Okichitaw, a hybrid martial art

A martial art called Okichitaw that draws inspiration from the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations, the native Americans of Canada, is being promoted in Canada. Okichitaw is coined from the Plains-Cree word “okichitawak,” a title granted to a Cree warrior skilled in survival, protection and warfare.

Okichitaw moves are patterned after the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree First Nations. It also incorporates Asian martial arts in the the traditional fighting style of Canada’s indigenous people as developed by George Lepine, a Mechif Cree from the province of Manitoba in Canada. He holds sixth degree belts in both Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, both Korean martial arts.

The Plains Cree fighting moves have not been practiced for a long time but Lepine decided to come up with a coding and a system for the long forgotten martial art. There are almost no record of the fighting techniques of Plains-Cree native Americans.

However, this did not stop Lepine, who, at an early age, has learned weapon and throwing practices as well as hunting, tracking and wrestling from his uncles while growing up in Manitoba. He conducted research into the traditional Cree fighting techniques. He then incorporated the moves from Asian martial arts. After years of training and developing moves, Lepine succeeded in coming up with a code and system for the hybrid martial art.

Unlike many martial arts, which imitates animal moves, Okichitaw moves are patterned after movements of weapons such as tomahawk or knife. Okichitaw’s hand-fighting techniques use the forearm and fist, elbow or leg for attacks or counter attacks. Hands are used like tomahawks while kicks imitate that moves using a spear or lance.

However, Okichitaw enthusiasts are taught both armed and unarmed fighting in any position, either in an upright position or lying on the ground. Wrestling moves, such as rolling, are also being taught for attacking opponents.

The weapons used by Okichitaw practitioners include the gunstock war club (notini towin mistik); and the long knife called mokumon.The gunstock war club, the usual weapon used by Plains Cree warriors patterned after the design and shape of a gun, has a spike, a short lance or a knife placed on the curve of the club.

However, only the advanced Okichitaw students are taught the use of the tomahawk (chekinykunis) and the short and long lance. The most recognizable of the weapons used by Native Americans, the tomahawk, which is made of wood and metal, was also used as a tool.

Also, an Okichitaw practitioner has to learn Picicipayiw, the proper approach towards an opponent. The term means to burst forward, which requires the practitioner to fully engage an opponent.

This martial art involves basic but aggressive combat techniques that aims to bring their opponents to the ground for a quick finish. A student of Okichitaw has to be fit and has to develop strength, speed and agility, aside from being mentally alert. This is because of the very demanding training they have to go through to learn Okichitaw.

The Okichitaw teaches students to use “Four Directions” (East, West, South and North) in counter attacks, according to an article on the martial art (http://www.scifighting.com/2014/10/28/35733/technique-meets-tradition-in-cree-okichitaw/).

The East, which represents balance, confidence and creativity, involves “identifying or locating an opponent and developing a solid attack position.”

The South, which represents strength, focus and success, calls for a “brave and aggressive challenge of an opponent.”

On the other hand, the North represents courage, energy and knowledge and promotes the “control of an opponent through surprise and overwhelming force.”

Meanwhile, West refers to challenge, choice and proof and focuses on “taking down and finishing off of an opponent before moving on to the next one.”

While Okichitaw is not widely practiced, as of the moment, the number of students who want to learn it is growing, specially in Toronto, Canada where there are classes several times a week. And, during the 2002 Chungju World Martial Arts Festival, Okichitaw has been recognized as a unique aboriginal martial art of Canada by the World Martial Arts Union, which was accredited by UNESCO in 2010 as an advisory non-government organization to its Inter-governmental Committee for safeguarding of intangible cultural heritages.

Taichi – The Gentle Martial Art

When US First Lady Michelle Obama practiced Tai Chi moves during her visit to Chengdu No. 7 Highschool in Chengdu, Sichuan province in China, she called the martial art a “truly beautiful form of physical activity.”

Tai Chi is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as an ancient Chinese discipline of meditative movements practiced as a system of exercises. It is also called tai chi chuan or t’ai chi ch’uan. It is a common sight nowadays to see people, mostly the elderly, in parks and public places making Tai Chi moves.

Some enthusiasts consider Tai Chi Chuan as the “ultimate fighting art.” The literal translation of the phrase Tai chi chuan is the “great ultimate fist” and sometimes is known as the ultimate boxing or Chinese shadow boxing or Chinese boxing.

“Tai Chi Chuan, the great ultimate, strengthens the weak, raises the sick, invigorates the debilitated, and encourages the timid,” according to the late Tai Chi grandmaster Cheng Man Ching.

Liang Tung-Tsai, another Tai Chi master, considered this martial art as the best among exercises because it is suitable for everyone, young or old, weak or strong and even the disabled.

Indeed, many consider Tai Chi as a gentle martial art that not only drives away a person’s day-to-day stress but is also good for the health. Medical studies have shown that doing Tai Chi exercises regularly have positive effects on persons with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, depression, fibromyalgia and chronic heart failure.

“Research findings suggest that practicing Tai Chi may improve balance and stability in older people and those with Parkinson’s, reduce pain from knee osteoarthritis, help people cope with fibromyalgia and back pain, and promote quality of life and mood in people with heart failure and cancer,” according to the US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The NCCIH is supporting studies of Tai Chi’s effects on symptoms of anxiety and sleep quality in young adults, fibromyalgia and knee osteoarthritis.

But aside from having health benefits, Tai Chi has also been created as an art of self defense in ancient China during the disputes among warlords. During those times, warlords brought terror and destruction to villages whose residents do not bow to their orders. This led Taoist monks to create an art of self-defense that imitate the moves of certain animals and taught this to the villagers so they could protect themselves from the attacks of warlords.

However, compared to other martial arts, few people want to learn Tai Chi as a fighting art because it will take a longer training period before they can master it. One has to learn seven different skill sets – Qi energy warm-ups, solo forms, practicing Tai Chi with a partner, push hands, sparring games, transition between push hands and fighting and unrehearsed sparring. Tai Chi moves include punches, kicks, joint locks, nerve strikes, and throws.

What makes Tai Chi different from other martial arts is that instead of using brute force, a Tai Chi practitioner uses the opponent’s energy and movements so the latter would lose their balance and leave them open to counter strikes.

Since Tai chi appears to be a slow martial art, many consider it as having no real value as a skill for combatants. But in several competition involving different kinds of martial arts, Tai Chi practitioners have held their own. At a Wushu Festival organized by the Chinese Central Television Station and held in 2012 gathered 14 martial artists with different styles of fighting such as Tai Chi, Ba Ji, Hong Quan or Red Boxing, Shaolin, Tong Bei and Xin Yi. A 19-year-old Tai Chi fighter by the name of Chen Zhicheng prevailed over his opponent, a Shaolin monk, Cheng Xianwin, during the final matches, composed of one round of weapon and two barehand fights.

Indeed, Tai Chi can be an effective martial art for fighting just like any other martial art. What makes it different is that aside from the physical development, it also dwells on mental, emotional and spiritual development.

Mixing Dance Moves with Martial Arts

Did you know that Chinese kung fu was first created in the primeval age when man developed defense and offense moves they used when hunting wild beasts?  While martials arts was first used in fighting, the moves were then incorporated into dance movements, as a way to train soldiers and improve their morale, during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, from the 17th Century BC to 221 BC.

Along with wrestling and swordplay, martial arts dancing became popular in China during the In Qin and Han dynasties from 221 BC to 207 BC and 202 BC to 220 AD, respectively. One example was the sword dancing of Xiang Zhuang at the Hongmen banquet which was said to be similar to today’s martial arts.

The combination of dancing and martial arts is not surprising considering that the Chinese characters for dance, 舞, and martial arts, 武, are said to be two sides of the same coin. Both are also pronounced the same in Chinese –  “wu.” Also, students have to master both martial arts and dance so they could be considered accomplished scholars.

A famous martial arts school, the Tagou Martial Arts School in Anhui province in China, had even staged a synchronized presentation of mixed martial arts and dancing, providing an amazing performance.

A Chinese martial art performance called “The Wind of Shaolin,” for example, combines martial arts, acrobatics and classical dance. The 60 performers include monks of the Shaolin Temple and members of the Zhengzhou Song and Dance Theatre.

A group of Chinese performers called the Opera Warriors will also be staging performances in Canada that combine dance moves, acrobatics and martial arts in a story about three martial artists in the 20th century.

Another example of martial arts moves in dancing is the capoeira. The capoeira is a Brazilian art form combining fight, dance, rhythm and movement that has grown popular all over the world. The origin of capoeira is not clear but it was believed to have been created by the 16th century slaves who were brought by Portuguese colonists from West Africa to Brazil.

Since the African slaves were forbidden from practicing any martial arts or observe their customs, the capoeira served as a way to circumvent these two laws. The kicks and the moves were disguised as dance movements and it became not only as a method of self-defense but also as a symbol of cultural identity.

The capoeira also helped many slaves escape their masters to form communities in areas beyond the control of the Portuguese colonizers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the capoeira became a popular entertainment, either for competition or for leisure. Capoeira dancers have been warned and even punished for practicing the art form but the prohibition did not stop them. Thus, art of capoeira has been handed down from generation to generation and continues to be practiced in Brazil.

Nowadays, the capoeira has become quite popular and there are many schools offering classes to those interested to learn this martial art.

The World Capoeira Federation held the first ever world championships on the sport on May 30, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan and will be holding the 3rd world championship on May 4, 2016.

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.

Why Learning Martial Arts is Beneficial for Women

In society, women are regarded as the weaker sex. Women are feminine, shorter and lighter with lesser physical strength than men. Women are primary victims of crimes like theft and mugging, prone to attacks and are more vulnerable.

Because of these, you as a woman should learn how to defend yourself. It is not every day that your knight in shining armor will be there to save you. To protect yourself, you can buy yourself a pepper spray or taser.

You can also take extra precautions to prevent dangerous elements from harming you. Like automatically locking your car door as soon as you get in, this goes the same way when you arrive at your house. You can also ask a male friend that you trust to escort you to your car or house when it’s already late in the evening.

But if you want to take self-defense to a whole new level, you can also enroll in a martial arts class near your place. Research what schools are near, what discipline they teach, what type suits you best and start learning self-defense.

So to give you motivation on why you should start learning martial arts now, here are the reasons:

    1. Self-defense

Of course. That is precisely the number one reason you learn martial arts. Knowing that martial arts schools are dominated by men, you still choose to join because you need to get to defend yourself. Not by fighting back, but by making sure you know how to escape and free yourself from harm.

And what better way to test how efficient the techniques are but by having men in the class spar with you, to test your strength and skill against that of the stronger sex.

    2. Healthier body

Martial art is a physical activity. It requires you to make a lot of movements just like in sports or a gym. Because of the constant exercise, your body becomes healthier.

Martial art helps strengthen your heart muscles and improve heart rate. Physical activities like martial arts keep blood vessels open making blood regularly flow all throughout your body.

A weak body can lead to stress and fatigue, heart problems, illnesses and other problems. But with martial arts, you can counter all these and lead a healthier lifestyle.

    3. Better Posture

Martial arts activities help improve balance and flexibility. Constant steady movement helps align your backbone and stretches the muscles around it. Martial arts are beneficial to those career-oriented women who are living in a lifestyle where they are sitting most of their work time. Martial arts allow you to stretch your muscles, especially in the back and hip area. These are the parts of your body which require stretching and moving after a whole day of sitting behind your desk.

    4. Improve Core and Body Strength

Martial arts help tone your muscles and strengthen your core. Committing yourself to a martial art discipline will lead to increased agility and strength as well as boost energy levels and sharpens balance and reflexes.

With the exercises and movement you do in your martial art class, you are conditioning your core and muscles. This you cannot achieve if you are just sitting for eight hours and staring at your computer.

Here is a video of a female Muay Thai pro fighter during her training.

    5. Improve Emotional and Mental Health

Practicing martial arts improve mental alertness. This physical activity helps relieve frustration and stress, therefore, leading to emotional balance, focus and inner strength.

When you are physically active, your body releases endorphin similar that of morphine. Endorphin gives you a feeling of euphoria where you feel calm and relaxed. Having a secure feeling all the time gives you a happier and more positive outlook in life.


Have you ever watched one of Bruce Lee’s movies? If you did, you would surely know the legendary martial artist’s favorite choice of weapon; the nunchaku.

Nunchaku is made of two sticks connected by a short chain. This weapon, which originated in Okinawa, is not widely used in the past. It is deemed inefficient compared to other weapons such as swords and rifles. But during the Meiji Era in the late 1860’s, nobles stripped of their rights and privileges among them to carry weapons, saw no other choice but to improvise.

Many of them started to use sticks, hoes, oars and other objects that can be used as weapons. One of them started connecting two sticks with a rope and therefore, nunchaku was born.

Today, many countries have adapted and created their versions of nunchaku. China’s erjiegun, Europe’s combat flails, Korea’s ssangjulbong and Philippines’ tabak-toyok are some of the most popular ones.

There are different versions of nunchakus being sold today. Some nunchakus are made of wood, metal or even fiberglass. They are connected by a chain or rope. These nunchakus come in different sizes and designs.

Modern martial arts schools also use nunchaku as a tool for their students’ training. Although not used as a weapon, the use of nunchaku during training helps develop quicker hand movements and also improves posture.

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 help kids develop physically, mentally and emotionally.

martial arts help kids develop physically, mentally and emotionally.

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.

Here is a video  compilation of Competitive Taekwondo knockouts:


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.

4 Most Common Martial Arts Weapons

Martial art training is never complete without the use of weapons. Learning the use of these weapons when training, helps students have better hand and body coordination and improves movement speed.

Martial art weapons vary depending on the martial art discipline you want to learn. There are countless of weapons you can use when you train but below are the four most common martial arts weapons that you can use to develop your martial art skills.

1. Kama

The Kama is originally a farmer’s tool from Philippines and Japan. It is a small scythe used to cut crops like corn and rice. This weapon is most commonly used in Japan, Philippines, China and Indonesian martial arts. It can be used singly but most martial artists use a pair of kama, one for each hand.

This weapon is used for both defense and offense. You can use this weapon for various techniques. One way is holding a pair of kama towards the bottom of the handle to block long reach weapons like a sword or a bo staff. Another way is to block a weapon using one kama and use the other one to counterattack by thrusting or slashing the opponent’s skin and muscles, with the neck as the most critical part.

For martial arts training, you can use a plastic or metallic kama. This is especially for beginners and children. This version is easier and lighter to use and is safe with its non-sharp edge.

2. Bo Staff

Bo staff is a very long wooden staff used as a weapon in Japan. A typical bo staff is around 71 inches long and is commonly made of Oak or Bamboo for the hard wood version or rattan for a more flexible version.

It is believed that the bo staff was not invented as a weapon but as a tool to carry heavy baskets by the people in Okinawa. Japanese people would carry two buckets of water or vegetables or fish and balance both by placing the staff on one shoulder.

In the early 1600s, when Okinawa was invaded by the Shimazu clan of Satsuma, the island was placed under a weapons ban. Because of that, the common people of Okinawa are relying on everyday items for defense and from then on the staff is used as a weapon.

3. Nunchaku

Nunchaku is made of two sticks connected by a short chain. This weapon, which originated in Okinawa, is not widely used in the past. It is deemed inefficient compared to other weapons such as swords and rifles.

Today nunchakus are used in martial arts training; many countries have adapted and created their versions. China’s erjiegun, Europe’s combat flails, Korea’s ssangjulbong and Philippines’ tabak-toyok are some of the most popular ones.

There are different versions of nunchakus being sold today. There are nunchakus that are made of wood, metal or even fiberglass. A chain or rope connect both ends. These nunchakus come in different sizes and designs.

4. Eskrima/Arnis/Kali Sticks

Eskrima or (Escrima) stick is one of the weapons used in the Eskrima martial arts also known as Kali and Arnis. Eskrima/Arnis/Kali is the National Martial Art in the Philippines. This Filipino martial art emphasizes on fighting with weapons like knives, sticks, sharp weapons and other improvised weapons.

The length of the eskrima stick or more commonly known in the Philippines as yantok or rattan stick varies but is usually 71 centimeters or 28 inches. The stick or baston (baton) can be used singly or with both hands.


The art of arnis, also known as eskrima and kali, might have originated from the Philippines but it has gained a following in the United States and other parts of the world. This art of fighting has evolved over the years and has taken on various styles depending on those promoting this martial art.

Arnis is a Filipino martial art used by early Filipinos for fighting between tribes long before Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish galleons came to the Philippines. This art of fighting was then known by different names such as kali or kabaroan in Ilocos, kalirongan in Pangasinan and esfocado or esgrima in Bicol.

During the Spanish regime, there were three variations of arnis : one using sword and dagger; another one using a single stick and a third one using two sticks. Then known as kali, fighters use bare hands or with different types of weapons such as daggers, kampilan (Filipino broad swords) and spears or a combination of hands and weapons.

Antonio Pigafetta, in his account of the Battle of Mactan, said that Magellan was killed by a bladed weapon. While Pigafetta claimed that Magellan and his men were defeated because they were outnumbered, some have surmised that the invaders were out-fought by the fighting skills of Mactan chieftain Lapulapu and his men who were using bamboo spears and kampilan.

Because having knowledge of arnis was considered as a dangerous skill, the Spanish authorities discouraged the practice of the martial art. However, Filipinos continued to practice arnis as a ritual and for mock battles. Through these activities, the art of arnis was then passed through generations. However, there was no concerted effort to preserve the art of arnis.

There were quite a number of Filipinos skilled in arnis but it was not until the early 1900 when the Labangon Fencing Association was formed in Cebu, which was considered the center for arnis in the Philippines. The members were using different types of arnis or eskrima but they believed that forming the group would benefit them. The group disbanded, however, due to a misunderstanding over finances.

A few years later, a group of 12 arnis or eskrima masters in Cebu formed the Doce Pares Club on January 11, 1932, according to the pitbull.com (http://thepitmalibu.com/docepareshistory.html). The name Doce Pares referred to the 12 bodyguards of French Emperor Charlemagne who were reportedly highly skilled swordsmen. The name was also in honor of the 12 original founding members of the club. Today, there are several Doce Pares groups that espoused the same fight style of the original Doce Pares but with variations. Other groups were also formed in Cebu and other areas in the Philippines.

It was not until 1975 when there was a move to form a national organization called the National Arnis Association of the Philippines through the efforts of then Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver. But with the change in administration, the organization did not prosper.

In July 1986, a group of arnis enthusiasts decided to form the Philippine Arnis Federation, renamed later as Arnis Philippines, to become an umbrella organization for all the arnis associations all over the Philippines. It has been accredited as the national arnis sport association by the Philippine Olympic Committee and has the sole right to supervise all arnis affairs in the Philippines. Arnis has also been declared the national martial art and sport of the Philippines through Republic Act 9850.

The practice of arnis has also spread outside the Philippines, not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world as well. Several associations have been formed such as the International Kali Arnis Escrima Federation (IKAEF) and the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF). The two federations have been conducting training workshops and competitions in different parts of the world.