History of the Filipino Martial Arts and the Masters

May 1, 2013

FILIPINO MARTIAL ARTS (FMA) Eskrima, Arnis, Kali, Pananadata, Etc.

Known or called by many names, Filipino Martial Arts systems are among the most efficient, practical, and sophisticated weapons training system in the world, that can tranfer to bare hands. The origins of these arts came from the expantion of Empires and migrations of inhabitants from near by countries many centuries ago; from Indonisia Sumatra and Java Empire, Malay Empire, the oragin of the art traces back to India in a time when India influence stretched East all the way across the Archapelago, and later from China when the Chinese Sailing Merchants traded and made port. Later it was further developed during Clan Warfare, and finally from the Spanish conquistadors & fencers.

When the conquistadors first came to the Philippines, and witnessed this type of combat. The combat reminded them of a  “skirmish” also from “Esgrima” (Fencing) so they came to call it “Eskrima” and the name became widely used. The World circumnavigator Ferdinand Magallanes was the first Westerner to arrive to Philippines, him and his conquistedors attempted to convert the Filipinos to the Spanish rule. There they met their fate and all were killed in the battle of Mactan close to the island of Cebu in the Philippines. Magallanes was beheaded by the tribe cheaften Rajah Lapu Lapu. Those that were not in the battle escaped and went back to Spain. A  half century later, they returned and to their suprize found most of the people had converted to Christian Catholisism faith, shortly after they were able to colonize the Philippines, the Spanish forbade anyone to train in this martial art because of fear of uprising and the nature of this deadly art. So, much of the art was practiced in secrecy and was implimented in dances called “Tamingling” or “Sayaw” which were performed in plain site of the Spanish who only saw it as a dance.  During the great uprising between the Filipinos against Spain a few heroic  figures imerged.  One was “Jose Rizal” he was an incredible Eskrimador who was educated in Spain where he took up studies in fencing as well. Rizal gained popularity and was a part of the reason for the uprizing, but do to his capture from the Spanish who ended up executing him for reasons that he had no control over, this action made him a marter and led to a much bigger uprising against the Spanish rule. During the same time another Eskrimador who was also very well trainied in Eskrima along with long training in fencing in Germany, his name was Antonio Luna, first being a outspokesmen against Spain and fought against Spain during the great uprising. Later against the Americans in the Filipino American War, his famous speach against Americans coloinizing Philippines in Manila made him a hero, later when the war broke out between Philippines and United States, he became a General and Chief commander of the Filipino forces which led to an impressive reasistance against the US Armed forces. Both Rizal, and Luna had received their education in Europe and were Master Free Masons who were responsible for bringing Free Masonary to Philippines.

During the Philippine US war it was the United States Marines who felt the blades of this miltiary arts. Thus the famous descriptive words “Leather Necks” was termed to the Marines who had to wear a thick leather corset around their necks to keep from being decapitated. The Eskrimadors had little respect for the .38 Calibar pistols. They would use bands of various ropes to tie around their limbs and extremities so that they wouldn’t lose much blood if they were shot and could reach the soldiers and decapitate, or dismember them. This was also the reason for the birth of the .45 caliber pistol, it had enough knock down power to prevent the swords of the Eskrimadors from reaching them.

These arts vary and have the use of sticks, batons, knives, swords, spears, shields or anything that can be used as a weapon. If you don’t have any weapons, the hands and feet can be used in a similar manner.



Weapons of Moroland


Weapons of Moroland




Great Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla Jr. descended from a family of three generations of Eskrimadors or Arnisadors (practitioners of Eskrima or Arnis). His grandfather, Mayor Eusebio Estalilla was the training partner of General Antonio Luna swordsman of the Philippine Revolution against Spain (1868-1898), also the art stemed as far back as Dr. Jose P. Rizal,  and Bishop Gregory Aglipay. Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla Sr. Was raised by his father who taught him, ESTOCADO, KABAROAN, and FENCING, later adopted by a “Datu” Moro Chieftan while living in Zamboanga, Mindanao Is. who taught him the applications of Moro Weapons, later when he imagrated to the USA he first introduced Kabaroan to the U.S. Marines, and at the YMCA Athletic Club in 1921 while living in Miniapolis, Minisota. When he returned he taught it to both law inforcement and later to the military while in Philippines. During World War II he became a Cornal in the Filipino militia resistants against Japanese occupation, during the recapture of the Philippines against Japan he was relisted under the US forces as a Captain and became in charge of the “Bolo” (sword similar to the Machete) Bataliane under General McArthur’s forces.


The meaning of this word Kabaroan is the “Art of the Barons New System”. Kabaroan techniques, utalizes the larger weapons of Northern Philippines, the smaller weapons of the Central Philippines, and the bladed weapons common in Southern Philippines, or the Moro region. Great Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla Jr. learned this system from father to son and added his own technique in the system due to the extensive training he received from five other masters of Arnis and a system of Kabat at Paa,  Karate, while living in other parts of the Philippines. He was a servivor of World War II, and became an Ordained Minister & Journalist which gave him the opertunity to emigrate to the United States at the age of 47. Later bringing his family and starting the Kabaroan system in Central California, he taught it at Fresno State University became a member of the faculty, judged and refreed FMA (Eskrima, Arnis),  as well as Karate tournaments, later taught it at Pacific Martial Arts Academy in California. Became inducted several times into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame and has conducted many International Seminars throughout the United States, however his greatest acheivement was becoming a Doctrate of Martial Arts.

Kabaroan is a cross section of different Filipino systems from different regions of the Philippines, there is three categories of use in weapons, single handed use of one weapon (Sincilia), use of a single weapon with two hands (Bombolia), double weapon use with two hands (Compuesta) in the compuesta catagory there are two different types of weapons; weapons of equal length or charactor, and weapons of unequal length or charactor, Kabaroan also has the use of  projectiles along with full applications in its bare handed system as well.


(Original founding members of Doce Pares)

GM CIRIACO                                                                                                  SGM CACOY CANETE

“Eskrido” (Eskrima, Arnis) is another art that was founded by the Supreme Grand Master Ciriaco Cacoy Cañete. “Roots of this art”: first Club formed in 1921 “Cebu Fencing Club” by the Canete’s and Saavedra brothers. Later reforming in 1932 as “Doce Pares” means “Twelve Paires” which have a variety of meanings however the original members that formed it were 12 in pairs and was within the family. From father Gregorio and Uncles it decended to the Canete brothers, Eulogio, Tirso, Filmon (Momoy), Ciriaco (Cacoy), Rufino and from fathers to siblings. Supreme Grand Master Cacoy Canete is the last living member of the original founding members of the famous DOCE PARES Club.
It is said that it decended from the lineage of Rajah Lapu Lapu, who fought against the Spanish invaders some 400 years before. The SGM Cacoy started at the age of six in ESKRIMA, since he was the youngest of the Canete brothers he always had to prove himself, he started training in youth in BOXING, later KODOKAN JIU-JITSU, KODOKAN JUDO, GRECO ROMAN & FREE STYLE WRESTLING, DUMOG, PANGAMOT, GUNG FU, AKIDO, and KARATE. In the Philippines he is concidered to be a living legend, with over 120 fights in Eskrima from challengers in the hey day of combat against other challanging Eskrimadors and argressors like the invasion of the Japanese during World War II, to his perticipation as a War Hero who fought against the Japanese in the jungles of Philippines, many of the Japanese enemy were sercomed to the blades of his Bolo’s. He never lost a single challenge in his time. Later teaching both military, and law inforcemant, in Philippines. In Cebu City he taught police, and was a faculty member of both Cebu University, and San Carlos University as a Martial Arts Instructor. He started incorperating various changes and different methods of the Eskrima and revised it to form his own system. This style he named “ESKRIDO” which means (Way of the Stick) after decades of this reformation the organization known as CACOY DOCE PARES WORLD FEDERATION was formed. This came after many years of conducting International Seminars the World over, and packing arenas in Philippines and abroad, in World tournaments. This refined system is a mixture of Filipino martial arts with Japanese and other Martial Arts influinces. Eskrido utilizes curved strikes rather than just linear ones in close quarter combat with complex set of disarms, grappling holds & locks, trapping, and striking.
“PANGAMOT” is a Filipino bare handed system which is utalized both agianst other bare handed fighting or bare hands vs. weapons, SGM Cacoy is recognized as having the highest ability and ranking in this Filipino art. He has also refined it by his extensive training from other Martial Arts. It is an incredible bare handed grappling system, and functions very well against other attackers who try to attack with a weapon or without.


& GGM MOMOY CANETE                               GM FEDERICO MENDOZA
GGM FILMON MOMOY                                                                                               
San Miguel Eskrima was a style that was formed by Filmon Momoy Cañete, the older brother of Cacoy Cañete. San Miguel is an older system, yet extreamly effective, its roots come from Doce Pares Eskrima, it utilizes stick and dagger, short and long staff, spear, whip, and projectyles, Momoy was one of the original founders of the DOCE PARES, and was in the Philippine resistance malitia against Japan in World War II, later he taught San Miguel System to the military in Philippines, he past away 1992 and his predecessor Grandmaster Federico Mendoza along with some other Masters  are teaching this system in Cebu City, Philippines. It has some very long forms known as “Onyos”, and many elaborate techniques of various locks, chokes, traps, and strikes. This system is usually uses the knife and stick simultaniously, or better known as “Olisi Baraw”.
Master Zoravor Sarkissian

Master Zoravor Sarkissian has trained and studied for many years under these Grand Masters directly, along with many other Masters who were under the same lineage, and a few others as well. He is a full International Representative of these arts with full ranking and in good standing. His goal has been to expand these arts in other parts of the world where these arts are not known or practiced, he would like to share his knowledge, experience, history and culture in these arts, along with giving something that would be very effective in defense for the individual who is willing to expand their horizons.
In his own words—.
It is important for me to aknowledge that I am by no means the authority of any of these arts. I am simply a compliment to the Grand Masters and Masters alike in which I have trained under, I make no claims that I am the so called best and last piece of the cake, just that I have an authentic flavor in the Masters I have trained under. Also I am not in any way saying this system is better than this or that, just “different”.
I have been extremely fortunate to have had the help of my family and the great opportunity and exceptance to train under these and other Grand Masters alike in my life. I highly recommend to anyone if they get the chance and oppertunity to go and train with them or any of their other Grand Masters, by all means do so! It is an oppertunity to those who are skilled and wish to get an authentic taste, from the roots of these arts. But if you are not able to for any reason, and are near by, or in my neck of the woods; stop by, and see what I can teach you.

When the student is ready—the teacher will appeare.

Respectfully, Master Zoravor Sarkissian
8th Degree Black Belt in traditional FMA


Artes marciales Filipinas conocidas o llamadas con muchos nombres,  son unos de los sistemas de armas más eficientes, prácticos y sofisticados del mundo. Puede transferir a las manos vacías, así como un arte marcial eficaz. Cuando los conquistadores llegaron por primera vez a las Filipinas, fueron testigo de este tipo de combate y lo llamaron “Eskrima” y el nombre pasó a ser ampliamente utilizado. Fue el navegador Ferdinand Magellen quien primero intentó convertir los filipinos al dominio español. Allí encontraron la muerte en la batalla de Mactán muy cerca a la isla de Cebú, en las Filipinas. Los conquistadores  perdieron la vida y Magellan fue decapitada por su líder Lapu-Lapu. Un siglo más tarde, después de finalmente haber colonizado las Filipinas, los españoles prohibieron a cualquier persona de entrenarse en este arte marcial mortal por temor de rebelión. Más tarde fue la infantería de Marina de los Estados Unidos que sentirá el filo de las espadas de este arte marcial. Por lo tanto las famosas palabras descriptivas “cuellos de cuero” fue entregado a los Marines que tuvieron que usar un corsé de cuero grueso alrededor de sus cuellos para no perder la cabeza por los Esgrimidores y Kalistas, que fue también el motivo para el nacimiento de la pistola de calibre 45, la cual había suficiente fuerza para poder impedir que las espadas de los maestros les alcanzaban.

Estas artes varían todos y tienen el uso de bastones, cuchillos, espadas, lanzas, o cualquier cosa que puede ser utilizado como arma. Si no tienes ningún tipo de arma, las manos y los pies pueden utilizarse de una manera similar.


El Gran Maestro Estalilla descendió de una familia de 3-generaciónes de eskrimadores o kalistas (practicantes de Kali o Arnis). Su abuelo, Mayor Eusebio Estalilla, fue el compañero de entrenamiento del espadachín general Antonio Luna de la revolución filipina contra España (1868-1898). Gran maestro Ramiro Estalilla Sr. introdujo primero a los Marines de los Estados Unidos en 1921. El significado de esta palabra Kabaroan es el nuevo sistema de “Arte de los barones”. Kabaroan utiliza las técnicas de arma larga del norte de las Filipinas, las armas más pequeñas de la parte central de las Filipinas, y las artes de armas de filo de las regiones de Moro del sur de Mindenao, en las Filipinas. Más tarde, su hijo gran maestro Ramiro Estalilla, aprendió este sistema de padre a hijo y agrego  su propia técnica en el sistema debido a la amplia capacitación que recibió de cinco otros maestros de Arnis que aprendió durante sus viajes en otras partes de las Filipinas, junto con su uso combativo en la Segunda Guerra Mundial en las Filipinas. Emigró a los Estados Unidos a la edad de 47 años con su familia y comenzó a establecer el sistema allí en el centro de California. Kabaroan es una sección transversal de diferentes sistemas filipinos de diferentes regiones de Filipinas. Utiliza tres tipos de armas de combate, una mano (Sencilla), uso de un arma con dos manos (Bombolia),  dobles armas con dos manos (Compuesta); en la categoría de Compuesta hay dos tipos de técnicas de armas, las armas de igual longitud y carácter y armas desiguales en longitud o carácter.


Eskrido Eskrima es otro arte que fue fundada por el gran maestro Cacoy Cañete, el último miembro con vida de los fundadores originales del famoso Doce Pares Eskrima Club que más tarde se convirtió en el más reconocido arte marcial Filipino. Reformó en 1932 en la isla de Cebú, en las Filipinas, viene del linaje de Lapu-Lapu, que lucho contra los invasores españoles 400 años antes. Después de hacer muchos cambios al sistema original de Doce Pares, formó más tarde su propia organización conocida como Cacoy Doce Pares World Federation, formando un sistema de pelea con palo y armas conocido como “Eskrido” Eskrima y un sistema refinado de agarre llamado “Pangamot”.

Este sistema refinado es una mezcla de artes marciales de agarre Filipino y japoneses mezclados con sistemas de combate armado Filipino – Eskrido enseña golpes en curvas más que simplemente golpes lineales junto a un complejo conjunto de bloqueos y llaves, lanzas, derivados por las relaciones entrelazadas de Pangamot, Combate Jiu-jitsu, judo, y Aikido.

Gran Maestre Cacoy es reconocido como el único invicto luchador de Eskrima de 1940-1980. Ningún otro Gran Maestre de Eskrima fue capaz de derrotarlo en más de 120 peleas por palo o daga. También fue un héroe de guerra en la Segunda Guerra Mundial donde mató a muchos soldados japoneses, sea por armas de fuego o al filo de la espada de bolo. Pangamot es la versión de manos vacías del desarme o solo de agarre.


San Miguel Eskrima fue un estilo de Eskrima que fue formado por Momoy Cañete, el hermano mayor de Cacoy Cañete. Momoy murió en 1992 y su predecesor gran maestro Federico Mendoza enseña este sistema en la ciudad de Cebu, Filipinas. Este arte es principalmente un sistema de palo y daga y tiene formas muy largas, conocidas como “Onyos”.

Guro Steven Sarkissian ha entrenado extensivamente con todos estos grandes maestros, tanto privada como en clases durante muchos años. Él es el único representante de los sistemas de Kabaroan y San Miguel en América Latina y el único representante de la Federation Mundial de Cacoy Doce Pares en centro y Sudamérica. También ha tenido mucha capacitación en varias de los otros sistemas de armas filipino y los sistemas de mano vacía.


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