The roots of JKD: Filipino Martial Arts

There are various terms for the most widespread Filipino Martial Arts: Kali, Arnis, or Escrima – just to mention the most common ones. These are weapon-based arts. The Filipinos believe if you have any tool which can be used as a weapon, you should use it. They usually carry at least one knife, and they’re also very creative in using ordinary objects as a weapon. This art comes from real life, from the streets and alleys, ports, pubs, and from the villages where tribes were fighting for power. It comes from all the places and situations in the Philippines where the main goal is to survive. In these scenarios there is no ethical code, and if someone has a moral block in his mind, it is a great disadvantage in a fight.

Using a weapon you can increase your range, and you don’t have to risk as much damage to your body’s striking surfaces. If you do not have a weapon you can use your dirty boxing skills. Your lack of weapons doesn’t mean your opponent is unarmed, or that he is your only opponent. So you have to keep this in mind when you fight, and while you prepare and practice.

The weapons most often used by Filipino warriors are sticks (single or double), swords (usually a shorter kind of sword) and knives. But there are many variations of these weapons, and other weapons as well.  Each weapon gives different opportunities in combat depending on its length, weight, material, shape and surface.

It is hard to master all these weapons. This is why an understanding of the primary principles of combat is emphasized in Filipino Martial Arts. Different schools usually specialize in one or two main weapons, and there are masters who specialize in empty hand as well.

Bruce Lee was introduced to Filipino Martial Arts by Dan Inosanto, who was one of his closest friends and finest student. Guro Dan Inosanto – who is recognized as one of the world’s most knowledgeable martial artists – taught Bruce Lee the art of nunchaku (known in the Filipino language as tabok-toyok).

The nunchaku was Bruce Lee’s favorite weapon, but he also liked to fight with sticks. In “Enter the Dragon” there is a scene – fighting with the guards –  where he simply picks up two sticks from the ground and uses them in the fight. This is “very Filipino.”

And in “Game of Death” Bruce Lee fought with Dan Inosanto – to this day one of the most famous fight scenes in action film history.