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History of Modern Arnis

The Philippines is an island nation in the Western Pacific where over 70 dialects are spoken. Over the centuries, the Philippines has been a crossroads for countries and empires trading and fighting with each other. It has been a country of two classes--the rich and the poor. To survive in the streets and in the rice fields, one has to have skill in the use of bladed weapons. In some regions today, most rural men carry swords to the field for use as a tool for cutting and for protection.

The Philippine martial arts assume different names in different regions of the country. Over 50 styles exist or have existed until recent times. Regardless of the style, the most common names of these arts are Kali, Eskrima or Arnis.

The evolution of Arnis from a bladed weapon into its present systematic martial art form spans a history of over a thousand years. Due to a lack of written records, it is difficult for researchers to determine its precise evolution to the modern times. Much of the ancient art of arnis remains mystery-shrouded.

The term 'Kali' may be derived from the native fencing/war dance of Tjakalele (cha-ka-lee-lee) found in Indonesia. According to historians, the Ten Datus of Borneo brought their martial art style to the central Philippine island of Panay while fleeing from Datu Makatunaw of Java in the 12th century. Later, in the 16th century Filipinos incorporated European fencing methods into arnis under the influence of Spanish colonization.

Originally, fighting was done with a spear and shield. However, fighters learned that using two canes or swords was more mobile and superior to the shield and spear. Eventually, fighters learned to adopt a single cane or sword with a check hand to defeat double cane fighters. Thus Solo Baston (single cane fighting) became the foundation of Modern Arnis training

Today, Modern Arnis has three forms of fighting. They are Espada y Daga (sword and dagger), Sinawali or Doble Baston (double cane fighting), and Solo Baston (single cane fighting). Traditionally, in the Philippine martial arts, the student first learns how to handle and defend against weapons. Later on, the student is trained to defend with his or her feet and hands. The rationale is that (1) training cane to cane is safer than taking punches and kicks to the body and (2) if you can defend yourself against a weapon then defending against punches and kicks will come easily because training with canes reduces the chances of making errors in self-defense.

This martial art springs from the need of people in the Philippines to defend themselves and their families in a modern world. Some of the most well-known styles of Kali, Esicrima or Arnis known today are Arnis de Mano, Modern Amis, Pekiti Tersia, Doce Pares Eskrima, Balintawak, Cabales Serrada, Pananandata and Modern Arnis. Numerous other systems have developed especially from those who emigrated to the United States this century. Modern Arnis is a composite of various classical and modern fighting systems used in the Philippines.

This curriculum offers the Presas System of Modern Arnis developed by Grandmaster Ernesto Presas and Grandmaster Fred Lazo of the Philippines.

Modern Arnis is a safe and effective way to practice the traditional martial arts of the Philippines. This art includes cane handling, footwork drills, self-defense releases, traps, cane disarms, joint locks, and empty-hands techniques.