Timeline of Arnis

The 1900s - Moro Resistance
  • 1902 Spain cedes its colony of the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.
  • Southern regions consisting primarily of the Muslim minority oppose US occupation resulting in protracted guerrilla warfare in their fight for independence.
  • US Marines gain the nickname leatherneck when heavy belts are issued to protect them against Moro blades.
The 1910s - American Occupation
  • 1911 US officers are issued 45 caliber pistol with enough stopping power to down native warriors of the South, Borneo and nearby regions
  • . The first commercial Arnis club founded – Labangon Fencing Club – founded by Venancio “Anciong” Bacon, Chiuten, Pedring Romo, and the Cañete brothers
  • The Philippine Olympic Stadium promotes full-contact arnis tournaments. Reigning champion Placido Yambao who would later write the first book of arnis (see 1960).
  • USA. Ramiro A. Estalilla, Sr. taught Rigonan-Estalilla kabaroan at the Minneapolis Athletic Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The 1920s - Arnis and Eskrima Emerge
  • Cebu. The first commercial Arnis club founded – Labangon Fencing Club – founded by Venancio “Anciong” Bacon, Chiuten, Pedring Romo, and the Cañete brothers
  • The Philippine Olympic Stadium promotes full-contact arnis tournaments. Reigning champion Placido Yambao who would later write the first book of arnis (see 1960).
  • USA. Ramiro A. Estalilla, Sr. taught Rigonan-Estalilla kabaroan at the Minneapolis Athletic Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The 1930s - Paths to Leadership
  • Venancio “Anciong” Bacon left the Labangon Fencing Club, founding the Balintawak Self-Defense Club citing political differences as the reason.
  • 1932. The Labangon Fencinge Club changed its name to Doce Pares. Eulogio “Yoling” Cañete became the president.
  • 1937, Benjamin Luna Lema founded the Lightning Arnis Club in Mambusao, Capiz.
  • 1937, Douglas MacArthur become a defense advisor to the Philippine government. The Philippine Army manned and officered by Filipinos was raised by conscription, with two classes of 20,000 men being trained each year, starting in 1937. In addition, there was a regular U.S. Army garrison of about 10,000, half of whom were Filipinos serving in the U.S. Army known as Philippine Scouts.
  • 1939, Doce Pares was joined by the six Cañete brothers.
The 1940s - The Greatest Generation
  • 1941 Japanese invade the Philippines
  • MacArthur recalled to active duty a few months before the outbreak of the Pacific War between the United States and the Empire of Japan. He was appointed commander of United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), uniting the Philippine and United States Armies under one command.
  • Balisong invented in the town of Batangas. The famous  Filipino “butterfly knife” is a blade concealed by two halves of a pivoting handle. Perfecto de Leon is credited with its invention.
  • 1942 Philippines surrenders to Japanese forces.
  • 1942 guerrilla forces sprang up to fight the occupiers. U.S. and Filipino officers and soldiers, local leaders and citizens across the major islands lead groups small and large as resistance fighters.
  • The Hunters ROTC. Cadets too young to join the army. the Hunters operated in southern Luzon and Manilla. They raided Japanese occupied Union College stealing over 100 Enfield rifles.Filipino guerrillas freed 500 American and Allied POWs facing execution near Cabanatuan City on Luzon. Of the 133 American soldiers, only two were killed, and only about two dozen injuries were reported among the 250-280 Filipinos who participated. Hundreds of Japanese soldiers were killed.
  • The Wa Chi, a group of Chinese-Filipinos (immigrants and decedents) fought to protect ethnic Chinese from Japanese cruelty.

    Master Benjamin Luna Lema

  • 1947, United States Air Force requests Benjamin Luna Lema relocate to Agana, Guam. He instructs enlisted men in hand-to-hand combat and arnis.
  • Young Filipino soldiers (who would live to become the masters of later generations, served proudly in intense jungle warfare often using a Bolo Machete as their only weapon.
  • The Black Army, (rebel group of the Visaya region) lead by Ruperto Kangleon were crucial to the success of MacArthur’s invasion of Leyte island.

    Captain Nieves Fernandez

  • Captain Nieves Fernandez (of the black army and the only female guerrilla commander in the Philippines has a 10,000 Peso bounty placed on her head by Japanese. Once a schoolteacher, Fernandez now commanded 110 men. She specialized in improvised weaponry and even used a homemade shotgun.
  • In the Southern Philippines, the Moro-Bolo (a muslim minority who had fought against the US were also fighting hard against the Japanese.
  • MacArthur was in awe of their success and the tactics learned from the fierce native fighters of the Philippines have influenced the U.S. military to this day. “Give me ten thousand Filipinos and I shall conquer the world!” said MacArthur (source: wikipedia.org).
  • The U.S. officially recognized 277 guerrilla units and 260,715 individual fighters, mostly those associated with the Philippine Commonwealth. There were probably well over one million guerrillas resisting the Japanese.
  • US Special Forces formed based on the methods and techniques employed by Filipino freedom fighters
The 1950s - Popularization at Home
  • Arnis becomes popular in Negros Occidental.
  • 1956 Bacolod Arnis Club founder Narciso “Sisoy” Gyabros  taught “the twelve methods of arnis” and in turn had twelve disciples.
  • Remy Amador Presas began teaching –  small gymnasium in Bacolod in the 1950s, building a curriculum based on his family’s system, Shotokan Karate, Judo, and Balintiwak Eskrima to the local youth as both a cultural legacy and a form of physical development or sport. Presas who was a teacher at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and was in a rarified position to take advantage of the growing interest in Arnis.
  • 1957 Placido Yambao’s book, Mga Karunungan sa Larung Arnis (Knowledge in the Art of Arnis) is published.
  • 1959 Chavez Arnis Group founded based on Gyabros “twelve methods”.
  • 1959,  Durex Self-Defense Club in the Cebu Institute of Technology, Gerardo Alcuzar teaches eskrima, combat judo and karate.
The 1960s
  • 1960s Samahan sa Arnis ng Pilipinas (Association of Arnis in the Philippines) launches revival movement in Manila. Former Secretary of Philippine Education, Alejandro Roces praised members, stating:

“A neglected aspect of our cultural history as a people, arnis is as old as the Philippines. It is germane to the Filipino, his culture and temperament. During the prehistoric times, it was indulged in as a form of recreation. Filipinos learned it together with reading, writing, religion, incantation, and Sanskrit. It was not, at that time, merely fencing, as we now regard that term. It had its variations in the form of dance and combative arts known as sayaw or sinulog, which was both artistic and entertaining.”.

  • 1960, Romeo Mamar founded the art of tapado which utilizes a forty-three inch staff held at one end with both hands.
  • 1963 the Samahan sa Arnis ng Pilipinas sponsored the First National Arnis Festival. Televised demonstrations by experts from Far Eastern University and the Tondo School of Arnis, founded by Jose Mena. After studying thirteen styles of arnis, Mena developed a personal style called doblete rapillon or, simply, Mena arnis.
  • 1966 Tornado Garote Self-Defense Club founded in Cebu City by Florencio Roque to promote Tatay Ensong’s bahad style.
  • Magdaleno Nolasco founded the Black Cat Judo Club.
  • 1966, Angel Cabales, opened the first “commercial” eskrima academy in the United States Stockton, California.

    Master Leo Giron

    Master Angel Caballes

  • Leo Giron followed soon with his Bahala Na Filipino Martial Arts school in Tracy, California.
  • 1968, Bakbakan International founded in Manila, as a brotherhood of martial artists in the Philippines.
  • 1969 Remy Presas moved to Manila at the request of a government official, and formed the Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines
  • 1969, Arnis offered as part of the curriculum for a Bachelors of Arts degree in the physical education at Manila’s National College of Physical Education. director and secretary-treasurer of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, Colonel Arsenio de Borja.
  • Modern Arnis becomes the primary educational curriculum taught through schools and universities.
The 1970s - Growing
  • Master Napolean “Nap” Fernandez

    1972, Felimon Caburnay, an original Doce Pares Association member, founded Lapunti Self-Defense Club, teaching Lapunti Arnis de Abaniko.

  • 1972 founding Yaw-Yan, an acronym of sayaw kamatayan (dance of death). Yaw-yan is a Filipino kicking style reminiscent of Muay Thai developed by Napolean “Nap” Fernandez. Unlike Sikaran which shares similarities with Korean and Japanese kicking styles.
  • 1972 grandmaster Leo T. Gaje founded the Arnis America Organization in New York.
  • 1973 Magdaleno incorporated Escrido -the martial art of Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete – and changed the name of his club to the Black Cat Self-Defense Club.
  • 1973 Remy Presas leaves the Phillipines for political considerations, relocating to North America. There he met Wally Jay, George Dillman, and other artists who influenced his development of the art of Modern Arnis and a unique teaching style based on seminars, workshops and as he travelled the US and Internationallly. In particular, many locks from Small Circle Jujitsu were added to Modern Arnis.
  • 1975, the National Arnis Federation of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) was organized by General Fabian Ver.
  • The Philippine Arnis Confederation was also founded in this year by Crispulo “Ising” Atillo.
  • 1975 Punta Princesa Eskrima Club  by Artemio Paez, Felipe Atillo, and Carlos Navarro.
  •  First Full contact Arnis tournament held in New York, USA organized by Amante “Mat” Mariñas and supported by Florendo “Vee” Visitacion.Visitacion the creator of Vee arnis and Vee-arnis-jitsu.
  • 1976 Cebu Escrima Association. The newly formed Association lost no time in perpetuating the arts and that same year, in association with NARAPHIL, it sponsored the First National Arnis Convention and first Asian Martial Arts Festival.
  • 1977, in Talisay, Cebu, Grandmaster Florencio Lasola founded the Oolibama Arnis Club.
  • Perhaps the most successful association in the central and southern Philippines in the 1970s was the Tres Personas Arnis de Mano Association. Tres Personas was founded by Timoteo E. Maranga and is a mixture of the de marina, de cadena, literada, Batangueña serada, florete, and sumbrada styles. Maranga’s martial arts background includes combat arnis, judo, karate, and Western wrestling. Maranga began with four specific goals in mind: To promote brotherhood and understanding among the advocates of Filipino martial arts;
    To encourage and propagate Filipino martial arts among the youth
    To defend the weak, the young and the old;
    And to defend the oppressed people, country, and God.
  • .1977, United States. Dan Inosanto published The Filipino Martial Arts.

    Dan Innosanto

  • 1978, Kyokushin-kai karate instructor Ben Singleton sponsored the Pro-Am Classic tournament in Vista, California. This tournament featured the first full contact open weapons sparring division in the United States.
  • Narrie Babao, a student of Carlito A. Lañada and Dan Inosanto, took first place.
  • 1979, National Arnis Association of the Philippines sponsores the First Open Arnis Tournament in Cebu City. Tom Bisio reigned as champion.
  • NARAPHIL sponsored the First National Invitational Arnis Tournament in Manila. Masters who were Cacoy Cañete, Timoteo Maranga, Alfredo Mangcal, Jose Mena, Benjamin Luna Lema, Florencio Pecate and Hortencio Navales. Cacoy Cañete reigned as champion of both tournaments. Interestingly, the most infamous master, Antonio Ilustrisimo, refused to compete under the tournament’s rules.

Ilustrisimo- “If anyone wants to take my reputation, they will have to fight me with a sword.”

The 1980s - Pop Culture
  • The 1980s established arnis as a martial sport competing against other national arts for recognition.
  • 1983, Proffessor Remy Presas (best known master to this day) gained popularity in the United States with the publishing of his third book, Modern Arnis: Filipino Art of Stick Fighting. The “Father of Modern Arnis,” has been featured on the cover of numerous martial arts magazines, produced six instructional video tapes and has the the largest base of students around the world -greater than any other single Filipino master.
  • 1985, the Third National Arnis Tournament was held in Cebu City,
  • 1986, Fourth National Arnis Tournament in Bacolod City .
  • 1987 Dionisio “Diony” Cañete, the nephew of Cacoy Cañete, was elected as the new president of NARAPHIL.
  • In response to the world wide spread of Filipino martial arts the World Kali Eskrima Arnis Federation (WEKAF) was founded in 1987 in Los Angeles, California, with Dionisio Cañete as its first president.
  • The First United States National Eskrima Kali Arnis Championships was then held in San Jose, California in October of 1988.
  •  1989, the Philippine Kali Grand Championship was held in Manila. Both events were jointly sponsored by the Kali Association of the Philippines and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
  • WEKAF sponsored the First World Kali Eskrima Arnis Championships in Cebu, Philippines.
The 1990s
  • 1990 The First Eastern USA Eskrima Kali Arnis Championships was then held in New Jersey in May of the following year. Then, on August 11-13, 1989,
  • In 1991, Arnis Philippines became the “official” government-sponsored organization to spread the art of arnis. Arnis Philippines then became the thirty-third member of the Philippine Olympic Committee. Through this organization’s efforts Arnis was featured as a demonstration sport in the 1991 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).
  • 1993 Arnis Philippines then formed the International Arnis Federation which brought thirty countries together to work towards the acceptence of asnis as a demonstration sport in the Olympic games. With arnis now the national sport of the Philippines, the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports Development, the Philippine Sports Commission, and the Philippine Olympic Committee jointly sponsored and endorsed the Grand Exhibition of Martial Arts in Manila. The event, held on July 31, 1993, featured demonstrations by practitioners of arnis Lanada, sikaran, kali Ilustrisimo, sagasa, ngo cho kun, pencak silat, hwarangdo, hsing-i, and kyokushin-kai.The 1990s also saw many other masters coming out of the woodwork to teach or further promote their arts.
  • Included in this group would be the late founder of lameco eskrima, Edgar Sulite,
  • Balintawak arnis cuentada master Bobby Taboada,
  • arnis and hilot master Sam Tendencia, and
  • Rigonan-Estalilla kabaroan grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla.
  • The 20th-century has seen a revival of martial arts in the Philippines paralleled by no other country. In the past sixty years the arts went from almost complete isolation and obscurity to world wide exposure and commercialization. With this exposure, and paralleling the ethnic, tribal, and religious separateness in the Philippines, have sprung a plethora of new organizations and associations, new schools and styles, new masters and grandmasters. What the Filipino martial arts needs if they are to remain through the next century is a stronger sense of cohesion. One organization must be crafted to accommodate the various martial ideologies. A single ranking structure must be adopted to assure a high standard for and legitimization of rank among and between systems and styles. This must happen without losing sight of the roots of the arts which commercialization tends to do.
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