Saturday, October 18, 2008


(Note: This article is reprinted here with the permission from the Author, John Owen Ong, a family man, martial artist and a businessman.) Sep 28, '08 10:51 PM

I've never really paid much attention to it, but lately the pot's gone to boil. I can't ignore it anymore. I have to ramble yet again.

There are people that pass themselves off as masters of a style. They give it history and in the process make themselves off as the keeper of a very ancient and secret art. Well, the only thing ancient is the age of the poop they're shoveling and the only secret is their actual qualification. Some are actually skilled practitioners and a very few can even teach. Most are very capable sales agents. I don't mind them selling themselves or their product, but when they try to force it on everyone else, I draw the line. I don't like it when they try to get everyone to agree with them. Some of the old guys got drawn in by false promises. I'm specifically talking about the stickfighting community in Negros, Philippines. The kali movement is trying to get the oldtimers to go along with them by using the term. Here, stickfighting has always been called arnis or escrima and sometimes baston. Granted these are not as "cool" sounding as kali, but that's what it is.

The kali side has proposed that kali means to scrape. Supposedly taken from the Tagalog word kaliskis. This can mean fish scales or the act of descaling a fish. Kali is the shortened termed. Then there is the proposal that it came from India. Presumably from the goddess Kali, the Dark Mother.

I personally don't care what or where they get their name from, as long as they don't force it on me. If one were to ask the oldtimers here, they would tell you that kali, in this island, means to dig. Specifically, to dig for root crops like sweet potato, yams or cassava. Stickfighters are called arnisadors, escrimadors or bastoneros. There are no kalidors, or whatever they want to be called. It is a recent addition to the stickfighting vocabulary in this island where almost everyone knows about stickfighting. The sad thing is that one of the loudest proponent of kali is from this island. He is a skilled practitioner, but lacking roots, he made one up. People outside the island accept his "product" as he is also a skilled salesman. This is his primary skill. Again, I don't mind this as long as people don't insist in front of me that what he's selling is the genuine article. It's not. I'm basing my opinion on my intimate knowledge of the language, history and culture of the island.

Does it really matter? I've said before that names of styles or schools will not stop an attack but a good technique will. If your particular style offers you that, then go with it. Just don't place too much importance on the history, as this can become distorted through numerous retellings and fading memories.

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