Kali, Anyone?

Moros of Mindanao

Reader Don posted the following:

I’m glad to find such a recent post on this topic. I’ve seen the same things you and cook are talking about. From my knowledge Giron’s and Cabales’ arts came from regions of Spanish occupation but I still can’t find a Moro (Filipino Muslim ) fighting system use the Kali.

I’ve read an Illustrisimo book where the current grand master refutes Kali and it should be corrected kalis Illustrisimo reflecting the blade (kalis) . As for the Indonesia and Malaysia argument, everyone calls it [pencak] silat over there. And silat is also weapon based that do address long weapons at certain level of training. so I advise people not to assume one empty hand and the other is weapon. Also look for the general meaning of silat, escrima,and arnis. They all reference “fighting” in some way, simple as that.

Kali always gets this romanticized story to validate it.

The money quote is here: “I still can’t find a Moro (Filipino Muslim ) fighting system use the [term] Kali.”

And I’d be willing to bet money, Don, that you never will. As Nepangue and others point out, every single arnista of renown is either Visayan (with the vast majority of those from Cebu), or Ilocano (Ilocos and Pampanga regions). Anyone in Mindanao who practices arnis is typically a transplant from the Visayas.

And the Illustrisimo clan, noted for the use of the term kali, are Cebuanos.

Once again, I am NOT saying that kali practitioners are no good, nor am I saying that you don’t have a right to call your art kali. What I am saying is that kali is not necessarily better than arnis or eskrima as practiced in other parts of the Philippines, and that there is no indigenous Muslim art called kali.

I will take any Visayan or Ilocano practitioner of the FMA over any indigenous Mindanao art practitioner, any day.

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6 Responses to “Kali, Anyone?”

  1. the moro’s were crazy. they actually gave the americans the idea of the .45 caliber pistol, since smaller caliber hand guns didnt have enough stopping power the moros just kept on charging.

  2. I grew up in the Philippines in the 60’s & 70’s, and having traveled throughout with my uncle (a former WWII guerilla & Chief of Police of Leyte). I never heard the term Kali until I came the states (Hawaii).

    The only reasonable explanation I heard was that it was a combination of ka- from the words kalis (a blade) or kamut (hand) plus li- from lihok (movement). In other words, it was a made up word, like Ka-ju-ken-bo. This made sense to me as we Filipinos enjoy our word games and puns.

    Now, Filipinos in the Philippines have learned to use the term Kali when foreigners come looking for the “art,” because that’s what’s expected, and money can be made giving the foreigners what they seek. But, in truth, there is NO SUCH THING AS A NATIVE ART CALLED KALI, especially an “mother” art that is uniform throught the Philippines. The fighting arts of the Muslim south are different from the Spanish-influenced Visayas and Luzon. The fighting arts of the Benquet, Igorot and Ifugao peoples (who were headhunters!) are markedly different from everyone else.

  3. Quote:

    “. . . or Ilocano (Ilocos and Pampanga regions).”

    Er, this seems to be a bit misleading. Ilocanos and Kapampangan/Pampangos are very different from each other.

  4. Juan,

    I realize there are differences in Ilocanos and Pampangans. GM Estailla is Ilocano, but although the late GM Giron was from Pangasinan, they could both communicate in Ilocano.

    I was in Tarlac and I heard Kampampangan for several days. I understood nothing. The funny thing is, I thought I recognized the word “buris,” which is Ilocano for “diarrhhea,” but in Kampampangan means “like.”

    My point is that I am viewing it as a region of the country, an Ilocano region, much like there’s a Visayan region, even though Cebuanos and Boholanos are distinct and have separate languages.

  5. Hello again. I’m a cross-breed of both actually. Mom is Ilocano, Dad is Kapampangan/Pampango.

    I understand the point you are trying to convey about “macro-regions” which is a regional/cultural/ethnological grouping (i.e. – Ilocandia, Bicolandia, Visayan, etc). It does go beyond language though.

    The Kapampangans are one of the first evolved regional groups here in the Philippines. Their Pre-Hispanic kingdom spread from Manila all the way to Tarlac. The language is very similar in fact to Malay/Indonesian Bahasa having a lot of cognate words (which according to some studies derives from the ancient Javan-Majapahit roots). But I digress on another topic altogher.

    Kali is indeed naka-KALI-to, right?

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