Kali Stick-Fighting and the Dancer’s Way

For a long time I’ve suspected that indigenous martial-arts systems all expressed themselves, somehow, in the dances of their culture; no useful line between dance and martial-art exists.

Many people know Capoeira as the “part-dance, part-martial-art”. But if we look back far enough, back beyond the purely utilitarian philosophies of the civilized era, won’t we always end up in a world of dance: dances of the hunt, dancing one’s vision, the dance of war?

Recently I ran across a reference to the history of dance and the Filipino martial-art of Kali(aka Eskrima), in a book by Dan Inosanto.

Elsewhere, on the web, I found another reference to this same history, at http://filipino-kali.gungfu.com/ :

Dance relates to the culture of the country. A study of the dance forms of the Philippines shows that the kali pattern is ingrained in all the hand gestures and footsteps for agility. None of these kali patterns are seen in the dances of India, Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan, Pacific islanders. Only in the Philippines will you see these dance patterns similar to the kali patterns. So even if there is similarity to the Silat of Indonesia, Kali still developed into its own, in ancient Philippines.

This really blows me away, as Kali has greatly influenced my own boogie-style on the dance floor, and my movement in the woods. This informs how I and my community of trackers teach our bioregional martial-art, SHIFT. How beautiful to discover in history what my body already found out: all indigenous paths lead back to a whole human being.

I believe to excel at a martial-art, you must learn to dance.

Once you learn to dance in any landscape, you’ll find yourself at home everywhere.

Written by Willem