What Are the Different Fighting Styles in Kali, Arnis or Eskrima?

Written by mike mclaughlin
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What Are the Different Fighting Styles in Kali, Arnis or Eskrima?
The knife is a popular weapon in the Philippines. (knife from Philippines, image by Vladimir Melnik from Fotolia.com)

Kali, arnis and eskrima are different names for a system of fighting that was developed in the Philippines. Some of this system's fighting techniques were used to battle Spanish conquistadors when they invaded the country in the 1500s. Kali, arnis and eskrima actually comprise several fighting styles that were developed by Filipino martial arts masters. Three of the different fighting styles that are commonly practised today are baraw, espada y daga and mano y mano.


Baraw is a knife-fighting style used in the Philippines. Kali, arnis and eskrima practitioners are well-known for their skills with a blade. Students frequently practice with both short knives and swords. You can learn how to slice an attacker with your knife and how to take away his knife. In kali, arnis and eskrima, one method for disarming your opponent is to slice his arm or hand when he tries to cut you. The baraw fighting style can teach you how to execute several devastating cuts on an attacker in a few seconds. Filipino martial artists also learn how to fight efficiently with a knife in each hand.

Espada y Daga

Espada y daga is the Filipino fighting style that teaches practitioners to use a stick and a sword at the same time. You can perform a wide variety of striking combinations when using these weapons simultaneously. For example, you can strike an adversary's weapon-wielding hand with your stick and then slice his body with your blade. Kali, arnis and eskrima students frequently practice drills that help them develop their coordination skills with the two weapons. Experienced practitioners can move the stick and sword around in an almost mesmerising fashion. The speed and effectiveness of espada y daga makes it a difficult fighting style to combat.

Mano y Mano

Mano y mano refers to the empty-handed fighting style of the Filipino martial arts. Many of the hand strikes in kali, arnis and eskrima are done in a similar manner to the weapons techniques. The hand techniques often strike from the same angles that are used for striking with a stick or knife. For example, instead of using a stick to strike an adversary's neck, you can use the outside edge of your hand. If you enrol in a Filipino martial arts class, you may even be taught weapons first so that you can better understand the angles of attack. In addition to hand strikes, the mano y mano fighting style can also teach locks and takedowns.

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