Sports Guide

Fight to survive, Filipino style

By Dawn NgEvents - 04 March 2010 2:59 PM | Updated 12 August 2010

 Fight to survive, Filipino style


If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at a different form of combat, Filipino martial arts might be something to consider. Much like the traditional Malay martial art form called Silat, Filipino martial arts is a broad umbrella term, encompassing numerous martial art forms originating from the Philippines.


Origins of Filipino martial arts

Developed centuries ago by native Filipinos, these martial arts, also known as Kali, have evolved through the years to reflect the different cultural and political influences on the country.

In 1521, Spanish troops sent to conquer the Philippines met with strong resistance from a local islander chief who pitted his martial arts skills against them and emerged victorious, gaining him much recognition as the first native to resist the Spanish invaders.

When the Spanish colonised the Philippines eventually, they imposed strict rules against the use of Kali, forcing the art underground. Thus, unlike other forms of martial arts that have set principles and core beliefs, the continuous evolution of Filipino martial arts stemmed from the innate need for self-preservation and constant adaptation to new changes in the environment.

There is no doubt that the Spanish had a great influence over the culture and fighting styles in the Philippines and over the years, the name Kali evolved to have Spanish-derived names of ‘arnis de mano’ as well as ‘eskrima’.

Despite having different names, the skills taught in both unarmed and armed combat are similar, as are the training methods.


What are Filipino martial arts?

Contrary to popular belief, Filipino martial arts are limited not only to stick fighting. Although rattan sticks are commonly used in training, Filipino martial arts exponents are also adept at weaponless skills as well as ‘empty-hand’ skills which involve kicks, punches, trapping and grappling.

Such martial arts also teach defensive manoeuvres against armed and unarmed attacks.

Unlike other conventional martial arts, Filipino martial arts does not have repetitive forms. Instead, techniques are taught directly with self-defence applications in a fluid manner, explains Ben Boeglin, marketing director at Kali Majapahit, a Filipino martial arts school in Singapore.

“There are very few rules in Filipino martial arts, but the premise of the art is all about flowing and dealing with situations that confront us, be it on the training mats or in real life,” he says.


I want to be a Filipino martial arts exponent

Like any other sport, Filipino martial arts involves a good deal of discipline and fitness. A typical training session comprises a quick warm-up, lessons in techniques and applications as well as some optional sparring.

As the sport is relatively new to Singapore, beginners do not need to worry playing catch up. Those with prior knowledge of martial arts can draw on their experiences to help shape their movements and styles.

“Absolute beginners will get to start their martial arts journey with us,” says Ben. “However, the important aim is to make the martial art their own.”


Where do I sign up?

If you’re interested in picking up Filipino martial arts, head down to Kali Majapahit. The school offers courses for beginners and students already familiar with the art form as well as other interesting ones like Filipino boxing.


Kali Majapahit is located at 43 Carpenter Street, # 02-01, Tel: 6534-5254. For more information, visit