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Modern History of Arnis

Arnis, as a martial art, was spawned in Philippine soil. It was known in ancient Philippines as kali, an
ancient Malayan word that implies a large bladed weapon longer than a knife. This art was practiced
primarily for self-defense by the pre-Spanish Filipinos who were noted for their friendly nature and
legendary hospitality.

The art of hand-to-hand combat has always been an integral part of the Filipino in his long, turbulent,
and bloody history. By force of necessity and self-preservation he became an expert in fighting with his
hands, either bare or with a stick and a bladed weapon. Even before the introduction of the bladed
weapon, the early Filipinos were already a fighting people using the bow and arrow or the longbow. The
primitive Negritos, coming from Central Asia during prehistoric times, were experts in these weapons.

Arnis de mano is the best known and the most systematic fighting art in the Philippines. It is a perfected
art after a long historical development from the kali systems designed to train the student to defend
himself against armed or unarmed attacks. Arnis, as it is commonly called, has also been known in other
dialects as estacada among the Tagalog provinces and estoque or fraile in other regions.

As a fighting art, Arnis has three forms of play. They are the espada y daga ("sword and dagger") in which
a long wooden sword and a short wooden dagger is used; the solo baston (single stick) in a single long
muton or baston (wooden stick or rattan cane hardened by drying or heating) is used; and the sinawali, a
native term applied because the intricate movements of the two muton resemble the weave of a sawali
(criss-cross fashion), the bamboo splits weave pattern used in walling and matting.

The lives of Filipino heroes are linked with the awesome power of the martial art of Arnis. They
triumphantly waged their heroic battles for freedom and liberty as a testimony of the power and
effectiveness of Arnis. Their successful stand against their superiorly armed adversaries in mortal combat
in the arena of battle is now held in immortal inviolability by history of the 16th century. Kali (Arnis)
became so popular during the early days that it was known as the sport of kings and of the members of
the royal blood. The first and foremost experts of the art were the rajah and maharlika of the Visayas
and Tagalog regions, Amandakwa in Pangasinan, and Baruwang of the Cagayan Valley region.

The art was not confined to the elite alone. Ordinary Filipinos practiced kali not only for self-defense but
also for entertainment. It was the most awaited entertainment feature in fiestas and other gatherings.
Kali was a standard fighting technique in hand-to-hand combat of the Filipinos when they revolted
against Spain. Using the itak or bolo the Katipuneros engaged the Spanish soldiers in savage skirmishes.
History states that Bonifacio brandished a bolo, a standard weapon in kali in his famous "Cry of
Balintawak." However, kali declined in popularity as early as 1596 when the Spanish authorities
discouraged the practice of the art (it was eventually banned in 1764). The Spaniards must have
considered the art lethal or dangerous since they decreed that natives found practicing kali would be
considered Tulisanes or outlaws.

In 1637, the friars introduced the moro-moro, a socio-religious play dramatizing the triumph of the
Christian Spaniards over the Muslim Moors of Granada, Spain. The play called for the use of fighting
techniques using a sword or similar bladed weapon. With the introduction of the moro-moro, the
Filipinos again had a chance to practice their art, thus interest in kali was revived. In the play, Spanish
soldiers fighting for Christianity were supposed to wear arnes, a Spanish word for the English harness,
the colorful trappings worn by medieval soldiers. From the word arnes came the present Arnis. In 1853,
the word kali was completely replaced by Arnis.

Arnis today has experienced changes in the weapons used. Although the art still makes use of the itak or
bolo now and then, it has relied considerably on the use of the cane as a self-defense weapon. This is not
because the cane is less deadly than bladed weapons but mainly because in later years, Arnis is engaged
in more as a sport. Much of the antiquated techniques of the old Arnis have been modernized to avoid
injury to students. More importantly, discipline and other moral values are impressed upon the students
to strengthen not only the body but the spirit as well.

12 basic strikes in Arnis

#1 – Strike to left temple.

#2 – Strike to right temple.

#3 – Strike to the left arm or elbow.

#4 – Strike to the right arm or elbow.

#5 – Thrust to the stomach.

#6 – Thrust to the left chest.

#7 – Thrust to the right chest.

#8 – Strike to the right foot or knee.

#9 – Strike to the left foot or knee.

#10 – Thrust to the left eye.

#11 – Thrust to the right eye.

#12 – Strike to the crown/top of head.

12 Blocking Techniques in Arnis

#1 - Blocking an attack to the left side

#2 - Blocking an attack to the right side

#3 - Blocking an attack to the solar plexus or chest


#4 - Blocking an attack to the stomach

#5 - Blocking an attack to the Lower Body

#6 - Blocking to the attack at the center of the head

Inward Block - A Force to Force block against the opponents strike. This is for the right hand side of the
body. Defends against strikes 2 & 4

Inward Block with a Brace - A Force to Force block against the opponents strike. The left hand flows out
from the body to the cane, to brace for the impact. This is for the right hand side of the body. Defends
against strikes 2 & 4

Outward Block - A Force to Force block against the opponents strike. This is for the left hand side of the
body. Defends against strikes 1 & 3

Outward Block with a Brace - A Force to Force block against the opponents strike. The left hand flows out
from the body to the cane, to brace for the impact. This is for the left hand side of the body. Defends
against strikes 1 & 3

Umbrella Block - (* Called Roof Block in some systems *) The Cane comes up and crosses the strike as
teh left hand parries the strike away. This is traditionally done against a number 12 strike. You can also
apply this block on the left side of your body against the incoming Strike # 1 & 3 as well as the # 12

Slanting Block - (* Some times called Wing Block *) This block covers the right hand side of the body. The
cane comes up Punyo (* butt of the cane *) first, as the left hand parried the strike down the cane.
Defends against strikes 2 & 4 and non traditionally #12. (* The Number 12 looks like a Horizontal Block *)

Horizontal Block - The cane rises up horizontal to the ground in a striking manner or in a force to force
manner up above the head of the defender. This defends against the number 12 strike.

Horizontal Block with a Brace - The cane rises up and the left hand rises also to brace the cane above
your head. This block is fr the number 12 strike.

Vertical Block - The cane is swept from the right to the left across the body wiht the cane in a vertical
position. This is to defend against the number 5 strike.

Downward Inward - This is a force to force block with the cane dropping down to the right side of the
body. This defends aginst the number 8 strike.

Downward Outward - This is a force to force block with the cane dropping down to the leftt side across
the body. This defends aginst the number 9 strike.

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