Traditional Weapons

Traditional Weapons

Fundamentally, kali (or “arnis” or “eskrima”) is about bladed weapons. The basic weapon is some variation on a sword (a weapon of war) or a machete (a daily working tool) but there are many other variations.

Guro Dan Inosanto  typically refers to twelve (12) categories of weapons.

  1. Single weapon (stick, sword, cane, axe)
  2. Double weapon (sinawali)
  3. Long and short (stick and dagger)
  4. Double dagger
  5. Single dagger
  6. Palm stick/double-ended dagger
  7. Empty hand (boxing, grappling)
  8. Long weapons (staff/sibat, spear/bangkaw)
  9. Flexible weapons (whip, tabak-toyok)
  10. Thrown weapons (spear, sand, coins)
  11. Projectile weapons (bow, blowgun)
  12. Inner training (healing, dance, spiritual)

Each of these categories involves a wide range of actual weapons. The basic training though usually involves the use of a single stick (solo baston) with a few other categories:

  1. double stick (doble baston)
  2. knife (daga)
  3. double knife (daga y daga)
  4. stick and knife (espada y daga) and, perhaps at the highest level
  5. empty handed combat (mano mano)

The same techniques and principles apply to all of the variations although the application is particular to each.

Pekiti-Tirsia is reknowned for its daga and espada y daga. It is specifically a bladed art system that acknowledges other weapon typesincluding modern implements like guns and tazers.

Other traditional filipino weapons:


The Balisong, also called the butterfly knife outside of the Philippines, was named after a town in Batangas called Barrio Balisong from which it is made and widely use. This knife, which is deemed as the local version of the swiss knife, has many functions since one can peel fruits, chop foods, fix screws, open cans, cut boards and other things through this. The Balisong has a very bad reputation as a deadly weapon, but in the hands of a knowledgeable Balisong player he can open and close it with style and grace, and it can be deceivingly deadly.


A Barong, or Borung, is a unique leaf-shaped blade that is distinguishable from other Filipino weaponry. The blades range from 12 to 18 inches in length, are single edged and guard-less for easy, comfortable grip and maneuvering at the middle of a battle. It is a heavy blade and is an ideal tool for chopping, thrusting and slashing. It is stylized with a cockatoo beak (kakatua) handle. This blade is a powerful addition to the Filipino practitioners collection. Traditionally its an essential part of the Moro’s attire specially the Tausug, Samal, & Yakan warriors of the Sulu Archipelago. The utilization of barong reached as far as the Mangyan Tribes of Mindoro and Tagalogs of the Eastern Luzon provinces. It is the official blade used by the Kuntao players in Southern Mindanao.


The Bicuco is a working tool widely utilized in the provinces of Tarlac, Pangasinan, and some town in La Union. This Filipino long knife can be used for slaughtering animals and for butchering meat. With its odd design, the Bicuco can easily cut a body into two.


A bolo is a kind of machete, used particularly in the jungles of Indonesia, the Philippines, and in the sugar fields of Cuba. Like other machetes it is primarily intended for clearing vegetation (whether for agriculture or during trailblazing). Bolos are also used as military weapons. Such bolo knives were a particular favorite of the Filipino resistance during the Commonwealth period, and during the Philippine-American War. For this reason the study of the bolo is common in the Filipino martial arts.

Bolos are particularly characterized by having a native hardwood handle, a full tang, and by a blade that both curves and gets wider (often considerably so) nearer to the tip. This moves the centre of gravity as far forward as possible, giving the knife extra momentum for chopping difficult vegetation. So-called jungle bolos or itak in Tagalog, intended for combat more than agricultural work, tend to be a little longer and less wide at the tip.

Dahon Palay

The Dahon Palay, named after it’s shape which is similar to a rice stalk leaf, is a tool used by farmers working in the rice fields. It is also the favored sword of the people who lived near the seas in the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro. The Dahon Palay was the primary weapon used by the Batangueños during the revolution due to the amazing slashing and thrusting feel it has.

Filipino Karambit

The Filipino Karambit, also spelled as Korambit, is a multi-purpose utility knife born around the 13th century in the Indonesian archipelago. Introduced by the Indonesian Pencak Silat, this weapon has it roots from the martial arts of Malaysian Bersilat, and Filipino Kali. It was originally designed for various daily chores and not as a deadly weapon. But since an individual carry this tool so often, it evolved into an object that could defend the carrier from any harm. The Filipino Karambit’s exceptional form symbolizes a fierce “tiger claw,” and its treatment is similar to that of the Japanese sword, Katana. It is impossible to disarm someone holding this weapon because of the hole in its handle which allows a person to insert his finger in it for grip and easy maneuvering.

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