Escrima evolved from the traditional weapons-based martial arts of the Philippine Islands where a great variety of weapons systems developed as a result of military threats from other cultures during numerous foreign invasions Each region of this island chain developed its own fighting art with varying emphases on weapons-based combat.
Escrima’s fighting techniques do not consist of separate and distinct movements for each type of weapon employed, but of principles common to all weapons-based combat and their multiple applications, depending on the individual weapon used. Other names for such Philippine fighting arts are “Arnis” and “Kali”.
Whether each of those several names also carry connotations of cultural differences is debatable. Actually, it has become common practice to use the designations “Arnis”, “Kali”, or “Escrima” interchangeably.
“Arnis” is commonly understood to refer to stick fighting while “Escrima” is increasingly associated with sword fighting techniques, using several types of sword depending on the regions of the island chain where the art is practiced. There is no longer a bright dividing line between the two names, but the execution of individual techniques often points back to their origins.
Sword techniques differ from stick techniques because of each weapon type’s different uses. (Blunt weapons produce injuries through impact, while bladed weapons are designed to cause cutting, slicing, or hacking injuries). Escrima is mostly practiced with rattan sticks of various diameters, lengths, and weights because rattan does not break, even under the most severe stresses. Of course, any such stress-tests are executed with absolute control in order to prevent severe injuries to our students. In order to demonstrate the use of sword techniques, we also use blunted blade-weapons in our schools.