The history of each martial art is a mirror image of the society and the culture which brought it up. In it also the Philippine martial art does not differ from others. Therefore we have a short view on the history of the Philippines to be able to get a more comprehensive understanding for this martial art.
Although historians and anthropologists have tried to investigate the mystery around the peoples migrations in this area for many decades they have not succeed. The population has developed over thousands of years.
There is one theory that says that the ancestors came from India and Persia who first spread to the Indonesian islands and then to the Philippines. Another theory states that the first inhabitants came from old Egypt in reed boats. One of the most interesting hypothesis means that the beautiful islands were once a part of the Indian mainland.
The anthropologists who support this theory maintain that a Pygmaee tribe with the name Negrito went on the search for food and booty to the west. Finally they had settled on the Philippines before the Pacific Ocean devoured the earthen navel cord which had connected the islands with the mainland.
The roots of the original Malaii, who found their home in this fruitful highland, are still uncertain. But due to their characteristics they seem to be related to the Mongolian race. Their preference for living in the mountains seems to support this idea.
Probably the tall, strong Indonesians, who loved the sea, were the next group of peoples which established there. They should have been the first who came by boat. The ancestors of the most diverse Polynesian tribes with different roots in Indonesia were fearless sailors who mixed with the cultures already existing.
The next immigrants also came from Indonesia, but they were smaller and had a darker skin than the Indogerman group who came before. They also mixed with existing cultures and secured their existence by agriculture and fishing.
Around the fifth century one of the first Asiatic empires began to rise. An ethnic group with the name Brahin came from India to Sumatra and created the famous Hindu-Malaii empire of Sri Vishaya. They conquered and colonized many countries. Their fame and influence were obvious everywhere in Asia and in the Pacific area.
After they colonized Borneo the Sri Vishaya invaded on the Philippines. Superior weapons and outstanding organization made it possible for them to defeat the early Philippinos. Many of them fled to far distant islands. Others went more deeply into mountains and into forests in order to escape from the invaders. But many natives remained and made peace with the new rulers and finally the two cultures merged.
The Sri Vishaya had important influence on the development of the Philippine culture. They were experienced fighters and they were skillful farmers and sailors. They brought a more progressive form of civilization to the islands. They had introduced new laws, the calendar, a written alphabet, a new religion and the use of masses and weights. The Sri Vishaya became the "Visayani" people of the Central Philippines.
A further large empire formed itself around the 12.Century on Java. They were called the Madjapahit. In the second half of the 15.century the Madjaphit took over power from the Sri Vishaya. Under the influence of Arab missionaries they brought the islamic religion to the Philippinos. They became established in the southern part of the island and were known as the Moro(Moslems). Still today this culture is independent and full of pride.
In the first part of the 16.century the Spanish Conquistadores overran the Philippines. Magellan was the first famous foreigner who came in contact with the Philippine stick-fighters. According to Philippine history Magellan was a pirate. He burned down their houses and tried to enslave the people. He was stopped by the chieftain Lapu Lapu and his men. That happened several hundred miles south of Manila on the small island Mactan on which the province Cebu is situated.
The village inhabitants only protected by cotton clothes drove the Spaniards in their armours back to the beach. They defeated the best Spanish steel with handmade reed sticks, lances and fire-hardened sticks. Magellan died there and today the statue of Lapu Lapu honours the chieftain.
The old Philippinos, who developed the stick fight art, preferred to strike on bones and they favoured the stick before a blade. The stick leaves shattered bones instead of a clean cut. The stick point is much faster then the bare hand, and it does not feel anything whether it hits hard bones or soft flesh.
The inhabitants of the island rarely crossed the borders of their region and they often were leading wars with their neighbours. The Spanish army found out this weak point and they used it. The invaders were taking advantage of the behaviour of the natives in order to suppress rebellions in other areas. Finally the Philppinos had defeated themselves and later on elements of the Spanish language, art and religion came into their culture.
The Spanish invaders needed 11 years to take two thirds of the Philippines, but the next 389 years they were not able to conquer the other third, the southern Philippines. There lived the independent and proud tribe called Moros. They defended themselves with their martial art kali.
Kali remained alive. Philippine soldiers were using this martial art in the First and second World War. During the First World War adventurous Philippinos went to the pineapple and sugar-cane fields in Hawaii, where they showed ability and talent to produce and to use of their special knifes. Others emigrated to California and became farm workers. They united to groups and they constituted soon as a principal part of the farm workers.
The former fighters of the Philippines than made their life as agricultural workers. Even their children knew few about the art of their fathers. The kids were curious when they heard the clicking of the sticks and the blades throughout sunrise or sunset, but they were always sent away. The new generation should live peacefully. Nevertheless the older ones could not forget the martial art which had helped them to survive.
And it happened that a few children discovered the old art. The strong youth with their wild Malaii roots was fascinated by the fast weapons.
In a way, which only could understand their fathers, they required what belonged to them.
And this art began to arise again - in Hawaii and everywhere in the USA.