Filipino Martial Arts



The Visayan Martial Arts is a martial arts/self defence school from Cebu City, the Central Philippines initiated by instructors John Russell and Henry Jayme.

We instruct in several traditional Filipino and Chinese self defence styles using effective teaching techniques, always showing from the basic moves and exercises, to the more advanced techniques the self defence principles behind each action. Training is mostly of a reactive style, of counter to counter.

Our main aim in the Visayan Martial Arts is to teach ordinary individuals effective self defence. As a student you learn at your own pace and the instructor teaches with the idea of never holding back or hiding knowledge. This school is dedicated to producing the best students possible.

If you have been here before, we hope you like the additions and changes. If you are new to our site, please take the time to navigate through it and learn about the different styles that are taught by the instructors of the VMA. Read some articles and see some NEW travel photographs from around the Philippines.

Feel free to e-mail with any comments or suggestions, we appreciate your feedback.

If you are new to the Filipino Martial Arts, a brief explanation is below at What is Arnis, Escrima and Kali?

Back to top

Basic Curriculum of the VMA

Doce Pares

Probably the best known Arnis/Escrima Club/Society of the Philippines. Learn different styles from different Grandmasters, Ciriaco Cañete and Victor Cagadas.

Their teaching methods include, Ammara/Pinki Pinki double stick training routines or drills sometimes called Sinawali in the northern regions of the Philippines. Stick and dagger defence, disarms, locks, armbars, throws and breakfalls. Semi free sparring in close, medium and long range with single stick, double stick, stick/dagger and empty hand.

Tat Kun Tao Kung Fu

The effective closed door external Kung Fu or Kun Tao style taught by the Chinese community of Cebu. Its practical teaching methods utilise kicks, punches, deflection and blocking defences and also Ch'in-na or Chinese grappling self defence. The loose translation of Tat-Kun-Tao is, mind, brain or thinking-fist-way.

Balintawak Arnis/Escrima

Basically a single stick art taught to senior students. It involves grappling, locks, kicking and an extremely well defined system of instruction.

Back to top

If you’re new to the Filipino Martial Arts here is a brief explanation.

What is Arnis, Escrima and Kali?
Arnis, Escrima, Kali, Pangolisi and Garote are only a small number of the many names that are given to the indigenous stick based martial arts. The majority of Filipino's now in The Philippines, refer to the stick based or weapon based arts as Arnis or Escrima. Kali is used more by some westerners when referring to the arts.

Stick based is the term that we apply more often to these styles of Martial Arts as the beginner is taught with a stick but the movements of most styles can be translated to various conditions of armed or unarmed combat. The stick is a weapon but also it can be simply an extension of the hand and a training tool. A student learns that if you have a stick, a baton, a knife, or a sword you still have two hands. If you have two sticks, two knives, two empty hands etc or even a combination of weapons, the movements of attack and defence are basically the same. It teaches self defence without having to learn many different patterns for each new weapon, which is different from other Martial Arts. These Arts use economy of learning as well as economy of movement in the execution of their techniques. They also differ from the majority of other Asian Martial Arts as they teach weapon work before empty hand training. The key to Arnis/Escrima is that if you learn one set of attacks and defence well enough, the techniques can be simply translated and "your hand can be your sword", even in a literal sense.

What does the word ‘Arnis’ mean?
Arnis comes from the Spanish word ‘Arnes’. The English translation is ‘harness’. Around approximately 1637AD Spanish Roman Catholic priests trying to enhance the introduction of Catholicism to The Philippines and trying to oust the influence of Islam created the Moro-Moro play or plays. It has been said the first play was written to dramatise a recent defeat and capture by a Christian Filipino army of an Islamic fort. Another source states that the play represented a Christian Spanish victory over the Muslim Spanish in the latter part of the 13th Century. Whatever the original source it is obvious that play variations appeared but each had the theme of Christians defeating Muslims. The plays depicted fighting scenes using swords and the Filipino's through the plays had a chance to practice their Martial Arts, as they had been earlier banned by the Spanish to practice the Arts. The plays called for the actors to wear costumes that incorporated an Arnes or a harness. From this word arnes we now have the Filipino word ‘Arnis’. It has also been called ‘Arnis de Mano’ or harness of man.

What does the word ‘Escrima’ mean?
The word ‘Escrima’, ‘Esgrima’ or ‘Eskrima’ was used by the Spanish when referring to swordfighting or fencing and was also used when referring to the many skirmishes and battles that took place in the colonisation of the country. The Spanish controlled The Philippines for almost 400 years. They made Spanish the "Official" language and it has gradually replaced many older words in the different Filipino languages that represented the Martial Arts.

What does the word ‘Kali’ mean?
There are several words in the Filipino languages that denote a simple stick, ‘garote’ or ‘olisi’ are but two. ‘Kali’ or ‘Kahli’ as it is sometimes written, is in the Visayan language a type of stick, but the stick is used in a certain way or ways, such as it being used as a walking stick and/or for self defence in times of trouble. The term Kali is still used today in the Philippines as a element of some of the more remote terms such as ‘Kali-rongan’ or ‘Kali-radman’ describing the weapons based fighting arts. After the Spanish banned the practice of sword fighting for the Filipino's, certain types of Kali were said to have been preserved by being set in native dance forms known as the ‘Sayaw/s at Sinolog’ or dance/s at fiesta. They could then occasionally hold folk dancing exhibitions to amuse their new rulers. The native weapons and shields were used in these dances and were set to music and drums. Some older Escrimadors state however that the dances have always been used, even before the Spanish came, to teach students the Martial Arts. Much like the katas or patterns that are used today by some styles to teach.

Please take the time to read through this site, to obtain more information on Filipino Martial Arts as taught in the VMA.

Back to top

This website best viewed with your display set at 1024x768.

Home | seminars | balintawak | doce pares | tat kun tao | VMA instructors | travel pics | articles | FMA instructors | downloads | email | links

©1998-2003 John Russell

Last updated August 31, 2003