What's The Allure of Kali?

Prior to 2000, I had no real knowledge or understanding of Kali. 

Sure, I had read a few articles and seen some pictures over the years in Black Belt or in Inside Kung Fu magazine, but, that’s it!

Then in 2000, I received Guro Cass Magda’s two-volume, 1993-1994 European Tour video set, which featured Indonesian Pentjak Silat and Filipino Kali.

What I witnessed in those videos captivated my spirit. 

What did I see that fueled my desire to learn more about this Filipino Martial Art?

Continue reading and you will discover the answer.

Continue reading to discover if this might be what you’ve been longing for too.

Okay, it’s time to answer the question, What’s the allure of Kali?

First Impressions 

For me, my first impressions were fluidity, precision and speed …

… Amazing fluidity,

… Pinpoint precision and

… High-octane speed

The knife-wielding hands of the practitioners were flowing like I had never seen before creating an amazing fluidity of continuous motion.

The slashes, thrusts, checks, disarms and locks were on-the-money every time revealing the pinpoint precision that only comes from repetition - the mother of all skill.

The whirlwind of activity was difficult to follow at that time because of my ignorance about the art and because of the high-octane speed that was displayed. 


Prior to becoming a Kali student and teacher, I had trained in several other styles of martial arts. 

During some of that training, I was exposed to knife defense and did spend some time training with the knife.

But my previous experience never included anything like I witnessed on the European Tour videos.

Sure, I had been shown knife disarms before, but not like the disarms on the videos.

The three biggest things that hooked me on this system’s disarming effectiveness were:

  • The disarms occurred naturally out of the flow

  • The disarms occurred naturally during counters

  • The disarms focused on attacking the thumb


While my previous knife training included some basic locks, such as wrist locks, when dealing with an edged weapon, it didn't include anything like I witnessed on the videos.

So, as you might imagine, I was very intrigued and impressed by the use of locks against the knife.  

Locks were being inserted out of the flow after disarms as well as after blocks.


If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the word fluidity - think of it as “flow” - has been used to describe what I saw.

It is this “flow” that creates the fluidity that is this Filipino Martial Art.

As an athlete and a martial artist, I appreciate and value fluidity.

The fluidity of Kali was a major element of attraction for me.

It Doesn't Matter

Beyond the elements already mentioned, this notion of “It doesn’t matter” was especially appealing.

During a particular segment of the video, knife attacks were being fed on angles one and two. 

Angle one was caught – stopped – with the right hand on top or the left hand on top. 

Angle two was caught – stopped – with the right hand on top or the left hand on top.

Regardless of which hand ended up on top, a disarm was readily available.

So, when asked, “Which hand should be on top?” the answer is “It doesn’t matter.”

This answer leads perfectly to the next point of allure.

Principles Rule

While there are many principles in this art that appeal to me, the Substitution Principle is perhaps my favorite.

The Substitution Principle involves using a different implement to accomplish the same objective.

For instance, the video showed disarms using the knife as the disarming implement as well as disarms using the empty hand as the disarming implement.

The knife can substitute for the hand or the hand can substitute for the knife.

It doesn’t matter!

Another important point is that an understanding of principles is what allows high-level practitioners to disarm and lock “out of the flow” – during continuous motion. 

Weapons First

The first Kali techniques demonstrated in the videos were knife techniques. 

This is an accurate depiction of the system in the sense that students learn weapons first.

Having come from traditional martial arts that saved weapons training for advanced levels, this greatly appealed to me.

It's All About The Blade

Equally fitting was the fact that the knife was the weapon of choice.

It was fitting for three reasons.

  1. Some believe that Kali is an old expression used to describe blade-oriented martial arts.

  2. You are much more likely to face a knife-wielding assailant than a sai-, tonfa- or nunchaku-wielding attacker.

  3. Most modern Filipino Martial Arts systems use the stick as a training method to teach edged weapons skills.

A Mere Glimpse

While stick training tends to be the focal point of many Filipino Martial Arts systems these days, in the videos I saw only a mere glimpse of the sticks.

This glimpse was as a segue or transition from one teaching segment to another.

This is not meant to underscore the importance of stick training, but to reinforce the fact that this art is an edged weapon art.

Beyond The Edged Weapon

Outsiders may falsely believe that Kali is only about armed combat. 

It is not!

If you’re lucky enough to find a good teacher, you will be blessed to discover Filipino Boxing.

The European Tour videos depicted Filipino Boxing at its finest.

I was especially drawn to its:

  • Awesome entries

  • Traps

  • Limb attacks

  • Fluidity

Your Next Step

While your next step is clearly your choice, I do have three recommendations for you.

  1. If you live in our service area (see below) and are ready to start your Kali training or just want more information, contact us today!

  2. If you live outside of our service area and you're ready to start your Kali training, look for a local Filipino Martial Arts teacher near you and call today!

  3. Regardless of your location, use this gateway for further exploration into the magnificent martial art of Filipino Kali.

Service Area

Given our prime location, we are in an ideal position to serve the 4-state area of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Here is a partial list of some of the cities and towns we serve:

  • Berkeley County, WV: Marlowe, Falling Waters, Martinsburg, and Hedgesville

  • Jefferson County, WV: Bolivar, Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, Ranson, and Shepherdstown

  • Washington County, MD: Williamsport, Hagerstown, Clear Spring, Funkstown, Sharpsburg, Keedysville, Boonsboro, Smithsburg, and Hancock
  • Frederick County, MD: Braddock Heights, Middletown, and Frederick

  • Franklin County, PA: Greencastle, Chambersburg, and Waynesboro

  • Frederick County, VA: Winchester

  • Morgan County, WV: Berkeley Springs

Thanks for checking out Kali!

Guro Ron Hebb

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