Kali, Escrima, and Arnis are the terms for the fighting arts of the Philippines. Kali is a South Term, Escrima more Central, and Arnis is from the North.
Kali Fighting Sticks – Arnis Sticks – are made of lightweight yet durable Filipino Rattan. The Kali sticks have been made famous in the Filipino Martial Arts.
The most common weapon used in training is a rattan stick about the length of the practitioner’s arm. Some schools prefer sticks of a particular length, while others expect students to learn which techniques are appropriate for a variety of lengths. Other sticks used for training and for some duels are made of hardwood, such as molave or kamagong, that is burned and hardened. The sticks used in Arnis are usually made out of wood, or rattan 70 cm long and about 2 cm in diameter. The length can vary from 30 cm to 220 cm. They can also be made out of aluminum or other metals, or modern high-impact plastics. The sticks can also be padded for training purposes, though this practice is usually only used in schools in North America or Europe. Most North American and European schools use hand and head protection when sparring with rattan sticks.
The most obvious feature of Eskrima is that it is mostly weapon-based. The student is first taught to work with weapons and only advances to empty-hand techniques once the stick techniques have been learned. This is reasonable because most systems have unified their teaching so that the empty-hand techniques are learned through the same exercises as the weapon techniques, making muscle memory an important aspect of the teaching.
Escrima and Arnis are designed to work with sticks, and Kali is a blade art. A common feature of all these arts is their use of geometry. In strikes/defenses and movement, lines and angles are very important. The independent use of the hands, or hands and feet, to do two different things at the same time, is a high-level skill sought after a fair amount of experience. Head butting is allowed, along with grappling techniques carried out from either a standing position or from the ground and including strips, takedowns, and throws. Other moves include chokeholds and various locks on the hands, elbows, shoulders, ankles, and knees.
Because you may not have a weapon available or losing a weapon, the body is the weapon. Filipino martial arts allow the use of the elbow and knee, as well as low kicking and punching in close-range fighting. Using the same angles and footwork the weapon is only an extension of the body and is the reason weapon, before empty-hand is taught. This approach of weapons first is unique to Eskrima wherein all other martial arts start by developing the years of empty hands proficiency first before being introduced to the weapons component.