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The martial art "Kali"

There are more than 100 different martial arts on the Philippine Islands, named either after their regions, their characteristic properties or their developers. Because of the different languages, many of these styles have different names in different regions. The martial arts system "Kali" is known in some regions, e.g. on the island of Cebu, under the name "Escrima" and in the north as "Arnis".

The term

The term potash is used more on the central archipelago. There is no standard definition, but the most likely one is that the word Kali has two parts: Ka stands for "camot" and means "hand", Li for "lehok" and means "movement". Kali can therefore be translated either as "moving hand" or simply as "hand movement". The term Escrima is derived from "esgrima", the Spanish word for fencing or the art of fencing. Arnis comes from the Spanish word "arnés" and means armor, protection or armor. Kali, which author Dr. Gunnar Siebert in his book "Arnis, Escrima, Kali", also referred to as "the fascination of the whirling sticks", is the most famous martial art in the Philippines. The system consists of kicking, punching, levering, blocking, grasping, disarming and throwing techniques. However, the handling of weapons, such as knives and sticks, is characteristic of the Kali. The sticks are made of rattan, a type of reed palm that can be up to 100 m long.


The real history of potash begins around 200 BC. At this time the Malay tribes brought the techniques of Tjakalele, an Indonesian archetype of potash, to the Philippine islands. Since the Malays also had forged weapons, they enriched the Filipino martial arts, which at that time consisted more of unarmed techniques and the use of bows and arrows.

Around 1200 AD, Chinese soldiers in the Ming Dynasty conquered the Philippine Islands. The Chinese made z. Sometimes bloody acquaintances with the Filipino fighters, who inflicted many defeats on the Chinese soldiers with their sticks and swords. The Chinese immigrants also brought the kuntao, today's Filipino hand and foot combat, to the Philippines. Through the influence of different cultures, through experience in many struggles and through careful studies, the Filipino techniques slowly formed into a smooth, aesthetic, precise and extremely effective system over the next centuries. The Filipinos took over the art of fighting with swords and daggers from the Spaniards and developed the so-called “espada y daga” techniques from it. H. Sword and dagger techniques.

In the 16th century, under Spanish occupation, potash enjoyed enormous popularity among both the upper and lower classes. The ordinary Filipinos used the kali not only for self-defense but also for entertainment. It was also used to correct differences among each other or to determine who had the best techniques. In 1767 the Spaniards forbade the Philippines to practice martial arts because they became too dangerous over time. They tried to systematically destroy Filipino culture by burning books and banning the use of the native alphabet. The Philippines secretly preserved parts of their culture by z. B. Movement sequences from the Kali now performed dancing with special clothing on which the Filipino alphabet was sewn as an ornament, which the occupiers did not notice. In addition, the local residents secretly perfected their techniques in the jungle. The resulting techniques have been passed on to family members almost exclusively, so virtually no records exist.

The Modern Age

The oldest club still in existence on the Philippine Islands was founded in 1932, initially as a secret society. After the Philippine independence in 1946, the meaning of potash changed. The system was only trained in the individual families behind closed doors and was almost never made public. Only a few older masters helped to make the knowledge about Kali accessible to the outside world and not to let it be forgotten.