Arnis Eskrima is a sport and indigenous martial art of the Filipinos, which is characterised by the application of twirling and swinging movements, along with parrying, thrusting and striking methods for offence and defence.
The martial art is also known as Eskrima, Garrote, Kali and many other names in different regional languages like Pananandata in Tagalog; Kalirongan and Kabaraon in Pangasinan; Didja Pagkalikali in Ibanag; in Ilokano; and Kaliradman in Bisaya.
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The techniques in Arnis martial arts is often performed with the use of sticks or any similar tools, or with the bare hands and feet, which are used for striking, blocking, grappling and locking, where the practitioner uses the same principle as that when he or she uses the sticks.
In 2009, Arnis eskrima was declared as the National Martial Art and Sport of the Philippines through Republic Act 9850. The republic act states that the official adoption of Filipino Arnis as the Philippines’ national martial art and sport circulated by inscribing the Escrima Arnis symbol in the official Philippine Sports Commission seal and by making it the first competition played by participants on the very first day of the Palarong Pambansa each year.
The provisions of this republic act are implemented by the Philippine Sports Commission, being the lead agency.
Culture and traditions
Also known as Eskrima, Garrote, Kali, and many other names in various Filipino dialects, Arnis Filipino Martial Arts and numerous other Filipino martial arts have had a huge Spanish influence. In the art, you can see the original warrior philosophy has persisted through the years and remains in the art’s fringes. Although death matches in Arnis Martial Art were banned in 1945, they still happen in private today.
The declaration of Eskrima Arnis as the Philippines’ national sport has organised a clear martial culture. This started to develop a story of the cultural heritage of the Filipinos that is internationally grasped, like post-cultural revolution China has contributed with Wushu as well as Japan did in 1603-1868 (Edo period).
How Arnis Martial Arts works
Like any other martial art, Kali Eskrima Arnis in mainly defensive. It encompasses empty-hand fights, disarming and grappling techniques. But the fighting style of Arnis Eskrima also trains with sticks and bladed weapons, aside from improvised weapons. An Eskrimador uses a baton-like stick as the main melee tool, which is used in official Arnis competitions as well.
In general, Arnis Kali takes one of its two forms: the performance-based “Anyo” or the combative “Laban.” The anyo competitions are judged based on the performances’ overall choreography. These include the force, strength and gracefulness employed.
However, the laban form examines the agility and reactions of the participants, as competitions are judged according to the number of inflicted strikes. The majority of laban competitions do not include body contact, like grappling, disarming and blocking strikes with the feet or hands, but there are exemptions where full body contact is allowed.
Arnis Eskrima in pop culture: Hollywood
On screen, close-quartered, quick-paced combat scenes look incredible, and no martial art style involves more fight speed than that of Arnis Filipino – it’s not a surprise why it’s quite popular with Hollywood filmmakers. The 2002 film, Bourne Identity, features jeet kune do and kali combination of combat style when Jason Bourne faces Jarda.
Jason Statham and Vin Diesel also engaged in a fight scene involving Eskrima, where they used metal wrenches and pipes rather than sticks in Furious 7.
In Kick-Ass, teenager Dave Lizewski played by Aaron Johnson fights crime with Filipino Martial Arts Arnis canes while Hit-Girl uses balisong knives. In Taken, Liam Neeson utilises a combination of Arnis, silat, and wing chun to rescue his child from the bad guys. In Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig subdues a knife-wielding killer using FMA.
How to play Arnis Eskrima Kali
The players could participate in two kinds of Arnis Escrima Kali sports: the labanan and the anyo. Each division has different scoring systems, regulations and rules depending on who organises the competition. In anyo, the participants would execute sequences of movements using two sticks.
The executions will be judged according to the anyo’s execution as well as the creativity of the whole choreography. The participant should have gracefulness combined with strength and force to execute these forms right. In labanan, the players need to hit the different body parts of their opponent with a single stick.
Unlike other combat sports, Kali Arnis Ecrima doesn’t often require body contact between the two players beside the sticks they’re holding. Any attack using the feet or hands is a foul. The scores will be judged according to the strikes every player could deliver. Quick thinking and agility combine are needed to achieve a high score in this competition.
However, some competitions allow full contact between players. Competitors could grapple, disarm, and block their opponents. But some competitions permit full contact among players. The participants could disarm, grapple, and block the opponents.
The history of Arnis Defense is still quite debated. Because the Philippines is composed of 7000 islands, Arnis may have flourished in one region or another. And because of this fact, there are now more than one school of FMA and numerous variations of the art.
The Arnis Philippines stated that there is a need to combine the different techniques, forms, rules, and styles of the sport. Strong leadership ought to be implemented to stop Arnis from slipping into nothing.
Filipinos and Arnis Eskrima Sports
Arnis athletes and practitioners from all over the country now celebrate Arnis as the national sport as it received that recognition it highly deserved. Finally, Pinoys have a sport that they can identify with.
The various organisations like the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL), Arnis Philippines (ARPI), and KAMAO encourage Filipinos to learn or at least understand the art.
In 2010, Pointsource Films – independent production house – produced a documentary film entitled “Eskrimadors: A Filipino Martial Arts Documentary,” featuring various Filipino Arnisadors such as Grand Masters, Dionisio “Dinoy” Cañete, Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete, as well as Undo Caburnay.
The film also aims to boost the awareness and knowledge about Arnis and to recognise further the contribution of these people to the martial art and sport.
However, Arnis isn’t appreciated in the Philippines.
The martial art came into the spotlight when Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto promoted it back in the 1970s.
Organizations like the Rapid Arnis International, IKAEF (International Kali Arnis Eskrima Federation), IMAF (International Modern Arnis Federation), and many others currently help promote Arnis in many other countries.
A breeding ground for Arnis Eskrima Practitioners
Upon the implementation of the republic act, many schools have required to include Arnis in their curriculum. Through the management of the DEAAP (Department of Education Arnis Association of the Philippines), students from grade school to high school are lucky to learn and practice Arnis.
According to Al Pelgone, National President of DEAAP, the inclusion of Arnis in numerous school curriculums is crucial because it would help young Filipinos to appreciate Arnis as our national sport. This would serve as a medium for young kids who wanted to be Arnis players in the future.
Young Arnis practitioners could look up to Arnis Grand Masters like Remy A. Presas, who was dubbed as the person behind modern arnis, as well as Federico T. Lazo, who established the Luzviminda Arnis Kali fighting system. Both people help preserve and improve Arnis as we know it today.