Functional Kali / Eskrima


If you want to learn to use and defend against weapons, it's hard to beat the Filipino martial arts (commonly known as kali and eskrima). Unlike most styles, nearly all Filipino arts put weapon training first. While different FMAs specialize in different weapons, many of them include training with blunt and sharp weapons of various lengths, from palm sticks and knives to sticks and swords. In addition to these modern weapons being readily available today, skill in using them also transfers very well to everyday objects, and the empty hand applications can be very effective.

Unique, Functional Skills

Fighting with and against weapons is substantially different from unarmed fighting. A person can block a punch or a kick using their arm as a shield or cover. The same cannot be safely done against a machete or knife attack and would also be unwise even against a stick. Therefore getting out of the way using footwork is of primary importance. Because the Filipino martial arts focus on armed fighting, the footwork in most kali and eskrima is unique, dynamic, and very effective.

Weapons create the opportunity for angles and methods of attack that are uncommon in unarmed fighting. But uncommon does not equal ineffective. The unarmed techniques in many FMAs come directly from armed techniques, leading to unexpected and functional applications. Training the unique footwork and weapon techniques of the FMAs will add another dimension to your skills. See my stick and sword page for video examples of stick and sword techniques combined with FMA footwork.

FMA Training

Like all functional martial arts training, FMA training must include practice against fully resisting, uncooperative opponents that are fighting back. Unfortunately, this is lacking in a great many FMA schools. Because real stick and sword fighting is uncommon today, most practitioners don't need their techniques to work. As a result of this missing need combined with cooperative training, many ineffective techniques and drills are common in kali and eskrima. Additionally, cult like followings and superstitions have developed in a number of FMAs (see here and here). See my self defense training page to find out what needs to be included to keep your training functional.

The fact that many FMAs today are non-functional shouldn't however take away from the outstanding footwork, techniques, and weapon training among them. On the pages below, you'll find functional weapon techniques and training methods that will seriously increase your skill in self defense.

Note: If you really want to learn functional kali, see The Ultimate Guide to Weapon Use and Defense.

Kali / Eskrima Techniques and Training Methods

Techniques and training methods are different depending on the weapon being used or defended against. Therefore, each section below will detail techniques and training methods for that particular weapon type:

The 4 Step Matrix

In FSD we use a 4 Step Matrix to train all contact weapons. This matrix is a very simple way to learn to use and defend against weapons fast.