It’s an indigenous Filipino martial art that goes by several names depending on the regional language in the Philippines.
For many practitioners, it’s commonly called arnis, kali, or eskrima.
For Hollywood actor Matt Damon, who incorporated the fighting style in his Bourne film series, it’s simply “bad ass”.
In a 2016 interview with ABS-CBN, a Philippine TV and media network, Damon recalled that he came across arnis or kali when he was preparing for his Jason Bourne character.
“It looked exactly like what we wanted, which was really destructive, really close but economic—it was everything we wanted in his style. It was just bad ass,” Damon said.
Arnis is a martial art that combines fighting techniques with sticks, bladed weapons, and whatever item is at someone’s disposal, and hand-to-hand combat.
For those who want to see how this indigenous Filipino martial art works, this weekend’s TaiwanFest celebration in Downtown Vancouver is a good opportunity to have a closer look.
Arnis will be one of the featured presentations at the 500 block of Granville Street, which has been designated as Pinoy block for the September 1 to September 3 TaiwanFest celebration.
TaiwanFest 2018 has Fete with the Philippines as its theme this year.
Charlie Wu and his group, the Asian-Canadian Special Events Association, the primary drivers behind TaiwanFest, are collaborating with the United Filipino-Canadian Associations in B.C. (UFCABC) led by Joel Castillo.
In an interview, Castillo recalled that arnis was included in physical education classes when he was a post-secondary student in the Philippines.
“It’s an excellent exercise that strengthens the limbs,” Castillo told the Georgia Straight by phone. “It develops good hand and eye coordination.”
Castillo related that arnis was widely practiced by people indigenous to islands in Southeast Asia, which became the Philippines.
During the time of Spanish colonization starting in the 16th century, arnis was banned as part of the subjugation of the native people.
However, arnis didn’t die. Filipinos kept it alive, practicing the art in discreet forms like dances and performances.
In December 2009, then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law a bill declaring arnis as the country’s national martial art and sport.
In addition to arnis demonstrations, the Pinoy block between Pender and Dunsmuir streets will also showcase Philippine dances and music.
Castillo said that different Filipino Canadian groups will have exhibits highlighting their rich cultural heritage.