Traditional Vs. Modern Arnis – Glorious Past and Present

After a long long time, today, I came back to the series about Arnis.

As time changes so do the practices we value. Arnis (Eskrima) is more than just a martial art.

To its practitioners, Arnis is a way of living and the route to honor the respectful values of traditional Filipino Martial Arts.

History involves various glorious incidents where Arnis played a key role, even, it was and still is considered the national martial art of Philippines.

But as the world has become more like a small village, modern Arnis has traveled all across the world to occupy its place among the world’s most popular martial arts in gyms and sports centers.

A practice that had a glorious past and still has an interesting present and future. Traditional and modern Arnis are different yet very closely related. Learn all about the glorious historical journey.


When the Spanish invaders first encountered Filipino warriors, they couldn’t help but admire their sense of bravery, the competence in hand-to-hand combat and the fatal weapons they used.

They almost took them by surprise as they couldn’t believe that the warriors put some much value on hands.

With practically nothing by a few sticks and swords, the damage they could inflict was nothing but fatal.

Traditionally speaking, old school Arnis didn’t put much emphasis on weapons.

This is ironically true even though there are a lot of swords and daggers that Arnis warriors exclusively use. Some old schools avoided teaching weapons altogether.

The main focus is the compatibility of the complete system of bodywork.

The successful technique mainly focused on the harmony of footwork with using the hands as the main weapon of attack.

One must wander in the path of time and think about what those Spanish invaders must have felt as they saw the ruthless Filipinos dancing the dance of death.

Modern Arnis and Glorious History

Were they able to conquer them using their guns and pistols?

Sure, like most modern civilizations they used gun power to overcome manpower.

Nevertheless, they still carried that appreciation and admiration to the brave deadly fighters.


Nevertheless, Arnis still owes much to the Spanish.

For instance, the name itself comes from the Spanish word for armor.

As a matter of fact, some historians think that the name is related to the Moro-moro stage plays where the actors fought battles on the stage using mock weapons.

Most traditional warriors gained advantage by coming equipped with two deadly arms.

As a matter of fact, mastering the dual art of death is a crucial part of the traditional Arnis training.

Most practitioners would practice carrying two heavy swords or a sword and a dagger to perplex the opponent.

Eskrima is another common name for traditional Arnis.

This name comes from the Spanish word for fencing.

Even when using one sword, fighters would use the sword lightly and swiftly to inflict deadly wounds and end the battle in their favor.


Fast forward a few centuries, we can see Arnis practitioners in gyms and sports halls around the world.

Now, people valuably view Arnis as a self-defense martial art.

Modern practice focuses on developing an injury-free self-defense system that roots back to the traditional deadly practices.

Modern Arnis combines traditional practices from the traditional modern Filipino martial art in addition to other techniques borrowed from Japanese martial arts.

Starting from the 90s, the world and sports enthusiasts showed great interest in South East Asia and everything that relates to that amazing part of the world.


Today modern Arnis is considered to be Philippines’s national martial art and sport.

It was a matter of national pride as the Filipinos tried and are still working to help Arnis achieve a status among other Japanese and Chinese arts like taekwondo, judo, and karate.

Remy Amador Presas wanted to introduce the art of Arnis to the modern world without jeopardizing the traditional and glorious essence.

He founded the current modern Arnis as a self-defense system.

Unlike the traditional methods where you could easily decapitate your opponent, modern Arnis is all about protection.

It is an injury-free system and can be used for self-defense by preserving the traditional methods.

Notable Arnisadores from Balintawak lineage: (from left to right)”Chito” Velez, “Meo” de la Rosa, “Nene” Gaabucayan, “Anciong” Bacon, Ray la Victoria, “Bobby” Taboada, Teofilo Velez at Fort San Pedro, Cebu City (c. 1976). The photos were taken by “Johnny” Chiuten

Presas came up with the new modern Arnis by studying his family history.

He also studied judo and Shotokan karate and tried to mix all the teachings in one modern and interesting art that people would value.

He tried to spread the new modified modern Arnis techniques as a kind of cultural legacy and as a way to stay fit and practice sport.

The youth were very interested in learning the new ways as they felt pride about practicing something that their ancestors loved and valued that much.

As people became more interested in learning modern Arnis, Presas moved to Manila trying to get government’s approval.

His dream was to teach and spread modern Arnis as a national sport that would bring all the people of Philippines together.


Presas pursued his dream of spreading modern Arnis as he relocated to North America.

He wrote books, held seminars and workshops that made Arnis quite popular.

He added a few techniques from the Small Circle Jujitsu which helped to shape modern Arnis to the current technique that we are now familiar with.

Although Presas is the legitimate father of modern Arnis, it is safe to say that he couldn’t have done it without the help of a lot of other people.

Masters of the old and traditional techniques and practitioners of other self-defense and martial arts in the USA influenced the outcome to a great deal.

After his death, other masters continued the journey by modifying the training methods.

Other masters followed his instructions by “making the art your own” which means teaching the instructions of modern Arnis according to their own interpretation.

There might be some conflict between various methods but it only highlights the differences we have as individual human beings.

Whether we are talking about traditional or modern Arnis, it is only safe to highlight the amount of devotion and dedication the practice takes.

It is all about feeling the art and taking pride in practicing it. A lot of generations lived by it and new generations still continue to do the same.

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