Filipino Martial Arts History
The nation of the Philippines is an archipelago of islands in the Western Pacific Ocean nestled between China, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. The people of almost 70 million consist mainly of Malay stock with a dialect of over 70.
They were also expert
fighters with the daggers, swords, spears, as well as the bows and arrows of
both designs. Later from the beginning of the Christian era to the thirteenth
century came a second migration of Malays brought other bladed weapons. A third
migration of Malays began in the fourteenth to the middle of the fifteenth
century. These peoples are the ancestors of the present day Muslim Filipinos of
Mindanao and Sulu. It was the Muslim Filipinos who were the only ones that were
not subjected by the Spaniards and the Americans due the heavy resistance put up
by them. They favoured the bladed weapons but were also skilled with sticks,
bows and arrows as well as projectile weapons.
In the ninth century extensive trade relations with China T'ang dynasty martial arts skills. The Sung and Ming dynasty soon followed and large Chinese colonies were established in coastal areas. In the fifteenth century the Malaccan Empire was established and Mohammedanism began to spread to the Southern Philippines. The Chinese and Indo-Chines fought resisted but were pushed back. When the Spaniards came to the northern Philippines in 1570 they found Muslim Filipinos settled in communities with Chinese and Indo-Chinese. As a result of these racial mixtures the fighting arts were even more efficient than before.
The first known Filipino hero,
Lapulapu, was believed to be one of the foremost masters of arnis, kali, eskrima,
which was known during that time in the native dialect as pangamut. In fact,
Lapulapu had vigorously trained and prepared his men for "Showdown" fights
against his enemies long before his historic battle with Ferdinand Magellan on
April 27, 1521, in Mactan Island. It was no surprise then, that when the first
circumnavigator of the world tried to subdue the recalcitrant Lapulapu, who
refused to come and meet him in Cebu, Magellan and his men were met not with a
hail of bullets but with wooden instruments, spears, and bolos. It was ironic
that when the smoke of that epic battle cleared, the Spanish conquistadors more
"modern" weapons were no match for the crude wooden arms of Lapulapu and his
warriors. Magellan lost his life in that battle.
Lapulapu, even before his momentous meeting with Magellan, had been training his men because of his bitter rivalry with Rajah Humabon, whom he accused of having grabbed a portion of his father's land, particularly the sea area between the Mactan Island and Cebu. The feud between these two local chieftains contributed significantly to the early development of the 'old' arnis. The showdown between Lapulapu and Humabon, however, was never realised. Rather, it was in the battle of Mactan where the native martial art was put to a real test against the modern weapons of the foreign invaders.
With the defeat of the Spanish in 1898, by the United States, the occupation forces were met with a revolution of the Moros of Mindanao. At the time of the revolution, the American garrisons were constantly harassed by the Filipino Jurmentados or "Crazy Hermits". The Jurmentados would wear a red headband symbolizing their intent to fight until their own lifeblood from their bodies and go forth utilizing the art of Kali to slay those who were viewed as their oppressors. The Jurmentados, whose blind rage and utmost commitment made them rather unstoppable led to the development of the 45 Caliber pistol in 1911.
During the Second World War, the Japanese conquered the Philippines. At this time, the art of Combat Judo Kali fighting system was developed. Comjuka Kali utilizes the arts of Silat and Kali had been developed and was handed down from father to son. In order to keep practicing their art, the Comjuka practitioners had to change the Kali part of their system name to karate to make the Japanese believe that they were practicing a Japanese fighting style. The use of rattan sticks took place of the traditional bolos and knives in order to keep the Kali techniques and fighting methods alive. The fighting techniques were incorporated in to the dances of the different tribes and this practice allowed for faster training of fighting techniques, as the dances could be coordinated to resemble a particular fighting technique.
Manchurian Comjuka Kempo was developed by Grandmaster Rafael Reston of Batangas, Philippines while living in the Clark Air Base region of the Philippines. Along with his training in the arts of Balintawak arnis and the art of Japanese Kempo, he combined these arts into a fighting art that was sought out by military members who were stationed at Clark Airbase. With the influences of the military members who were taught other martial arts, Grandmaster Reston incorporated the arts of Chuan-fa from Taiwan and Goju-ryu from Okinawa. This gave both linear and circular motions and applications in the fighting art of Comjuka-Kempo. Grandmaster Reston was one of the most sought out instructors of the Philippines by military personnel assigned to Clark Airbase which resulted in the promotion of dozens of Black belts in the art of Comjuka-Kempo.
The Arnis practitioner employs short range, medium range and long range in their use of attacks, blocks and counters and uses feints to defeat their attackers. A variety of skills needs to be developed before the student or trainee becomes proficient. The training of these skills are similar to those developed during the kali days: striking, parrying, offence and defence with a blade/stick weapon, the use of the leg-hip fulcrum to break the opponent's balance and throw him, and using the stick/blade or free hand to disarm an assailant.
To complement the weapons training many modern instructors have integrated other Filipino arts specifically the kicking arts into their repertoire. Arts such as panuntukman, which is like a kick boxing style, sikaran which is a hand and foot art, pananjakman which are kicks aimed low. As well their is dumog as mentioned earlier which is a grappling art. So while many martial artist equate the Filipino arts as "stick fighting", if one digs deeper it is more than that. It's a whole complete form of self defence applicable to modern times.