Arnis is the national martial art sport of Philippines. It is also known as Eskrima and Kali. This sport actually emphasizes weapon based fighting which is done using knives, bladed weapons, sticks and various improvised weapons. It also includes hand to hand combat, grappling and weapon disarming methods.
The primary weapon used in this traditional martial art sport of Philippines is called a cane or a baton. The cane or baron varies in sizes but the original length of it is 28 inches. The cane used in this sport is also considered sacred by the Arnisadores practitioners, which is why the cane is hit on the hand or forearm of the sparring partner and not at the latter’s cane during the sport.
VariantsArnis was declared as the Philippines’ National sport and martial art on 11 December 2009. The first national organization for Arnis is the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) which was founded in 1975 by Gen. Fabian C. Ver.
However, its existence faded post the Philippine Revolution in 1986. The two major types of Arnis practiced as sports are the system followed by WEKAF (World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation) which was established in 1989, and is recognized internationally; and the other system followed by Arnis Philippines (ARPI), established in 1986, which was used prominently during the 2005 Southeast Asian Games.
1. World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (“WEKAF”)
WEKAF is the most common system of Arnis art which is used internationally. It was established in 1989. The system works on the 10-point ‘must’ system that is quite similar to boxing. Here, the participants spar with live sticks wearing a long padded vest, skirts and sleeves. In this system, hitting below the thigh is strictly prohibited. This system emphasizes heavy offence at the expense of defensive techniques, and the combatants are seen hitting each other in a disorganized manner. Hence, the "four-second rule" according to which the participants were forbidden to use the same strike for more than twice in succession. This system is preferred by participants who want to test themselves.
2. Arnis Philippines System (“ARPI”)
The Arnis Philippines system was established before the WEKAF system (in 1986) and adapted the scoring system similar to fencing. The matches are observed by multiple judges to mark fouls and the loudness of the impact judges the strike strength. The participants score points by disarming their opponent or by forcing them to step out of the ring. In the ‘ARPI’ system, participants use padded sticks with light rattan cores (wooden stem) in place of live sticks as they are tenderer and flex while attacking.
The sport Arnis is played between two fighters with a main objective of earning more points by legally attacking the opponent with the help of stick. It is said that Arnis develops self-discipline and control because this sport is a simple martial art and it is all about defending oneself by using sticks.
For individual category event in Arnis, one player is selected per team and for team category, three players are selected per team.
Arnis / Kali / Eskrima are all part of the same art depending on the location, dialect and type of training. The one interpretation common to all of them is that Kali is the mother art of Arnis and Eskrima. Moreover, Arnis focuses on the knife, including the dagger, sword, and any other form of bladed weapon whereas Eskrima is based on the ‘baston’ or stick. Therefore, the equipment used in Arnis is:
1) Impact Weapon:
Baston: This is the most basic and common weapon in Arnis. Traditional common materials used for wooden bastons are usually rattan, kamagong, and bahi wood. It is also available in modern materials such as fiberglass and plastics and in metals like aluminum.
Rattan: This is usually constructed from a stem of Southeast Asian vine. This stem is hard and durable yet lightweight that makes the weapon useful for defense against blades. At present, fighters use padded Bastons. The Baston (Baton) is about 28 inches (71 cm) in length.
Kamagong (also known as Mabolo): This is a dark, dense, expensive type of wood known for its hardness and weight. Kamagong is also an endangered species of ebony wood.
Bahi: Bahi is a type of wood made from the heart of a palm tree. It is similar to kamagong but is made of a porous material in weight and density.
2) Edged Weapons: Knife, dagger, spear, etc. are edged weapons used throughout the history for combat, hunting and ceremonies.
3) Head Gear: It is a necessity in Arnis combat. It is covered with high-grade leatherette and vinyl that is printed with ethnic art. Its materials provide vital protection from head strikes and a multi-thickness metal frame is developed for impact protection.
4) Body Armor: It is designed specially to provide complete upper body protection while allowing mobility and protection. The armor is usually made of hard plastic and vinyl for lightness and the lower panels are extended downwards to provide extra coverage.
5) Leg Guard: These guards can be used to protect both thigh and the shin area and are not only designed for protection but also for comfort and practicality.
6) Groin: It is a special padding for the lower abdomen. It has a groin cup to provide complete protection to the groin area.
7) Hand Gloves: It is a thick rubber protection which serves as a protection from strikes as the stick is held in hand. Its open palm design ensures a stable grip and finger flexibility for impact absorption.
8) Arnis Clothing: The basic Arnis Uniform is made from twill fabric, which maintains durability and comfort. It is specially designed after the classic Arnis uniform with Velcro straps to close the flaps easily.