Filipino Martial Arts: The History of Arnis in Cebu

Learn about the history of Arnis in the Philippines and its contribution to Filipino Martial Arts.

A little over a decade ago, Arnis was proclaimed the national sport of the Philippines.

Sparring partners use wooden sticks to strike, parry, and defend against their opponents.

Also known as Kali or Escrima abroad, it is highly regarded as one of the best forms of self defense due to its practicality and versatility.

This martial art is considered a very effective form of self-defense.

An article by Black Belt Mag states that Filipino martial arts complement any kind of martial art, and that it covers all the different ranges in a fight – from long-range kicks to close-quarter grabs.

Stick fighting may seem silly, but the sticks are basically an extension of the arms, and mastering them is a starting point to learn advanced forms of weaponry, like short blades and swords.

The fighting style is known to have been inspired by the Indians and the Malaysians, but did you know that Arnis is integral to Cebuano culture?

Mactan Shrine, where the Battle of Mactan took place

LapuLapu and his men are said to be the first practitioners of Filipino Martial Arts.

LAPULAPU: THE GODFATHER OF ARNIS

Many historians believe that Arnis was used by the Cebuanos during the Battle of Mactan.

Led by the local chieftain, Datu Lapulapu, Cebuanos fought against heavy artillery from the Spaniards led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, using improvised weaponry, like blades, spears, and bows and arrows.

This early form of sword fighting is said to be a demonstration of Arnis, which means that martial arts has been around way before the Spanish Colonization.

This has made Lapulapu one of the forefathers of Arnis, especially when he dismantled Magellan and his men despite being met with guns and cannons.

The chieftain and his men cemented themselves in history with a monument at the Mactan Plaza.

Equipment at Doce Pares

Doce Pares accumulated 12 of the most popular fighting styles in the history of Arnis.

ARNIS IN CEBU

Cebu has produced countless legends and fighting styles in the Filipino martial arts community.

One of the most famous Arnis fighting systems is called the Doce Pares, which started with 12 Arnis instructors from Cebu, each teaching their own style to students since the 1930s.

This multi-style system is widely taught in most Arnis schools in the city and presented in different countries worldwide.

The name of the system was adopted by the moniker used by the 12 bodyguards of Emperor Charlemagne of France, and as a reference to the first 12 teachers that started the movement.

These fighting styles are still being taught today at the main headquarters at Sto. Niño Village in Barangay Banilad.

Aside from learning self defense, enrollees of this martial arts school aim to gain scholarships as student athletes for prestigious high schools and hope to represent the country in the Southeast Asian Games.

Many students are dedicated to learning Filipino martial arts.

WORLDWIDE RECOGNITION

The functionality of Arnis has made it a world-renowned martial art practiced by many fighters.

Since the stick serves as an extension of the arm, it substitutes any striking weapon. Practitioners learn how to hit, block, and counter attack using the sticks before advancing to the more complex hand-to-hand techniques.

Unlike other martial arts such as Karate and Kung Fu, Arnis is more realistic. Strikes are understated but straightforward, lessening the chances of failure during a real fight.

The full combat version of the sport is fast and impactful, with wide strikes and parries that come with blinding speed. It is even used by the US Special Forces.

Doce Pares practitioners sparring

Arnis can be used to disarm weapons using sticks as an extension of the arms.

FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS IN MEDIA

There are several demonstrations of Filipino martial arts in movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games.

One of the first Hollywood movies to use Arnis (more commonly known in western countries as Escrima or Kali) is the Jason Bourne franchise, which features Matt Damon’s character using everyday items like a ballpen, face towel, and magazine to fend off attackers.

In one of Bruce Lee’s final films, “Game of Death,” Arnis legend Dan Inosanto was featured using the Escrima sticks against Lee.

Inosanto later on trained Denzel Washington when he played the machete-wielding warrior Eli in “The Book of Eli.”

Even comic book characters like Daredevil and Nightwing are known for using Escrima sticks as their personal form of weaponry.

Cebu has been referred to as the Arnis capital of the world due to its rich history on the island dating back to the pre-colonial era.

Many martial arts enthusiasts fly to Cebu just to learn from the best Filipino martial arts instructors in the world. This effective self-defense system is indeed a very important part of Cebuano culture.

Other posts

Cebu Sinulog Festival

Generally, Filipinos never fail to observe festivals, and Cebu takes theirs to the next level. After celebrating New Year’s Eve, Cebuanos participate in a monthlong celebration in honor of Sto. Niño. This is the renowned Sinulog festival. Held every third Sunday of January, the Sinulog festival is celebrated by dancing,

Read More
Three colorful chairs at the shore of the Mactan Newtown Beach

Experience Mactan Newtown Beach and Its Soothing Waters

Lapu-Lapu City has many beautiful beaches. Its numerous resorts and island hopping activities have made waves all throughout Cebu. One of its most famous is located in the city’s premier business center. With a good location, budget friendly rates, and a ton of exciting activities, Mactan Newtown Beach is a

Read More
Charlie's Cup, the Newest Balamban Tourist Spot

Charlie’s Cup, the Newest Balamban Tourist Spot to Visit!

Charlie’s Cup is a cafe in Cebu that offers a cool and refreshing vibe thanks to its cliffside location. The Cebu Transcentral Highway (TCH) has become one of the island’s best spots to check out the newest and most interesting cafes and restaurants with breathtaking views. The long, winding road

Read More
SM Seaside shopping mall’s famous cube

Where to Go for the Ultimate Shopping Experience in Cebu

Enjoy shopping in Cebu on your next visit. Shopping in Cebu is at another level. Anywhere you are in the metropolis, make no mistake that a shopping mall is just around the corner. Whether you are looking to buy souvenirs, shirts, accessories, or food, shopping malls in Cebu have it

Read More
The Cebu City Hall, the venue for the celebration of the Cebu City Charter Day

Cebu City Charter Day

Cebu City Charter Day commemorates another year of Cebu being considered a city. While the world recognizes February for Valentine’s Day and different concepts of love, Cebu City, the Visayan region’s Queen City of the South, embraces its cityhood, heritage, people, and economic growth within the same month. The 24th

Read More
Sinigang, a popular Filipino comfort food

Discovering Filipino Comfort Food

Try any of these Filipino comfort food when you’re feeling under the weather. When you’re feeling down in the dumps or a little under the weather, there is always that one dish that your mother makes that would always perk you up. There are also those types of meals and

Read More

FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM

TO FIND YOUR TRAVEL DESTINATION

Cebu Insights Logo (Island)-03-03

Seeking to learn more about Cebuano culture, or wanting to know what to do once you arrive, Cebu Insights is the travel guide for you in Cebu!

Contact Us

See other Articles

Here’s Why Cebu Road Trips Are Always Fun and Memorable

Most Cebuanos love going on road trips all around Cebu. Cebu is a haven for road trips. Traveling to the many tourist spots in the countryside – whether north or south – includes getting to witness other breathtaking attractions that make the journey all the more worthwhile. Though road trips

Feast on Filipino Street Food at Carbon’s Sunday Market

The Sunday Market at Carbon offers a long list of scrumptious Filipino street food. A new Carbon Market has arrived, bringing a fun food park aesthetic that everyone in Cebu has come to love. This much anticipated revamp aims to make the oldest market in Cebu an even more stellar

Cebu Province Junks Face Masks for Both Locals and Tourists

Those traveling within Cebu province are no longer required to wear face masks when outdoors. You will begin to see fewer people wearing face masks in the towns within Cebu Province. The Cebu Provincial Government has removed face mask protocols in open and well-ventilated spaces in areas under different districts

Lantaw SRP Opens to the Public since Typhoon Odette

You can now visit the iconic restaurant known as Lantaw SRP at IL Corso. Typhoon Odette will go down in history as one of the worst storms to hit Cebu. Residents endured a scarcity of water and electricity for several weeks, and more than a few tourist spots and restaurants

How You Can Get Free Rides on Jeepneys and Buses in Cebu

The national government is letting passengers avail free rides on jeepneys and buses. Want to hitch a free ride to the city? Public transportation may be dirt cheap, but what if you don’t have to pay at all? What if you could get on modernized jeepneys or buses without worrying

Chateau de Busay | A Serene Ambiance for Social Gatherings

Chateau de Busay is a popular venue for social gatherings, especially weddings. Chateau de Busay hosts some of the most extravagant wedding receptions in Cebu. It uses its peaceful ambiance and high-end facilities to create a one-of-a-kind experience, which is made possible due to its location in the mountains of

Scroll to Top