The Art of Arnis
American Modern Arnis Association logo
by Cepeda Brothers Martial Arts

Early records dating as far back as 8th century A.D. of the Sri-Visaya empire mentioned Kali, the martial art of the Philippines. The migration and consequent intermarrying of the Malays with the inhabitants resulted in the blending of movements and techniques – thus the creation of the fighting art of Kali (from Kalis - Malay word for bladed weapon).

The 10 datus (Chief) of Borneo, remnants of the Malay empire, further helped spread the martial art of Kali throughout the Philippines. By force of necessity and self-preservation, these datus required each of their warriors to learn Kali. Eventually, Kali was taught to everyone along with reading and writing.

In 1521, Rajah Lapu Lapu, a master of Kali, refused to bow down to Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer. A battle ensued. This epic Battle of Mactan Island resulted in the death of Magellan, and Kali gained recognition from the European historians. Pigafetta, the Spanish historian of Magellanís expedition, stated that the natives used sticks hardened with fire, kampilans, lances, poisoned arrows and other implements as weapons against Magellan.

Modern Arnis Association of Philipines International logoAfter Magellan's death, another Spanish expedition reached the islands and started establishing settlements. Kali was renamed Escrima, the Spanish word for fencing, and Arnis De Mano (harness of the hands). The Spaniards felt, however, that the art was too brutal and eventually banned its practice. The real motive of the Spaniards was really to suppress the art altogether. The ingenuity of the Filipinos, however, persisted. They disguised the art by depicting plays like Moro-Moro, and dances like sayaw or Katas.

There are numerous styles of Filipino stick fighting, but they all have one common denominator that gives them an adaptability surpassing most martial arts today. Their principle of combat is based on patterns of angles that all attacks must fall into – regardless of the style, regardless of the weapons. The vicious, swift, elusive strikes of the Filipino stick fighting were feared. Their elliptical motion made the art of Arnis, Kali, and Escrima very difficult to defend against.

Modern Mano Association of the Philipines International logo

With this in mind, the art of Arnis De Mano is still practiced worldwide-over a thousand years later.

Sifu Dan Cepeda along with his brother Maestro Fred Cepeda are currently instructing at their school, Cepeda Brothers Martial Arts, in the art of Arnis De Mano and the art of Kenpo Karate. Cepeda Brothers Martial Arts is located at 6506 C El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA. 92115.

ARNIS DE MANO web sites:
The International Philippine Martial Arts Federation

Martial arts articles of interest by Jade Dragon Online:
Part 1 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
Part 2 of our two-part series Martial Arts:   An Overview
The Roots of Martial Arts
Profile:   Sifu Share K. Lew
The History of Kung Fu San Soo
Dragon Style Kung Fu
100 Years of Fighting Films
Chi and the Martial Arts


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