Kali Class (Ages 8 years* and above)
Kali originates in the Philippines and is one of the most versatile martial arts in terms of its benefits.
It is one of the few martial arts that begins with weapons training - we start students with 26 inch rattan or padded sticks, dependent on age and confidence level - following which the concepts taught can be transferred smoothly to empty hand martial arts.
Kali double stick drills often utilise 'sinawali' or 'weaving' which encourages students to use both hands simultaneously and in different directions, thereby encouraging students to become more ambidextrous. This will also, to begin with, give as much of a mental workout as a physical one!
Beginners will focus mainly on drill based training, where patterns and 'call and response' drills are worked through to highlight different concepts, angles of attack and movement in a safe, controlled manner and building muscle memory. Drills are then adapted, with learned drills being broken apart and re-arranged, or interspersed with other learned drills, to foster adaptability and embed the core principles. Kali is famous for flow drills, which are learned in small segments, and combined and advanced as the practitioners skill level increases. These flow drills are both fun to learn, challenging for all levels, and give a real feel for the movement and speed of combat in a controlled and safe environment.
There is a small conditional sparring component, with the chance to work through learned concepts in a more free-form setting, however you will not be included in this until the instructor feels you have mastered enough familiarity with the stick and the basic movement to be safe. Typically, we tend to see students ready to try sparring at around 10 - 12 weeks for complete novices, and slightly less time if familiar with other martial arts.
Brief History and Background of Kali
Kali, also known as Escrima or Arnis, is a martial art which originates in the Philippines. The three are roughly interchangeable umbrella terms for the traditional martial arts of the Philippines ("Filipino Martial Arts", or FMA).
It is unusual in martial arts in that practitioners generally begin to learn the art utilising weapons (primarily 26 inch rattan sticks) before progressing to single stick, training blades, then finally the empty-handed variation of the art. The name Eskrima derives from the Spanish word for fencing and Arnis from the Spanish word for armour, while the word Kali has multiple theories as to it’s origin. Most likely, Kali derives from the pre-Hispanic Filipino term for blades and fencing, Calis, documented by Ferdinand Magellan's expedition chronicler Antonio Pigafetta during their journey through the Visayas and referenced in old Spanish to Filipino Mother Tongue dictionaries and vocabulary books dating from 1612.
After the Spanish colonized the Philippines, a decree was set that prohibited civilians from carrying full-sized swords. Despite this, the practitioners found ways to maintain and keep the arts alive, using sticks made out of rattan rather than swords, as well as small knives wielded like swords. Some of the arts were passed down from one generation to the other. Sometimes the art took the form choreographed dances such as the Sakuting stick dance or during mock battles at Moro-moro stage plays. As a result, a unique and complex stick-based technique evolved in the Visayas and Luzon regions. The southern Mindanao retains almost exclusively blade-oriented techniques, as the Spaniards and Americans never fully conquered the southern parts of this island.
Although Kali combines native fighting techniques with old Spanish fencing, Silat and other influences, a degree of systematization was achieved over time, resulting in a distinguishable Philippine martial art.
There have been campaigns for Kali/Arnis/Escrima to be nominated in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, along with other Philippine martial arts. As of 2018, UNESCO has inscribed nine martial-arts–related intangible heritages.
Studies have shown that due to the ambidextrous nature of Kali, people who train in it have better co-ordination, memory retention and improved brain function. Whether you’re a seasoned martial artist or a beginner looking for something a little different, the Kali Weapons class will have something that will engage your mind and body whilst also being a highly practical martial art.
*Children between the ages of 8 and 12 years will be required to undergo a 6 week trial period to ascertain whether they will be allowed to participate in this class. This is for the safety of both the individual and other students.
A practitioner of Kali is known as a ‘Kalista'.
A lot of the training revolves around joint locks, control and disarming of the attacker, attacking moves and footwork. Students will start with weapons training and then go on to apply the same techniques with empty hand fighting, which can include kicks, punching, throwing and grappling. The student will train with rattan sticks and a wooden or specially constructed (and very blunt) training knife which are seen as extensions of the arms to practice a series of moves, with the initial focus being on moving each arm independently of each other in sinawali (or weaving motions).
Further aspects of the training include, controlling the range with triangular footwork patterns, learning how to defend yourself from angled attacks and practicing set drills of flowing defence and counter attacks. The drills will teach the student hand-eye co-ordination, body position, target perception, breaking in and out of rhythm, fluidity, timing and muscle memory.
In Kali, students will start their instruction by learning to fight with weapons, and only advance to empty-hand training once the stick and knife techniques have been sufficiently mastered. This is in contrast to most other well-known Asian martial arts but it is justified by the principle that bare-handed moves are acquired naturally through the same exercises as the weapon techniques, making muscle memory an important aspect of the teaching. Most systems of Kali apply a single set of techniques for the stick, knife, and empty hands, a concept sometimes referred to as motion grouping. Since the weapon is seen as simply an extension of the body, the same angles and footwork are used either with or without a weapon. The reason for this is that this emphasises not only moving both hands concurrently, but never moving them in the same direction. This trains students to become ambidextrous. For example, one stick may strike the leg while the other hits the arm. Such training develops the ability to use both limbs independently, which a valuable skill.
A core concept and distinct feature of Filipino martial arts is the Live Hand. Even when a student wields only one weapon, the empty hand is used to control, trap or disarm an opponent's weapon and to aid in blocking, joint locking and manipulation of the opponent.