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Unlike Taekwondo, Kung Fu San Soo, and Krav Maga, all of which originated in the 20th century (although having roots in other, much older disciplines), Kali, sometimes known as Arnis or Escrima*, has its origins in pre-Hispanic Philippines. Before the Spanish landed in the Philippines, the Filipinos fought with swords, sticks, and knives. The first Spaniard to visit the Philippines was Ferdinand Magellan whose ships circumnavigated the globe sans Magellan. This is because Magellan was killed in Cebu by a local chief known as Datu Lapu-Lapu. When the Spaniards came back, they conquered the Filipinos and told them that bladed weapons were a no-no. So the Filipinos adopted the stick as their weapon since it didn’t look like one.

The Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) that include the nearly interchangeable Kali, Arnis, and Escrima, are the only popular martial arts that start training with weapons instead of empty hands (hitting and kicking). The theory is that whatever is done with the stick can be done with a knife or the hands. So sticks come first, then knives, and then empty hands.

Elements and drills of Kali are taught at the Albuquerque Taekwondo and Self Defense Club.

* There are subtle differences between these three arts. And more subtle differences between the hundreds of variations on the many islands and communities in the Philippines.

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