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  • Writer's pictureGrace Dabir

The Filipino Martial Art of Arnis

Being Filipino, I wanted to highlight Arnis, the national martial art of the Philippines. Arnis was designed to be a self-defense system, as well as a training method for martial artists in the Philippines. When I interviewed Dax Cordero, he showed me how to use the Arnis weapon. To explain what it looks like, it is a shorter version of a Bo Staff that is meant to be held with one hand while striking. When going into a fighting stance with this weapon, it should be held with your dominant hand (for me that would be my right) and should be in the back. For example, the proper stance for a right handed person would be to have your left foot in front, with your right foot in the back. The weapon will be held with your right hand in the back, and your left hand should be available to block (and vice versa for a left handed fighter). To hold the arnis stick properly, your hand should be towards the bottom of the weapon, and gripped tightly. With Dax, I went over some strikes in a clock-like motion (watch attached video for more details).

Arnis originated in the Philippines as a method of self defense for native tribes to protect themselves. While the influence comes from Chinese martial arts, it is also thought that Arnis took some inspiration from the Spanish sport of fencing. Filipinos were long exposed to Spanish culture due to the islands being colonized by Spain for more than 300 years. The Spanish called this technique “Arnis” or “Arnis de Mano” (“harness of the hand”) to standardize the practice.

Arnis was later popularized in 1969 by Remy Presas, who came to the United States to teach Arnis seminars and camps.

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