or Pangamut. Because of this training with live weapons, elements of Arnis have made an impact in film, video games, television, and comic books. Arnis is often used to train actors and stuntmen how to handle similar weapons for use in movies.
Black Scorpion Arnis is a distinct Filipino martial art first developed in the late 1960s that focuses on self-defense. The hands and feet are used extensively in most of the styles moves.
Suntukan is the fist-related striking component of Filipino martial arts. In the central Philippine island region of Visayas, it is known as Pangamot or Pakamot and Sumbagay. It is also known as Mano-mano and often referred to in Western martial arts circles of Inosanto lineage as Panantukan. Although it is also called Filipino Boxing, this article pertains to the Filipino martial art and should not be confused with the Western sport of boxing as practiced in the Philippines. In recent times, suntukan has become a generalized term for any brawls in the Philippines, with the term panantukan becoming more frequently used to denote the actual martial art.
The baston is one of the primary weapons of Arnis and Filipino martial arts. It is also known as yantok, olisi, palo, pamalo, garrote, caña, cane, arnis stick, eskrima stick or simply, stick.