What’s the uniform of Arnis?

Katipunero Uniforms. Photo credit: forums.taleworlds.com
Katipunero Uniforms. Photo credit: forums.taleworlds.com

In the Philippines, Arnis doesn’t really have stiff rules on uniforms.

On practice sessions, you can wear your usual exercise outfit. In tournaments,  the rules vary. This is so unlike most of the martial arts which have strict requirements on their uniforms.

I venture to present several explanations for this:

1. During the more than 300 years of Spanish colonization, Arnis was a secret martial art. Practitioners had to hide what they were doing so, of course, they couldn’t wear a uniform.

2. When the American colonizers arrived in the early 20th century, they allowed us Filipinos to practice our martial art. The different practitioners emerged but each one had a style of his own. When they formed their own clubs, the few who had uniforms had their own color and style. (I think the most common these days are the black pants and shirt with red lining. But even then, these are usually just worn during exhibitions and not on regular practice days.)

3.  Arnis was passed from one generation to another, from father to son.  They practiced in their homes or in the streets. Uniforms were unnecessary and impractical.

4. Due to economic reasons, most Arnis practitioners, past and present, do not have access to gyms and formal areas of study. Practicing in public parks usually do not need uniforms. 

5. Unlike the other Asian martial arts, Arnis does not have a religious or royal origin so it does not have the usual rituals or formality, including uniforms.

In the 1970’s, Grandmaster Remy Amador Presas, developed a system he called Modern Arnis and he proposed this uniform:

  • Red loose pants
  • white shirt
  • Belts (white, brown, or black)

I have yet to find his explanation for this but many present Arnis instructors explain the choice this way:

This uniform is based on the uniform of the Katipuneros (revolutionary fighters who sought freedom from Spanish colonizers). See the right one on the photo above. Red means bravery and white means purity of heart.

At present, the Philippine National Games (Palarong Pambansa) requires Arnis athletes to wear the same:

  • Plain red pants (school or club logo may appear on the pants)
  • Plain white t-shirt (athlete’s name, school/club logo and sponsors may appear on the shirt provided that it does not dominate the overall appearance of the shirt)
  • Rubber soled shoes

No fuss.

Arnis is pretty straightforward, right? Right. 

I like it that way.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you for taking the time to read the Deadly Dance. Pugay!

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5 thoughts on “What’s the uniform of Arnis?

  1. witik August 15, 2014 / 6:36 PM

    I think Pekiti Tirsia Kali has rituals for their initiation.

    • thedeadlydance August 19, 2014 / 8:11 PM

      Is that PTK who does the chicken blood ritual? I think I saw a video of them doing it. I wonder if they really do that to all their students.

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