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History of Arnis



The History of Arnis dates back before the colonization of the Spaniards, during those periods it was called Kali and the techniques of the art is focused on bladed weapons fighting. Kali was widely practiced throughout the archipelago; both nobleman and commoners were enthusiast and practitioners of the said art. Also during those days Kali is being taught in a school like training grounds, which was called Bothoan along with military tactics, Alibata (Native Alphabet), and herbal medicines.

On the dawn of April 27, 1521 the Portuguese navigator and warrior named Ferdinand Magellan was defeated by a native warrior chief named Lapu-lapu this was the recorded incident which Kali was used against foreign invaders. Forty years after that event, on April of 1564 another warrior navigator from Spain named Miguel De Legaspi landed in Abuyog Leyte Philippines. He was aware of the unfortunate fate of Magellan so took a non-hostile approach to avoid battle with the native. He befriend the warrior chief Malitik, it is at this point he witnessed the deadly fighting skills of the natives through a demo to entertain them. Afterwards he traveled to the nearby island of Sugbo and met another warrior chief named Tupas, he took a non-hostile approach to again avoid confrontation. For the second time he witnessed the formidable fighting techniques of the natives through a demo.

Years have passed by Spain was able to colonize the Archipelago thru the use of religion and what was then regarded as modern weapons such as Muskets and cannons. The Spaniards claimed the Archipelago and named it “Philippines” in honor of the King Philip of Spain. This was the start of the dark age of Kali, in the year 1764 the Spanish overlords banned the practice of Kali to the natives. Using the alibi that the natives were wasting time practicing it instead of tilling the fields. However the natives knew too well that their colonizers were just afraid that such skills would be used in a revolution against them because due to oppression the revolutionaries were gaining support from the natives.

The natives, hidden from the watchful eyes of their colonizers, practiced Kali secretly. Due to some cultural influence of the Spaniards the term Escrima, Estoque, Fraile, and Kaliradman were used to regard the native fighting system. It was also during these period when the natives were able to develop the stick fighting techniques of the art, which was proven to be as versatile as the bladed weapons technique. Even the Moro-Moro stage play to entertain the colonizers was utilized as an excuse to practice the fighting system.

In 1873 the fighting system was renamed “Arnis” derived from the word Arnes which means colorful trapping on defensive armors used on the Moro-Moro plays. Some of the heroes of the Philippine revolution were also practitioners of Arnis namely Andres Bonifacio, the spouses Diego and Gabriela Silang, and the young General Gregorio Del Pilar. The National Hero Jose Rizal was also reported to practice the fighting system. As well as the founder of Aglipayan Church Rev. Gregorio Aglipay was also recorded as a practitioner of the art.

After hundreds of years with Spanish colonization the Japanese invaders took their place to invade the Philippines during the World War II, again experts of the native fighting arts were called upon to fight for the country’s freedom. Kali, Escrima or Arnis whichever term the individual prefer to use was once again employed on the battlefield. It’s efficiency was put to a test again but this time against the Japanese invaders.

The Filipinos fought side by side with the Americans. Natives with skills in the fighting art signed up to be freedom fighters known as “Guerillas”. It is also these “Guerillas” who were usually front liners during the encounter and they were usually sent on a commando mission for reconnaissance against the Japanese.

After the war ended and peace took it’s path in 1975 then Major Favian Ver also noted enthusiast and practitioners of Arnis formed the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) with the objective to unite all Arnis group in the Philippines, but unfortunately according to records the Generals effort was futile, some claimed that the association that the General led tends to favor only one group and ignored the request for recognition of the majority of the existing Arnis clubs.

After the Historical EDSA revolution General Favian Ver was exiled and NARAPHIL as a dominant Arnis grouped ceased, eventually another brotherhood of Arnis was formed by a group of great Masters on Arnis. July of 1986 Arnis Philippines (ARPHI) was established with the same objective as NARAPHIL, at present time the government sanctioned groups NARAPHIL and ARPHI exist together with a non-governmental organization PIGSAI, these organizations share a common goal which is to promote, preserve, propagate, and regain the popularity of Arnis throughout the country because economically even though the Filipino Martial Arts be it Arnis, Escrima, or Kali earned its popularity in the different parts of the world. It is less popular in the Philippines. Its birthplace, probably due to strong colonial mentality influence or just plain negligence of the Filipinos to their Cultural Heritage, but these noble groups are striving to ensure that the next generations of Filipinos will be able to claim their cultural heritage and once again have these Filipino Martial Arts as the national system of fighting art.


Ayon sa WEDO maraming dayuhang mananaliksik at Pilipinong manunulat ang tumutuklas kung saan nagsimula ang salitang ARNIS. May nagsasabing ang Arnis raw ay nagmula sa sa salitang ARNIS na nakasulat sa baluti ng sundalong kastila. Kung totoo man ito, ibig sabihin hindi nag-simula ang ARNIS sa ating mga Pilipino.

May nagsasabing ang ARNIS raw ay nagmula sa ating magiting na unang bayani na si RAJA LAPU-LAPU at ito ay nag-simula sa Kampilan na kanyang ginamit na sandata para magapi ang manlalayag na si Ferdinand Magellan noong taong 1500. Ito ay tinatawag ng ilan na KALI, na nagsimula sa salitang Kalis. Kung ito man ay may katotohanan, ang ibig sabihin ang mga dayuhang kastila ang nagturo sa atin ng ARNIS o KALI, ESCRIMA.

Ayon sa WEDO maraming pananaliksik at pag-susulat patungkol sa ARNIS, ngunit hanggang ngayon ito'y malaking katanungan sa kanilang kaisipan dahil walang sapat na katibayan na nag-papatunay dito. Ayon sa pananaliksik ng WEDO ang limang (5) letra na bumubuo sa salitang ARNIS ay may katotohanang kung iyong paniniwalaan. Ang Arnis ay hindi ratan, kahoy, o yantok, bahi man ito o kamagong. Ang mga ito ay hindi matatawag na Arnis.

Ayon sa WEDO ang salitang Arnis ay nagmula sa limang(5) unang pamilya ng mga Arnisador at nag-eensayo na gamit ang ratan, na ang mga pamilyang ito'y mga tubong Negros at Iloilo na kung saan sila'y sumasayaw ng SAULOG tuwing may okasyon o pagdiriwang.

Ayon sa WEDO ang SAULOG kadalasan ay ginagamit ng mga Arnisador ng pang-gamot sa mga may sakit. Kung tawagin sa Panay ay Baylan, sila'y sumasayaw na hawak ang ratan at umiikot palibot sa may sakit. Ang kaugaliang ito ay tradisyon noong unang panahon ng ating mga ninuno sa isla ng Panay.

Ayon sa tamang tuklas ng WEDO, ang ARNIS ay KAMAY. Ang Ratan o anumang bagay na karugtong o hawak ng kamay ay di matatawag na Arnis. Ang bagay na hawak nating mga Arnisador ay tinatawag na Baston o Tungkod. Batay sa ginawang pananaliksik ng WEDO, ang tungkod o baston ay ginamit ng propetang si Moises noong unang panahon na ito'y nakasaad sa Biblia sa Lumang Tipan.

Maliwanag na ang Arnis ay tumutukoy sa kamay nating mga Pilipino. Ang baston o tungkod ay karugtong lamang ng ating mga KAMAY o ARNIS. Ang salitang Arnisador ay tumutukoy naman sa taong may “Kinaadman” o may likas na kaalaman o kakayahan, may hawak man ito ng baston o wala, mananatiling Arnisador ang tawag sa kanya.

Panahon na upang imulat ang ating kaisipan ayon sa WEDO. Kung may katanungan ang sinuman ukol sa nakatuklas nito ay marapat lamang na kayo mismo ang sumagot. Tuklasin at pag-aralan ang Arnis na nasa inyo at nasa ating lahat. Ito'y magsisilbing hamon sa mga nag-nanais tuklasin ito.

English Translation



Rodrigo Bonzerr S. Lopez

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