The Meaning of Kali

Some say the word ‘Kali’ originates from the Hindu Goddess Kali who is the goddess of death, power and destruction and who is shown wielding a sword in many Hindu images. This theory has a lot of merit because of the huge Hindu influence on the Philippines before Christianity and Islam became the prevailing religions. It is estimated that 25% of the words in most Filipino dialects are Sanskrit and Tamil (Hindu) words.

The Philippines’ colourful history records the immigration of several cultures to the islands, all of which influenced the Filipino Martial Arts. Kali stick fighting was developed over a period of many centuries in the Philippines as her people fought for their independence from foreign invaders. It was the Kali warriors that killed Ferdinand Magellan. As a matter of fact, the research was done by the oldest University in the Philippines, the University of Santo Thomas recently found that the name of the ‘Datu’ that killed Ferdinand Magellan is ‘Kalikulapu’.

Kali (Silat) was the oldest form of weaponry on the islands and the mother to Escrima. Older than Escrima, Kali comes from the word Kalis, which implies a blade, and it dates back to a time before Chinese from the Ming Dynasty infiltrated the islands. Kali also a stick, empty-hand or multi-weapon art, defended the islanders for centuries before the Spanish invasions. It is also found in Indonesia where they fight more with Pencak Silat low body movements than with Kali. Pencak Silat includes a study of the body’s center of gravity and how to constantly topple it. In the Southern Philippines, Silat is used in dance, as martial arts, and in games. Kali stick fighting developed over many centuries and evolved to counter the fighting styles of various aggressors.

One of the last experts on the martial arts systems of the Southern Philippines, John (Juanito) Lacoste considered himself a Christian, but converted to Islam and learned to speak 12 different Moslem dialects so he could take in the secretive Silat styles from Mindanao. He believed Kali was about personal expression. In the words of Lacoste…

Ano Ang Kali? (What is Kali?)

Ikaw Ang Kali. (You are Kali.)

Ito Ang Tunay Na Kali. (This is true Kali.)

Sources: Wikipedia, Ellite Training Center& Warrior Arts Alliance

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