Kali? What is the origin of the word?

Discussion in 'General' started by Carol, Jan 5, 2007.

  1. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    Going about online, I've seen a few different proposed sources for the orgin of the word Kali.

    One is that it was derived from the Hindu deity named Kali. Another suggests it was derived from the sword called the kalis, another suggests it was taken from tjakalele - the Indonesian word for fencing.

    Is there a believed source for the word or is it largely speculation?

    MSTCND New Member

    I was under the impression that Kali meant "to scrape"...

    Other than that... I'm afraid that I can't be of any further assistance...

    Your Brother in the arts,

  3. Doc

    Doc New Member

    If you spend any time at all searching in the various forums you will find that this has been a controversial issue. It almost seems that every source you read will have a different idea about where the term "Kali" came from. There was a very extensive thread about this in the dogbrothers.com public forum. One side of the argument says that the term originated with Floro Villabrille as a way of setting himself apart, and that it was then picked up by American practioners (primarily Dan Inosanto's group) and then made popular. According to this side of the argument it has no real foundation as an historical term from the PIs. On the other hand......the other side of the argument says that it is a term that dates back to pre-colonial Spanish days and is a more "original" term than Arnis or Escrima. I'm not knowledgeable enough to really say which side of the debate is correct. I do know that dignitaries from the Phillipines such as Tuhon Leo Gaje use the term when referring to their arts, so there must be something to it. The term was also discussed in the earliest known book on the FMAs from about 1956....how that fact jives with the Floro Villabrille story I'm not sure.

    Anyway.....escrima comes from the spanish "esgrima" which I am told means "to skirmish" and was a term used for spanish fencing. That may be where that idea of "to scrape" is coming from.

  4. oosh

    oosh Junior Member

    "I was under the impression that Kali meant "to scrape""

    Kaliskis means to scrape :)
  5. Brock

    Brock Asha'man

    I've heard this as well, and in addition to that the JKD people would tavel to the Phillipines and would ask instructors to teach them their "Kali" and even though the terms they used were eskrima and arnis, for the money the Americans were offering they'd call it "Kali" if that's what the Americans wanted to pay to learn.
  6. Matt Lim

    Matt Lim New Member

    Your guess is as good as mine.
    In p.i., only ptk and its affiliates use the term.
  7. Silence_sucks

    Silence_sucks New Member

    According to answers.com "Another explanation is that the word(kali) is a portmanteau of the Filipino words kamot, or kamay meaning hand or body, and lihok, meaning motion." As a literal answer to your question kali originates from those two words, yes i understand that you could have meant time place or who started using it first but that is AN origin. According to Ben Largusa in 'Dan inosanto - The Filipino Martial Arts' : "Escrima, Arnis, Sikaran, Silat, Kuntao, Kaliradman, Kalirongan, and Pagakalikali are all phases of Kali" "but Kali is the mother or ancestral art. These phases are all part of our training" Weather Kali is the mother art or not, it is true that the Inosanto/Lacoste system of Kali has adopted a more 'whole' less stylised 'jeet kune do' approach.
  8. Pat OMalley

    Pat OMalley Brit with a stick

    But also according to these sources Kali is based in the Muslim south, which also begs the question as to why would these 'Muslim Kali Masters' use two Cebuano (Central) words as opposed to words used by the Muslims of Mindanao (which is a different launguage/dialect)?. Also many researchers in the Philippines have yet to find a 'Muslim Kali Master'.

    Kali as a term may have been used in one or two regions, but to say it is the mother art and all others stem from it, is not really true and has no historical or archiological founding. In some regions Kali means to dig a hole, in another it means Pinapple. So with this argument the pinapple is the mother to Arnis / Eskrima:)

    Kali comming from Kalis is a more reasonable way of understanding were the term may have came from, but again this would only mean that the term is again regional and not on a national scale, meaning "I do Kalis/Kali" (Sword) does not mean it is the name for the art as a whole, otheriwse in other regions they would say "I do Pinuti" (Cebuano favourd sword), I do Bolo, I do Kampilan etc.

    The term will always be a matter of debate until such time as the advocates of the term Kali being the mother art find actual evidence backing up their claim that pre-dates the mid 20th centuary.

    The fact that Kali is a term used today is accepted, but it is only accepted by most on an equal basis with Arnis and Eskrima and no one term can claim to have superiority over the other, as a matter of fact if we really look at it they are all relitevely new terms as most afficiando's before the 20th centuary simply called what they do 'Fighting', it is us westerners that insisted on giving it a name and calling it a style.

    Just my thoughts

  9. monkey

    monkey -== Banned ==-


    Kali is one way to start a good fight!
    One has to look at what region your talking of!
    Stick in 1 region is Olise!
    Stick in 1 region is Baston!
    Now are we talking Mindinow--or what region for the term!
    Silalt is the mother word for kali in some regions & Inosanto will verifiy that!
    What region --to many langues!The Philippine has too many islands!
    You cant just say kali means this!
    If I say teh word 2 & just 2!how do you know I am talking of 2 or to or too or tu!
    Kali can mean teh six arm gorda of death in some as they look like they have the six arms when performing it!
    Kali can mean scrape!
    Escrima is scrimage fighting as it is close range!
  10. halls

    halls New Member

    According to the film Kali means to scrape. Kali is taken from the Malaysian root word Kalis which means to scrape. I'll try and quote the person who defined the word from the film "when you strike me I will cut you using the scraping techniques".
  11. Pat OMalley

    Pat OMalley Brit with a stick

    But this too is debatable, for if you look at Kali, Eskrima or Arnis, they are if we are honest one and the same thing, or as one GM said to me, the same beast.

    Now look at Silat and the only resemblance it has to the above maybe in some of the body mechanics, but then again so does kung fu. Silat has more in common with kung fu (Tiger style etc) than it has in the weapons based FMA systems and if Silat is the mother word for Kali and Kali is supposedly the mother word for Arnis / Eskrima why do we not use the term Silat?

    Too much assumption and not enough historical fact and evidence to say for sure when and were the term Kali came from apart from we can be sure it was used popularised in the 20th centuary.

    That is why most people today opt for the term FMA.

    Best regards

  12. monkey

    monkey -== Banned ==-

    I stated in some regions of the philippines like mindinow!
    The vasian do not have silat nor the other regions!
  13. monkey

    monkey -== Banned ==-


    If you go to
    The short film
    kali means to scrape is there!
  14. Matt Lim

    Matt Lim New Member

    You should know that the word "scrape" in all filipino languages, dialects, and regions, when used as a method in fighting has a sissy connotation added to incompetence. If you're a real fighter, you don't just graze the skin or scrape scales but really mean to break skull (basagulo), break bones (baldahan), or take some chunks of meat (bakbakan). Just ask any Filipino on the street.
  15. monkey

    monkey -== Banned ==-

    Watch the video on YOU TUBE
    there is no skin scraping!
    They are crafting the blades & show throst shots with the knife!
    The slash was no a dominate factor!
    Yes its good to break but if you are the real fighter of the
    philippino art!
    Dimmahla is the real art!
  16. oosh

    oosh Junior Member

    I have the DVD, "kaliskis" means to scrape not "kali" KA being the prefix. As far as the DVD goes none of the unknown Manongs refer to the art as kali. In regards to Mindanao, many people have gone there in search of kali and haven't had any success; I'll be in Jolo in the summer myself, so will ask.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2007

Share This Page