How many Filipino Martial Arts can you name?


Yesterday I can name only eight, with difficulty. Now, 20 easily.

Thanks to my new, big, and heavy coffee table book, The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World by Chris Crudelli, 2008.

Reading an overview of the hundreds of martial arts from all over the world and seeing the beautiful, well chosen photos made me feel like an eager student again — I took down notes!

Although I suspect that Crudelli’s list may not be 100% complete, he discussed 20 FMAs and that’s 100% good enough for me.  Afterall, where else can I find such a list?

For that, I’ve decided that this is now one of my favorite martial arts books.

Well, classmates, would you like to look at my notes?

Name and Explanation Date of Origin and Founder Notes
1.    Balintawak Named after a street in Cebu 1950s, Venancio Bacon
  • Motto: economy, elegance, strength, and speed”
  • Influenced by the Doce Pares systems
  • Also known as Balintawak Eskrima
  • Developed from the founder’s experience of fighting death matches
2.   Buno “To throw” or “to kill” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • A wrestling art similar to Dumog (see below)
  • Has throwing techniques with controlled locks, joint manipulations, strikes, ground wrestling, and takedowns
  • Also has weapons like knives, spears, bows and arrows
3.    Dumog “Brawling” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • A wrestling art
  • Often taught alongside Eskrima (see below)
  • Techniques – unbalancing techniques, weight systems, and joint locks many of which can be performed from the clinch position
  •  Somewhat similar to western wrestling and the weight shifting principles of Aikido
  • Head- often used as a lever (“where the head goes, the body follows”)
4.    Escrido Filipino Mixed Martial Art 1980s, Ciriaco Canete
  • Has Eskrima stick, sword, and knife fighting techniques with locks and takedowns commonly found in jujutsu
  • Covers all fighting distances from long- and medium-range, to close quarter and grappling
  • Trains with one or multiple attackers
5.   Eskrima       From “Esgrima”, meaning “Fencing” in Spanish Indigenous art, No known founder
  • Emphasis- weapons based-training followed by empty hand movements
  • Battle-proven techniques
  • Also known as Escrima, Kali, or Arnis
  • Uses any method that might work in a fight like hand and foot strikes,  grappling, throwing, and shoving
  • Common weapons – solo stick, double stick, sword and stick, stick and dagger
  • Some systems specialize in other weapons  like whip, staff, and projectile weapons
  • Footwork generally follows a triangular pattern
6.    Espada y Daga “Sword and dagger” in Spanish 16th Century, No known founder
  • Have roots in Spanish swordsmanship
  • Stronger hand usually holds the longer weapon
  • Weaker hands fends off and stabs with the shorter weapon
  • Footwork is usually geometric
7.    Gokusa   A mix of Kuntao and Balintawak 1960s, Jose “Ju Go” Millan (A student of Anciong Bacon, a well known Filipino stickfighter)
  • Emphasis – shifting body weight and aligning the spine correctly
  • Has 12 strikes and defenses
8.    Jendo “The economical new fist way” in Tagalog 1973, Jonathan Makiling
  • Empty hand techniques plus traditional Filipino weapons like stick and knives
  • Recognized in 1996 as a Filipino Martial Art by the Philippine Sports Commission
  • Central philosophy – “tres energies” or three forces: the forces of normal, the unexpected, and the exceptional
9.    Kadena de Mano“Chain of hand” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • Combines empty hand and knife techniques
  • Most important aspects- combination techniques and reaction flow
  • Usually a series of short, fast movements delivered with both hands and elbow serve as simultaneous blocks and strikes
10. Kali Sikaran Filipino empty hand martial art Indigenous art, No known founder
  • Blends indigenous stickfighting, empty hands techniques with fencing techniques introduced by the Spanish
11. Kombatan Filipino Mixed Martial Art 1970s, Ernesto Presas
  • Largely based on the teachings of the founder’s brother Remy
  • Mixes Eskrima, eclectic elements of judo, karate, jujutsu and Japanese and Filipino weapons systems
  • Also influenced by Espada y Daga, Dumog, Bangkaw, Sinawali and Palit-palit
  • Well known for its double stick techniques
  • Highly organized collection of diverse techniques – stickfighting, knife fighting, grappling, throwing, chokes, holds
12. Kuntaw “Sacred strike” in Tagalog“Kuntaw” is a generic name for hand and foot fighting techniques Indigenous art, No known founder
  • One of the oldest fighting systems in the Philippines
  • Contains a number of open-hand and foot-striking combinations and holds and locks
  • Has a complex system of hitting vital points like nerve centers and sensitive bones
13. Kuntaw Lima-lima “Complete sacred strike” in Tagalog 1950s, Carlos Lanada
  • Also known as Kuntaw Arnis
  • Heavily influenced by kuntaw
  • Uses hands, feet, elbows, stick, and dagger
  • “Lima” (or “five”) – number of weapon forms used by brown belt or higher lever practitioners
  • “Lima lima” means “complete”
  • 25 Basic moves: 5 strikes, 5 thrusts, 5 blocks, 5 disarms, 5 locks
14. Lameco Eskrima  Stick and dagger martial art 1980s, Edgar Sulite
  • Heavily influenced by Eskrima systems taught by Jose Caballero and Antonio Ilustrisimo.
  • Main weapon – “baston“  which varies in length, weight, and thickness, according to the preference of the practitioner
  • Other weapons – stick and dagger, daggers, sword, staff
15. Modern Arnis    Stickfighting art 1960s, Remy Presas
  • A self defense system that is holistic, friendly, and injury free yet still preserved many of the traditional Filipino fighting techniques
  • Emphasis – correct body alignment  and shifting before  striking
  • Has 12 striking techniques
  • Also has the stick and knife training of espada y daga
16. Pangamut “Unarmed fighting” in Tagalog Unknown, No known founder
  • Has grappling, hand strikes, kicks, leg sweeps, foot traps, biting, gouging
  • Sticks, knives, daggers skills taught
  • Teaches weapon techniques with an empty hand
17. Sagasa      “Running over” in Tagalog 20th Century,     Guillermo Lengson (of the Philippine Karate Federation)
  • A kickboxing art
  • Techniques – boxing, arnis weapon fighting, throwing, striking, grappling
  • “Bakbakan” – a subsystem that favors full-contact sparring as primary training method
18. Sikaran      “To kick” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • A kickfighting martial art
  • Resembles karate
  • Predates the arrival of the Spanish
  • Probably developed by farmers
  • Signature move: “biakid” — player pivots his body in a somersault movement, flailing one leg in a vertical arc over his head
  • Two kinds of attack: “panghilo”, a paralyzing blow usually aimed at the thighs, kidneys, chest, knees, or feet
  • “pamatay”, a lethal blow to the neck, head, groin, heart, or spine
19. Suntukan         “Boxing” in Tagalog Unknown, No known founder
  • Involves empty hand, flowing, and striking drills which include chopping maneuvers and close range “chaining” where punches flow naturally in short bursts
20. Yaw-yan  “Dance of death” in Tagalog 1972, Napoleon Fernandez (a well-known kickboxing champion from Quezon Province)
  • An external fighting style (driven by speed and muscle power)
  • Follows many muay thai principles but differs in its downward cutting kicks and its hip-torquing motions
  • Has 40 basic kicks
  • Training usually full contact sparring using elbows, knees and shins
  • Has grappling and throwing techniques
  • Also trains in weapons mainly bolos, machete and balisong (butterfly knife)

Pretty cool, right?

Well, what do you think of this list? Did you know all 20?

Pugay 🙂


5 thoughts on “How many Filipino Martial Arts can you name?

  1. Blade Apprentice March 19, 2014 / 1:48 AM

    Newbie Balintawak FMA practitioner here. Very informative list, ate Joy! Pugay! 😀

    • thedeadlydance March 19, 2014 / 2:36 PM

      Hi Fia. Thanks. FMA rocks, right? Anyway, I knew Balintawak soon after I started because I saw the movie Eskrimdors which discussed its history. Awesome techniques.

  2. Halford Jones March 19, 2014 / 10:42 PM

    I have read Mr. Crudelli’s book which is fine as far as it goes. I have also met some of the practitioners there, namely, Nap Fernandez founder of Yaw-Yan and learned of his ‘iron forearm’ which I believe he developed with the help of MASTER GEORGIE RAMOS of Kungfu group in Manila. I met Master Ramos at Nap’s dojo in Quiapo years ago. I don’t have time now to go into the listing you have made but I suggest that you all look into newer works on FMA namely some by Mark V. Wiley, who is also a friend of mine. That is, if you have not already done so. I will comment more on all of this.I am on FACEBOOK and you can see some of my albums there also. Thanks.

    • thedeadlydance March 20, 2014 / 12:14 AM

      Yes thank you, sir. I got this book from a second hand bookstore last weekend and I like it very much especially because of the photos. Mark Wiley books are not readily available here in the Philippines. We have to go to amazon to get them so the only one I have so far is his latest book on disarms. I checked out your FB albums. Lots of very interesting things there.

  3. HALFORD E. JONES March 20, 2014 / 2:43 AM

    I want to tell you to go to FMATALKLIVE.COM which is a series of interviews which you may find interesting and is run by FEDERICO MALIBAGO who is on FB. I am also interviewed there. He was recently in the Philippines also. Many of the MANILA based MASTERS have passed away or moved and some of their followers and students still carry on at the Luneta and at Quezon city as you may also know. I enjoy your newsletters and blogs

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