Arnis – the national martial art and sport of the Philippines

Arnis, also known as Eskrima or Kali, is a traditional Filipino martial art that encompasses a wide range of techniques involving the use of sticks, blades, and empty hands. It is declared the national martial art and sport of the Philippines under Republic Act No. 9850. It is not only a form of self-defense but also an important part of the Philippines’ cultural heritage. Arnis is characterized by its fluid and practical techniques, making it an effective martial art for both self-defense and sport.

Historical Roots

Arnis has deep historical roots in the Philippines, dating back to pre-colonial times when it was developed as a means of self-defense against invading forces. Over the centuries, Arnis evolved and adapted, incorporating influences from indigenous Filipino fighting styles as well as Spanish, Chinese, and Southeast Asian martial arts.

Weaponry Training

One of the distinctive features of Arnis is its emphasis on weaponry training. Practitioners learn how to use various weapons, including rattan sticks, knives, and bladed weapons. This training not only develops combat skills but also enhances coordination, speed, and accuracy.

Empty-Hand Techniques

While Arnis is known for its weapon-based techniques, it also includes empty-hand techniques for self-defense. Practitioners learn how to defend against armed and unarmed opponents using strikes, blocks, joint locks, and throws.

Flow and Adaptability

Arnis is characterized by its emphasis on flow and adaptability. Practitioners engage in sparring sessions that focus on the seamless transition between various techniques and ranges, fostering quick thinking and adaptability in combat situations.

Cultural Significance

Arnis holds cultural significance in the Philippines as a reflection of the nation’s history and resilience. It has survived through colonial periods and has been preserved and passed down through generations. Today, Arnis is celebrated as a cultural treasure and is often performed during festivals and cultural events.

Competitive Sport

Arnis has also evolved into a competitive sport, both within the Philippines and internationally. Various tournaments and competitions showcase practitioners’ skills in different categories, including forms (sequences of movements), stick-fighting sparring, and empty-hand sparring.

Global Recognition

Arnis has gained recognition on the global stage, with practitioners and enthusiasts promoting its techniques and philosophy worldwide. Efforts have been made to standardize the practice and rules for competitive Arnis, allowing it to be included in international martial arts events.

Arnis is not only a means of combat and self-defense but also a cultural expression that reflects the resilience and ingenuity of the Filipino people. It embodies the spirit of adaptability, resourcefulness, and discipline, making it a cherished art form that continues to thrive and evolve in the modern world.


Photo by RDNE Stock project

Additional Information

Read more about Philippine Sports and Activities. Check out the links below to discover more.


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