Kali is a martial art of the Philippines.  It has a long and varied history. It originally was developed by the peoples native to those islands over the centuries before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish in 1521. At that time, it was in part based on a wavy-edged sword typically 30 inches long made of wood called (in at least one dialect) a "kalis" modern derivatives of which is the “keris” and "kris".

The Pekiti-Tirsia system of kali is an infighting combat system. Its name is roughly translated as to cut into small pieces, up close. It is primarily concerned with close quarters combat.

Upon their arrival, Magellan's force was engaged in a ferocious battle (or so the legend goes) by the islanders wielding such weapons. Their leader Lapu Lapu killed Magellan and the Spanish were repelled even though the heavily armored Spanish had superior metal weaponry. Today Lapu Lapu is considered by many to be a national hero of the Philippines.

As we know, eventually the Spanish did take over the island, kali was banned, and the traditional weapons confiscated. The art was subsequently taken underground. The use of kalis shifted to sticks or "baston" commonly made of rattan.

Through the years the name of the art changed to the Spanish derivative "arnis de mano" and "escrima/eskrima". But the martial art and spirit lived on. Today kali, arnis and eskrima continue to be taught in the Philippines and around the world. Masters such as the Canetes, Leo Gaje jr., and influential proponents like Dan Inosanto (friend, student and teacher to Bruce Lee) have ensured that kali, (and arnis/escrima) will remain an active and vital martial art.


Brief History of Filipino Kali