The Philippines are an island group of around 7100 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean. Fewer than 3000 of these islands are named, and the 11 largest ones make up for 90% philippines free outline mapof their entire surface. The tribes that have settled here over the last centuries primarily originated from India, Southeast Asia, China and Indonesia. The majority of the population are made up of Filipinos, who are related to the Malaysians.

On the 16th of March, 1521, the Portuguese seafarer Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed around the world and explored new trade routes on behalf of the Spanish Crown, arrived at Zamal (Samar) Island, which belongs to an island group that later was named the Philippines after the Spanish ruler Philipp II. On April 7th, 1521, Magellan landed on Cebu to replenish his supplies. He was welcomed with much dignity by the natives. Lapu-Lapu, the tribe’s prince of the neighbouring island Mactan, however, denied Magellan his request for provisions. Magellan then decided to invade the island using military force. The Spaniards, hardly able to move while carrying their heavy armour through knee-deep water, were already expected and consequently attacked by the natives. Hence, the battle ended in total disaster for the Spaniards. Captain Magellan also died during this encounter. Only one ship returned to Spain and completed a historical journey for human kind on September 6th, 1522: the first recognized world circumnavigation. Magellan’s death and the victory over the Spaniards made Lapu-Lapu the first guerilla and hero of Philippine war fare. Despite this historic victory, the Philippines remained to be ruled by the Spanish until the late 19th century before being ceded to the USA, followed by the Japanese conquest in 1941/42, and was recaptured by the US troops in 1944/45. In 1946 the Philippines gained independence, which lasts until today.

The Filipino tribes originate from various Asian countries, and so do their Martial Arts. The trading connections with other Asian countries may have brought an exchange of fighting skills also. The biggest influence on Filipino Martial Arts dates from the Spanish period. The big centre island of Cebu had trouble with pirates for centuries. Some were Chinese pirates, but mainly they were Moros from the Southern islands Mindanao and the Sulu Sea who were slavetraders. They came year after year, attacked the villages, enslaved, raped and killed the inhabitants. This was a nightmare for the inhabitants in many coastal areas that lasted for generations. Because the island of Cebu was Spanish territory the colonial master had to secure its borderline and had to protect its subjects. In the mid-17th century the Spaniards built a chain of watchtowers and sent soldiers to protect the borderline and to train native volunteers to fight.

The story of Lapu-Lapu is fascinating, but from a modern point of view, his victory is not attributed to a higher art of fighting but to the superior manpower of the natives. The origins of a higher art of fighting with set techniques, principles and tactics probably goes back to the Spanish period and its fencers. Early Filipino Martial Arts was designed for survival, to protect one‘s own life, one‘s wife and children against pirates. The Filipino Indios trained with the basic idea to quickly kill as many marauding Moros as possible. They took what they had learned from Spanish military and civilian fencers and war priests and adapted it to their options and weapons. The Filipino Martial Arts is a product of Filipino creativity; however, one should not disregard the significant contributions of the Spanish fencers either.

Late influences came from Japanese and American soldiers during and after the Second World War. The Filipinos were curious to learn the empty hand arts of the Japanese as well as the Western boxing, brought by American soldiers. It was probably during this period that the empty hand skills of the Filipino Martial Arts got a big push forward adn got lifted to a new level.

Last but not least we have to note the big influence which came due to the public teaching of our modern days. At the beginning of the 20th century, Filipino Martial Arts masters started to open Martial Arts schools and teach their knowledge to the public. In the 70th and 80th Martial Art instructors also started to travel around the world to give seminars and to produce videos about their styles. This development gave a tremendous access to knowledge from different styles and arts and brought up many new blends. Our style also benefits from this fact and blends the tactics and techniques of various styles into a comprehensive and effective art.

To summarize the Filipino Martial Arts history, we can point out as mile stones the colonization of the Philippines with tribes from mainly Indonesia but also China and other Asian countries during the early centuries; the first contact with Europeans and the battle between Ferdinand Magellan and king Lapu-Lapu 1521; the Spanish period and its fencing education during the 17th century to protect the inhabitants against the Moro pirates; the Japanese and American Occupation during World War II as well as the modern public teaching and sharing of knowledge.