Here you will find descriptions of the Filipino weapons that are found in the Filipino martial arts, or were used as weapons of war in the Philippines. There are so many different dialects in the Philippines that only the most common names for the described weapons have been used:
The empty hand is the most unlikely and most uncommon Filipino weapon. The old idiom “A weapon is merely an extension of your arm” is certainly true when referring to the Filipino martial arts. Many Filipino martial arts are exclusively empty hand fighting arts, such as Panantukan, Pananjakman, Dumog and Buno while weapon based arts such as Escrima and Arnis usually call the empty hand portion of their style Pangamot. When referring to the empty hand, this does not merely restrict the use of the fist or open palm, since all natural body weapons are used in the Filipino martial arts. The head, shoulders, elbows, forearms, hands, knees, shins and feet are all used. In the rare Kino-mutai, biting is a speciality and also falls into this category. It is probably the most misunderstood facet of the Filipino martial arts and remains the most interesting to study.
Also known as Tabak Malii or simply palm sticks. Training in short sticks is usually done in pairs, that is, the practitioner holds one in each hand, at about the middle of the stick. Traditionally, the weapons were made of steel, included a ring to place the finger(s) to counter disarms, and the ends were serrated and pointed, and sometimes included bladed edges for thrusting or slashing. The sticks are employed in hooking and thrusting motions to disarm, or lock armed or unarmed opponents.
The single stick is the staple of many Arnis/Eskrima styles, while in some styles (such as Balintawak) it is the only weapon. In the Philippines, it is referred to as Olisi in Cebuano or as Baston in Visayan. The stick is commonly made from rattan, but also from other dense hardwoods, such as Yakal or Kamagong. The earliest recorded use of and probably the most famous is the battle of Mactan and the slaying of Ferdinand Magellan by Moro warriors armed with fire hardened sticks. It is first and foremost a training tool, and it can be employed for thrusting, slashing, blocking, hooking, disarming, locking, choking, takedowns and grappling. It can be held in one hand (such as in Escrima de avanico) or in two hands (Escrima de Llave). The stick can also be held in the middle, or at either end in an overhand or underhand grip. Its simplicity as a weapon and the attributes it trains perhaps are the main cause of the erroneous myth to the uninitiated that Escrima and Arnis are just “stick-fighting”.
The double sticks can be used in the same manner as the single stick, and can also develop all the attributes that a single stick trains. However, double stick training helps the student learn the empty hand art of Escrima and Arnis. One particular style of double stick developed by the Pampangueno tribe called Sinawali is the most popular today, requiring weaving of the sticks in intricate patterns. This term is derived from Sawali, the bamboo-rush weave pattern the natives use for walling and matting. The Double sticks, especially in sparring, develop footwork, body movement and also train important empty hand applications for sparring and in-fighting. Double stick motions are interchangeable with stick and dagger, stick and also empty hand exercises.
LONG STICK / STAFF
The Long stick or staff is another weapon not commonly associated with Filipino martial arts. The stick motions, sometimes called amara (stick motions) are essentially the same as in the single stick. Slashes, thrusts, hooks and figure eights are all employed in the same manner, save for the use of both hands. Long stick or staff training develops certain attributes for empty hand kick defences and also takedowns and knee locks. The staff is held with both hands, palms down, palms up, or a combination of both. Traditionally, the long stick was merely a training tool for the spear, also referred to as a Karasaik or a Bangkaw, although training with both weapons is still distinctly different. The Panabas also deserves a mention here, since it falls under this category. It is a halberd like weapon, with a curved blade attached to a long pole. The cutting edge of the blade is on the inside of the curve, like a scythe, and the length of the Panabas varies from 3 to 9 feet.
The single dagger has many uses, typically thrusting, slashing and hooking. It can be used offensively or defensively in a variety of ways against different weapons. It can be used as a supplementary weapon to the stick or sword to rake or disarm the opponents’ weapon, or as a close quarter thrusting weapon. The dagger can be held in an earth grip (point down) or heaven grip (point up) in either the front or rear hands. The term Balaraw or simply Baraw is often used in the Visayas to refer to a dagger.
The Kris deserves a special mention since its shape makes it distinct from other single edged and double edged daggers. Its blade is double edged, and is wavy, allowing for easy blood flow from an inflicted wound. The dagger was traditionally sacrificial, and although it was used in the Southern Philippines, its origins are believed to be Malay. In the Philippines, there are many different kinds of Kris , each region producing a Kris with a different number of waves in the blade.
The Balisong is also a peculiar weapon. It is more commonly known to the uninitiated as the “butterfly knife”. The word literally mean “broken horn”, and is derived from the words bali (to break) and sung (horn). Many traditional balisong knives were carved out of animal horns. Its birthplace is the barrio Balisong in Batangas province, Philippines. It is not clear whether the barrio took its name from the knife or if the knife took its name from the barrio.
Double dagger can be employed in a variety of ways offensively, either by thrusting with the front dagger and raking with the rear dagger or by adapting amara (stick twirling) to suit the daggers. It has some parallels with stick and dagger and the multiple combination of grips and stances provides the user with a plethora of options in a combat situation. Empty hand defence against an assailant armed with double daggers is indeed difficult, if not impossible.
SWORD AND DAGGER
The Spanish brought many things to the Philippines, but didn’t leave many things behind. Of the few long lasting cultural and martial influences the Spanish conquistadors left with the Filipinos, one of them was the sword and dagger fighting style, so popular in Spanish Esgrima (fencing). This combination utilises the complimentary attributes of a short thrusting weapon with a longer cutting weapon. The combination is traditionally known as Espada y Daga . The Filipinos refined the Spanish fencing methods to suit their own fighting methods and developped their own long and medium range sword and dagger fighting. Today, stick and dagger, also known as Olisi y Baraw, is used as a training tool, and includes tie-ups, locks and takedowns with both weapons, techniques which were made impossible with the use of a blade. Transitions through short, medium and long ranges are trained with this weapon combination.
The Sword, not such a common weapon anymore, is still taught to students of many different Arnis and Eskrima styles. Styles such as Kali Ilustrisimo are completely blade based, and their students train extensively in bladed weapons. Drills which include swords are usually medium to long range, and can focus on sliding to an opponent hand, or controlling an opponents bladed weapon. As a cut and thrust weapon it provides students particular insight into the subtleties behind several stick drills.
The world of Filipino bladed weapons is a diverse and interesting one, with so many different names for the same weapons that it is difficult to categorise them all.
The Kampilan is probably one of the most famous Filipino weapons, since one of these weapons struck the intrepid explorer Ferdinand Magellan shortly before his death. It is easily identified by its forked handle which represents the gaping jaw of a crocodile. It is a single edged weapon, with a blade approximately 30 inches long, with a small flared spikelet near the tip. It was made famous by the Iranun and Maguindanao pirates and warriors of Mindanao and it is the longest weapon the Moros used. The Kampilan can be held with one or two hands.
The Barong is another Moro weapon, although the term Barong is a Tagalog term for a leaf shaped blade. The Tausugs from tutle island and Taganak favored it in close combat. The blade is approximately 15 inches long and nearly 3 inches wide in the middle. It is a double edged weapon.
The Sundang is yet another Moro weapon, based on the Kris, and is also doubled edged. It is longer than the Barong, with a blade length of about 20 inches. The term Sundang is Visayan for any large single or double edged weapon.
The PInuti is a Visayan weapon, favoured by warriors of the Visayas as a weapon of war. It has a simple design, and only a single cutting edge. The Bolo is another Visayan weapon, but it is larger, machete like, although it is still single edged. In Luzon, the designs of the Bolo and Kris have led to hybridised weapons which have both the properties of the Kris and the Bolo. Another term, not used as often anymore, is Tabak which is a Tagalog term for cutlass or curved sword. It is ideal for close range fighting.
The Golok is actually a machete, with a large wide blade, almost like a butcher knife, with a single cutting edge. The word Golok is actually the Indonesian word for Machete, and is said the weapon is believed to have originated on the island of Java. However, it is also referred to in the Philippines by this name.
Flexible weapons abound in the Filipino archipelago as well, although their use is not as popular as the weapons mentioned above. Certain styles, such as Pananandata have an extensive array of flexible weapon techniques, while Black Eagle Arnis Eskrima also uses the chain in this category. The garotte is obviously a contender in this category, but not many styles openly practice such techniques. Flexible weapons are however, important and can be used to initiate locks, tie-ups, chokes and strangles with a variety of weapons on armed or unarmed opponents. Another weapon, the ball and chain, or Cadena also falls into this section, as it shares the properties of both sticks and flexible weapons.
Last but not least, the projectile weapons of the Philippines are vast and various. Blowguns, sling shots and bows were all common tools, especially for the Moros of Mindanao. Their use declined somewhat with the arrival of the heavily armoured Spanish conquistadors although they were still used for hunting and tribal warfare. The use of projectile weapons is lacking in many styles of Escrima and Arnis de mano, and is perhaps one of the segments of the warrior arts that should be re-examined.