Arnis – a Historical Form of Martial Arts

Arnis is considered to be the national sports for Martial Arts in the Philippines. Unlike other forms of martial arts in the planet, Arnis uses sticks as its primary weapon and at the same time a form of defense or armor during a fight. It has slowly evolved adapting to the standards of martial arts sports and it continuous to spread all around the world.

The Beginning of Arnis

Arnis came from the Spanish word “arnes” that means armor. During battles in the Prehispanic period when the Spaniards tried to conquer the Philippines, Arnis was used as a battle technique. Since this is a form of defense created by peasants or commoners during the early years, no written record was made to document the story behind Arnis. It continued to grow as Spaniards had adopted the sports, too.



Weapons and Techniques Used during Battles

Arnis is still a form of martial arts that uses skills and strength to fight back. But for beginners, Arnis is first mastered using its common weapons such as the sticks and knives. Students of Arnis Sports are using sticks to learn the basics of Arnis.

For beginners, there will be two sticks or what they locally call as “yantok”or “baston.” The sticks of Arnis are made of rattan – a stem common in Southeast Asian countries. The advantage of using this material is that it is a very lightweight when used but is very durable and hard. The length of the stick varies, but the standard size is 28 inches or 71cm.

Just like fencing, these rattan-made sticks are used for sparring. The goal of this is not to hit your enemy but to use it to develop your skills in sparring and counterstriking. Hitting your sparring partner is just a way of showing respect but in a very light impact on the hitting.

Eskrima is another term for Arnis, and it used edged weapons such as knives or daggers. These types of weapons are known as “baraw.” Other terms for these weapons are bolo or balisong. These are sharp weapons that will immediately wound your enemy. The use of edged weapons are not advisable for beginners, and it is not even practiced to be a part of an Arnis School since it is very dangerous especially to children

Strikes and Hitting Angles

Similar to other martial arts sports, Arnis also applies self-defense strategies and offense. The basic strikes for Arnis are:

San Miguel – it is a type of forehand strike of your right hand. This technique is termed as Angle #1 since this is the common angle attack.

Sinawali – this is commonly used in a two-stick sparring. This is also called the double-stick weaving movement.

Redonda – is a circular type of attack that is continuous on downward-striking and still uses double-stick.

Hakbang – in English is “step”, wherein you will be footwork techniques like pivoting or triangular stepping.

Puño – or fist is striking the enemy using the edge of the stick.


Mano Mano Technique

Students who have mastered the use of sticks can already continue to the higher level of Arnis using a “mano-mano” or what they call an empty-handed weapon. By just using your bare hands, you can apply the skills and techniques you’ve learned back when using the stick weapon.

The hand-to-hand technique already involves kicking, punching, grappling, throwing and locking.

Modern Arnis

Martial arts expertise is classified according to belt ranks and just like any other type of martial arts; Arnis also has its standard belt rank.

Instead of using different colors of belts, the ranking for Arnis is based on numbers but on local dialect. Beginners will be rank as Isa, followed by Dalawa, Tatlo, Apat, Lima, Anim, Pito, Walo, Siyam, Sampu and Labing-isa. For starters, they will be called as zero-degree which was referred to as probationary.

Belt rank is also gender-based for Filipinos. Men of different ranks will be called as “Lakan” (nobleman) followed by his level – Lakan Isa, while for women, they are termed as “dayang” (lady).

Arnis has been practiced worldwide already where different groups have been formed in different parts of the world. The famous organizations are the International Modern Arnis Federation (IMAF) and World Modern Arnis Alliance (MWAA).

Arnis is now popular in countries like Germany, Canada, and the United States.

Martial Arts for Kids

There are many activities that you can engage your children. There are team sports like basketball or football for boys and volleyball or cheerleading for girls. If your kids are not interested in playing with a team, there are also lots of individual sports that they can participate in. And one of them is martial arts.

Martial arts, like any other sport, help your kids become more active. While in their age, they are already active wherever they are, it is always a good idea to channel their unlimited energies into an activity where they can learn important life lessons.


Forms of Martial Arts


1. Kung Fu

This Chinese martial art is said to have originated in a Shaolin temple, where Chinese monks practice hands and feet movements for spiritual enlightenment. What most people don’t realize is that Kung Fu is a far wider discipline than other martial art forms. Kung Fu is the term for the combined martial arts in China such as the eagle claw, black tiger fist and many more.

2. Karate

One of the most popular martial arts discipline, Karate originated in Okinawa, Japan. This form of martial arts uses open hand techniques and a combination of elbow and knee strikes.

3. Judo

Another Japanese martial art, Judo is a rigorous activity that develops your kid’s physical and mental discipline. Judo teaches students to lift, throw, pin, control or overpower their opponents, forcing them into submission. Judo is internationally known as an Olympic sport.

4. Taekwondo

Developed by Korean martial artists between 1940s and 1950s, Taekwondo gives heavy emphasis on kicks. This martial art form is a combination of Korean martial arts gwonbeop, taekkyeon, subak and some foreign martial arts. Just like Judo, Taekwondo is also an official martial arts sport in the Olympics.


Martial Arts Belt Ranking

When your kids just started learning a martial arts discipline, they will be given a white belt. The instructors will then teach them a series of skills and techniques. Once they were able to deliver these well, they will move up a level higher and will be given the yellow belt. As your kids advance, they will be given a different belt, of which the black belt is the highest or expert level.


Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids

Aside from helping your kids become healthy and strong, there are many benefits your kids can get from taking martial arts classes.

1. Discipline

A martial art class always starts and ends with a bow between the students and the instructors. Even during sparring session, both students will bow at the beginning and end of the session. This practice helps children become disciplined. This trait is very useful in school and at home.

2. Concentration and focus

In martial arts, your child will learn punches, kicks, blocks and other defense techniques. When facing an opponent during your children’s class, they will concentrate hard so they will be able to read their opponent’s move and avoid direct hits. These exercises help your child build concentration and focus which are important factors in your child’s school performance.

3. Friendship

Instead of confining your children inside your home, enrolling them to any classes, including martial arts, will give them the opportunity to interact with other kids their age. If you have shy kids, this is a great way to develop their social skills and overcome their shyness.

4. Self-esteem and confidence

Seeing your kids getting excited about going to their next martial arts class show that they love what they are doing. When they love what they’re doing, they become better every time. When they get better at the martial arts discipline that they chose, especially when they get promoted from white belt to the next, they become more confident. And a boost of self-esteem will mean better performance in the classroom.

5. Spiritual and mental health

Enrolling your children in a martial art discipline will not only result to a sound body about also to a sound mind. Your kids will reap great benefits for having a good physical, mental and spiritual health. They will perform well in other aspects in life, particularly in academics. Your kids will also have a sharp mind and will not get easily fooled by people around them, especially strangers.

BAGH NAKA: The Tiger Claw Weapon

Bagh Naka (also known as Bagh Nakh) is a Hindu term for a weapon from India, which means “tiger claws” in English. This claw-like weapon is made to fit the knuckles or has a hole on each end for the pinky and index finger to fit. This weapon has three to five curved blades that are concealed in the palm of the hand. You can even complete the weapon’s concealment by decorating the knuckles with gems to make it look like you are wearing rings.

Bagh Nakh has a three to four claws and worn on the palm of one hand.

Bagh Nakh has a three to four claws and worn on the palm of one hand.

Bagh Naka is a lethal weapon used to slash the opponent’s skin and muscles. This weapon can also be upgraded with a one or two blades at each end and is called Bichuwa Bagh Naka because the blades resembled that of the Bichuwa or scorpion knife.

Many weapons have its most glorious moments. And Bagh Naka‘s shining moment is when the Hindu Marathi warrior Shivaji killed Bijapur Sultanate General Afzal Khan. In the mid-1600s, Shivaji has fought hard against the Islamic organization and its local practices especially the forbidden practice of Hinduism.

It is said that in 1659, Shivaji was invited to have a meeting with Sultanate General Afzal Khan. He had this suspicion that Khan would try to murder him during the meeting. So he wore a chainmail underneath his clothing and put on a Bagh Naka in his hand.

On the day of the meeting, the two embraced as a traditional greeting. As suspected, Khan tried to pierce Shivaji with his katar but failed to injure the Marathi warrior thanks to the chainmail he is wearing. He then revealed the bagh naka in his hand and clawed through the general’s flesh like a tiger. This event led to the Battle of Pratapgarh between the two leaders’ army leading to Hindu Marathi’s victory and making Shivaji a hero.