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On April 28, 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan waded onto shore of one of the 7000-plus Philippine islands in the name of Spanish King Charles I, Chief Raja Lapulapu killed Ferdinand Magellan with a Philippine kampilan dagger by slicing his leg, then thrusting the dagger into his throat. In response, the Spanish conquerors forbid the Filipinos from carrying swords. To counter this, Filipinos combined their own sword skills with the Spaniards’ sword skills and applied them to rattan sticks, giving birth of escrima (eskrima). Although colloquially escrima is called stick fighting, the term is a Filipinization of the Spanish word esgrima, which means “fencing.”

Some circles use the word “escrima” interchangeably with the term arnis. When escrima techniques were used with bladed weapons, the art then became known as kali. Some historians prefer to lump the three arts under the umbrella of “escrima.”

It’s one of the few martial arts in the world in which practitioners must first learn how to use weapons before learning empty-hand skills. Because villagers had limited time to learn how to protect themselves from other villagers and foreign invaders, escrima training focused on using simple, easy-to-learn, battle-tested fighting skills.

  1. FMA 101: A Practical Primer on the Filipino Martial Arts

    FMA 101: A Practical Primer on the Filipino Martial Arts