Filipino Martial Arts

What is the difference between Arnis, Kali and Eskrima?

The Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), like other Martial Arts, is a tree with many branches. The terms Kali, Arnis and Escrima or Eskrima, have been confusing to some who wish to understand what the differences between these arts are.

The truth is that they are all part of the FMA (Filipino Martial Arts). Escrima/ Eskrima, is from a Spanish term which means ‘fencing’. Its influence was more from the central part of the Philippines. Arnis, which is also a Spanish term actually was derived from the term ‘ Arnes de mano’ which translated to ‘ armour of the hands’ referring to the warrior’s ability to protect themselves with their weapon. It was later shortened to the term we now know it to be, ‘Arnis’. Arnis was known as the term used for this FMA in the northern parts of the Philippines. Kali is a Filipino term which was commonly known in the southern part of the Philippines and a common phrase used among Filipino Martial Arts. For the most part, these are all the same martial art. The masters of these arts influenced each other and thus there are many similarities. The differences usually depend on the instructor.

Some of the differences between them are execution of techniques, difference in stances, speed versus power techniques, light sticks versus heavier sticks, long sticks versus short sticks etc. There are more similarities than differences. All three train stick fighting, edged weapons defence, daggers and empty hand self-defense techniques as well. Each have their pattern sets and each emphasize self-defense techniques. No matter what name you choose to use to describe this Filipino Martial Art, one thing is for sure, it’s a mesmerizing martial art to watch, fun to learn and its practical applications for self-defense are among some of the best in the weapon self-defense.                      

Here is a list of some of the techniques found in Filipino Martial Arts.


Impact- short stick, staff, palm stick, shield, improvised weaponry (such as keys, pens, rolled-up newspapers)

Edged- knife, sword, machete

Flexible- chain, whip, rope

Projectile- bow and arrow, spear, blowpipe, dart


Mano mano- punch, kicks, elbows, knees, locks

Sikaran- kicking techniques

Dumog- Filipino style grappling

Buno- Filipino style of wrestling

Yaw-Yan- similar to Muay Thai

Silat is a collective word for a class of indigenous martial arts from the geo-cultural area of Southeast Asia, more precisely in the Malay Archipelago, a region known locally as Nusantara.