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The National Sport of Philippines is Arnis.

Arnis, a martial art form with roots in Filipino history, showcases rich cultural heritage while promoting discipline and self-defense.

To learn more about sports culture in the Philippines, read our article about the most popular sports in the Philippines.


#1 History of Arnis

  • Pre-colonial era: Arnis finds its origins in indigenous Filipino martial arts, practiced as a form of self-defense and tribal warfare.
  • 1521: The arrival of Spanish colonizers brought about the suppression of native martial arts, but Arnis continued to thrive in secret.
  • Late 19th century: Arnis became publicly practiced again amid the Filipino struggle for independence and was used by revolutionary fighters during the Philippine Revolution.
  • 20th century: Arnis gained greater recognition as Filipino martial artists began participating in international competitions and sharing their knowledge worldwide.
  • 2009: The Philippine Congress declared Arnis as the national martial art and sport of the Philippines, enacting Republic Act 9850.

#2 Culture and Traditions

Arnis represents a vital aspect of Filipino cultural identity, with its techniques and teachings passed down through generations. As a traditional martial art, Arnis imparts not only self-defense skills but also values of discipline, respect, and focus, instilling a strong sense of nationhood and pride among practitioners.

Festivals and competitions centered around Arnis garner significant attention in the Philippines. The National Arnis Congress is an example of an event that brings together practitioners from various regions to showcase their skills in demonstrations and competitive bouts, fostering camaraderie and promoting the sport’s growth. Additionally, Arnis is often featured in cultural presentations and local fiestas, highlighting its inseparable connection to Filipino life.

One popular aspect of Arnis is the “Siniwali” dance, a rhythmic and mesmerizing form of Arnis that blends martial techniques with traditional music and dance. This captivating fusion highlights the cultural richness of Arnis and serves as a unique showcase of Filipino artistry and heritage.

#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment

πŸ“• Rules & Gameplay

  • Players: Arnis bouts are played by two opponents, known as “Eskrimadors,” facing each other in a one-on-one combat.
  • Scoring: Points are awarded for clean strikes to designated target areas on the opponent’s body, typically the head, torso, and limbs.
  • Techniques: Practitioners employ various attacks, including strikes, thrusts, locks, and disarms, using their weapon and empty-hand techniques.
  • Matches: Arnis matches generally consist of three rounds, each lasting two minutes, with the winner determined by the highest total points at the end.
  • Fouls: Certain actions are prohibited, such as hitting prohibited areas, excessive force, or unsportsmanlike behavior, which may result in penalties or disqualification.

βš™οΈ Equipment & Gear

  • Sticks: Rattan sticks are the primary weapons used, typically measuring between 60-75 cm in length.
  • Protective gear: Players wear headgear, body armor, gloves, and leg protectors to minimize injury from strikes.
  • Uniform: Traditionally, Arnis practitioners wear lightweight, durable clothing, often consisting of a simple shirt and pants combination.
  • Training equipment: Training in Arnis may involve the use of padded sticks, practice blades, and target pads to hone skills safely and effectively.

#4 Modern Development of Arnis

The evolution of Arnis in recent decades has seen the martial art adapt and grow while preserving its traditional essence. New styles and instructional methods have emerged, catering to diverse needs of practitioners, including self-defense, fitness, and competitive sports. The integration of modern technology, such as online instructional platforms, has also expanded access to Arnis teachings for enthusiasts globally.

Cultural advancements have led to increased recognition and promotion of Arnis worldwide. The inclusion of Arnis in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and other international martial arts competitions has intensified interest in the sport, raising its profile and attracting new practitioners. Additionally, the portrayal of Arnis in movies and television has further highlighted its unique appeal, drawing attention to Filipino martial arts.

Recent trends in Arnis focus on promoting its rich cultural history and martial effectiveness while ensuring safety and inclusivity for practitioners of all ages and experience levels. This balance between tradition and innovation is vital to the continued growth and development of Arnis as a national sport and cultural treasure in the Philippines and beyond.

#5 Arnis and the Olympics

While Arnis is currently not an official Olympic sport, efforts have been made by the Philippine government and the martial arts community to bring it to the Olympic stage. In 2018, the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) began organizing unified tournaments to raise Arnis’s profile and meet the standards required for Olympic inclusion.

Despite its absence from the Olympics, international multi-sport events such as the Southeast Asian Games and World Combat Games have featured Arnis, increasing its global recognition. The support and success of Filipino Arnis practitioners in these competitions have helped showcase the martial art’s cultural and athletic value, paving the way for its potential future inclusion in the Olympic Games.

#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements

  1. Amante Marinas Sr.: A renowned Arnis Grandmaster who has spent decades teaching the art worldwide, spreading Filipino martial arts and earning numerous accolades for his contributions to the sport.
  2. Dionisio CaΓ±ete: A prominent figure in the world of Arnis and founder of the Doce Pares Multi-Style System, CaΓ±ete has won multiple world championships and contributed significantly to the global promotion of Filipino martial arts.
  3. Dr. Remy Presas: The founder of Modern Arnis, a practical and adaptable style of Arnis that has gained popularity around the world. Dr. Presas was a significant force in spreading Filipino martial arts in the United States and other countries.
  4. Venancio “Anciong” Bacon: A legendary figure in Arnis, he co-founded the Balintawak style, which emphasizes close-quarter combat and dynamic techniques, and has produced many successful practitioners in the Philippines and beyond.

#7 Where to watch Arnis

  • Local and international tournaments: Regional competitions such as SEA Games and World Combat Games, as well as national events like the National Arnis Congress, provide opportunities to watch Arnis in action.
  • Television and online platforms: Sports channels, such as ABS-CBN Sports, ESPN5, and PTV Sports, may occasionally feature Arnis competitions. Online streaming platforms like YouTube and Facebook Live also offer access to Arnis events and demonstrations.
  • Live events in the Philippines: Attend Arnis training camps, workshops, and local competitions at renowned schools and training centers, such as Kali Majapahit Philippines, Kalye Doce, and Doce Pares Headquarters in Cebu City.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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