The Philippines is an island nation in the Western Pacific of almost 70 million people where more than 70 dialects are spoken. Over the centuries the Philippines has been a crossroad for various cultures trading and fighting.
Kali is considered by some to be the mother art of the modern Filipino Martial Arts. (Note: This is not exactly true –I’ll replace/explain later. –Alex) Records from the Malay Sri-Vishaya empire dating to the 8th century A.D. refer to Kali as the art of the Philippines.1 According to historians, the Ten Datus of Borneo brought there fighting methods to the island of Panay. Here, basic reading, writing and Kali were taught in the schools.
On April 27, 1521, Magellan died on Mactan Island at the hands of Chief Lapu-Lapu–a Kali practitioner. Due to the loss of written records, the exact techniques of Kali remain a mystery today although elements of Kali remain alive in the foundation of today’s Filipino Martial Arts.
The Spanish began a 400 year occupation of the islands late in the 16th century. To suppress opposition to their rule, the Spanish banned the teaching of Kali. Elements of the art were hidden in folk plays and native dance. However, over time, Spanish fencing methods were blended into the indigenous fighting framework. Under Spanish influence, the native art became known as eskrima, estocada, arnis de mano or arnis.
The Filipino Martial Arts assume different names in different regions. In the Manila area, the art is known as Arnis or Pananandata, in Pangasinan as Kalirongan, in the Ilocos region of Luzon as Kabaro-an, and in the Visayas as Eskrima.
Arnis historians have cited as many as 200 systems or styles of Arnis-Eskrima-Kali. Names describing the range of fighting include Largo (long-distance), Medio (medium-range) and Corto or Serrada (close, in-fighting). Names based on movement include Abanyko (fanning), Palis-Palis (go with the force) Sungkiti (flicking), Ocho-Ocho (figure eight) and Lastico (snapping). Systems can be called by the choice of weapon, e.g., solo baston (single cane), doble baston or sinawali (double cane), espada y daga (sword and dagger), mano-mano or de kadina (empty-hands).
Some of the most well-known styles of Arnis-Eskrima-Kali are Illustrisimo Kali, Pekiti Tirsia, Doce pares Eskrima, Marinas Pananandata, Balintawak, Cabales Serrada, Villabrille Eskrima, Presas Modern Arnis, and Kombatan.
Kombatan was developed by Grandmaster Ernesto Presas of Negros Oriental Province in the Visayas. R Ernesto, founder of Filipino Mano-Mano, resides in Manila and teaches at the University of Santo Tomas and the Lyceum as well as conducts seminars throughout the Philippines, Europe and the U.S.
Kombatan is a composite of various classical and modern fighting systems used in the Philippines. The student of Kombatan is introduced to the various systems described above in the full range of fighting. An emphasis is placed on drills to train the student to react instinctively. Students are encouraged to develop their own “style” of techniques within the Kombatan framework.
In contrast to many other oriental martial arts, the Arnis student first learns how to handle and defend against weapons. This philosophy is to a large degree culturally bound, but also has a practical application. The Philippines has traditionally been a blade-oriented society. Even today, in many rural areas both men and women use swords and knives in their daily work. Self-defense using a blade is the preferred method. In a practical sense, the rationale for training a student with weapons first and then later with hands and feet is (1) training cane to cane is safer than taking punches and kicks to the body, and (2) if you can defend against a weapon then fighting against punches and kicks will come easily because training with canes conditions one to avoid errors in judgment.
Major players include: Ernesto Amador Presas (deceased), Fred Lazo (deceased), Ernesto Presas Jr., Pepe Yap, Michael Ermac, Mike Bowers, Alex France, Lito Concepcion, John R. Malmo, Jon Rudy, Andy Elliott, Jürg Ziegler, Wolfgang Schnur, Walter Hubmann, Edwin Lao, Thorbjørn “Toby” Hartelius, Johan Skålberg, Alex Ercia, Audy Ercia, Rami Vainionpää, Tomi Harell, Jose G. Paman, Randy Remolin, Carlos Pulanco, and Andreas Boruta.
Kombatan combines several traditional Filipino styles that have been blended into a single art:
• Hirada Batangueno
• Sungkiti Tutsada
• Abaniko Largo / Corto
• Doblada / Doblete
• Banda y Banda
• Espada Y Daga
• Daga sa Daga
• Dulo Dulo
• Dos Puntas
• Tres Puntas