The Philippines are an immense archipelago with 7,107 islands. When the Spanish conquerers arrived in these areas, some of the tribes resisted them, using native weapons and techniques. Ferdinand Magellan, was killed in the Battle of Mactan in 1521 by the horde of the Lapu-Lapu tribal king. In this historical period, ultimately, the Iberians were experienced conquerers and possessed their own refined and efficient systems of combat, not to mention their military and metallurgic superiority. The fate of the archipelago was therefore predictable from the beginning, considering also that in the dawn of the colonial era the Filipinos still didn’t possess even a vague sense of national identity. The archipelago was gradually conquered and baptized with the name it still carries, in homage to King Felipe of Spain.
Coexistence with the conquerers and their martial knowledge refined and evolved the capacities and the combat systems of the natives, even if it is difficult to say how much of these were in fact influenced and modified. It is a question to be debated, but it seems very possible that the Filipinos borrowed many techniques, casting aside those which didn’t much serve for their reality and the weapons they used. There exist, for what it’s worth, many indications and similar details, even beyond the use of Spanish words and training structures analogous to Western ones, that suggest that European fencing truely influenced to a significant extent the Filipino martial arts, at least in a manner to conceive and rationalize the practice, which nevertheless remains founded in native roots that are also visible in this “East-West” martial hybrid and art of the people.
EAST AND WEST
The Filipino martial arts continued to evolve and refine themselves on the technical and practical level, using the motivation force of contact with foreigners and the internal revolutions of the nation. Over centuries, the Filipinos were forbidden from using swords and machetes (a weapon that is present in the archipelago culture in many unique versions) and for this reason they trained with batons of rattan (a material similar to bamboo, but solid inside) that today has become the typical weapon of Kali.
The original techniques of the Filipino natives integrated themselves into and adapted themselves to the sword and dagger strategies of the conquerers, to the notions of attack angles and trajectories, to the geometric manner of organizing the study of combat disciplines (a typically Western habit) and many other details unique to European martial knowledge. In many Spanish expeditions to the Philippines there were various Italians present, like for example those in which the famous navigator Magellan died (defeated by the Lapu-Lapu tribal king). Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian who survived the battle of Mactan, wrote the chronicles of the adventure.
PHILIPPINES AND INDONESIA
There appears to be some relation between the martial arts of the Philippines and those of Indonesia (and Malaysia). The arts of that geographic area are dominated by the generic term of “Silat” (or “Pencak Silat”), followed by the name of the practiced style in particular.
At times those who train Kali possess some notions of Silat and vice-versa, and often those two martial arts are practiced in parallel, integrating elements of the first and the second discipline in their own training. Nevetheless they remain two distinct martial arts, conceived in fairly different ways, even if some similar techniques could induce simplistic and superficial comparisons.
Some even believe that the Filipino fighting systems had historical roots in the Indonesian martial arts, generally because of the stated analogies between certain fairly common techniques and movements, which are present as much in Kali as in the majority of Silat styles (and of other martial arts as well). In the meantime, the majority of the established and documentable historical and structural influences on Kali are those that come from the Hispanic and European culture of the colonizers.
ANTIQUE AND MODERN CONCEPTIONS
Considering that the FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) bases itself in the use of weapons and teaches how to use them (to pass subsequently, using similar concepts, to disarmed training as well), the roots of these arts and their development were probably independent of the majority of the contemporary and to a certain extent more recent combat systems, which considered almost always the use of weapons like a variety of “bonus” or secondary material, which comes after unarmed training and could be avoided easily, being viewed as unecessary.
This vision of combat is conceptually modern and almost sportive, using a didactic structure diametrically opposed to the Filipino one, which is, on the contrary, more similar to the idea of antique fencing, in ancient Europe, when the term “fencing” (which in Italian is “schermare”, which means “to protect”) indicated combat in general, armed or otherwise (considering that, if one couldn’t find any object to use as a weapon, one would have to adapt) and served to save one’s own life, in battle and on the road, and didn’t have anything sportive or particularly ethical about it. It was the art of surviving (to say “fencing” at the time, was to say today “martial art” or “personal defense”), and perhaps for this reason the legacy of this practical vision, pragmatic and based in context can be found in very few of the modern martial practices, and Kali is without a doubt included in those rare pearls.
Based on experiences of years of studying in many different styles, 2EDGES group has developed his
own didactic system about Filipino Martial Arts and Pençak Silat.