Filipino Martial Arts

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Kali Means To Scrape

This is a side of Filipino martial arts you may not have seen before unless you have travelled in the Philippines.

The documentary is wry, insightful, humorous, informative, eye-opening, off-beat, tongue-in-cheek.... and the sound track rocks! (I hope it will be released on a separate CD)

To quote from the production website: ‘Kali Means to Scrape’ is a 30 minute documentary shot in the rough-and-tumble neighborhoods of the Philippines. It follows the progress of American stick-fighter and martial arts enthusiast, Nick Papadakis, as he scours the countryside in search of Kali masters - a deadly art that involves weapons and intense physical training. [.... ] From coast-to-countryside Kali is taught in backyards, around cooking fires and in villages, as a means for farmers to defend themselves against bandits and gangs. There’s no formal institution - Kali is an art of the people. It is tradition.

Indeed KMTS does reveal a very different side of the martial arts. It is gritty and real, and very much a cultural experience. It reminds us that kali (as with most indigenous martial arts) comes from somewhere else. That it arises from human need and from the nature of the environment. That it belongs to the people of the Philippines and it is only on loan to the rest of us. It shows us that kali is as kali does - and the results are sometimes not so pretty.

The kalimen in the film reflect that grittiness. Some, like Grandmaster Leo T. Gaje jr. of the Pekiti-Tirsia System of kali, are well-known for their prowess, teaching blade fighting techniques to the military that are essential for their daily survival. Others are farmers or villagers with typical skills in an unnamed family art, taught by a father or an uncle, sometimes forced to protect themselves against violent circumstances. All of them live with the blade and practice with the stick. Their beliefs are part of their strength - anting-anting protects them as much as their skill with arms. All of them celebrate life and grieve death. These are true kalimen.

The documentary producer Nick Papadakis is also "Pappy Dog" of Dog Brothers fame. He is a full contact stick fighter and weapons maker, as well as a videographer and documentary producer (he has produced various works including training DVDs for Dog Brothers and shows for the History channel). He is not shy about applying his fighting arts. Neither is he shy about his documentary. Without being apologetic for the unreheased feel of the footage, he uses pointed irony and clever editting to assemble a really enjoyable travelogue that involves weapons and ready danger. Better him than you might be the reaction.

Regardless of how Filipino martial enthusiasts receive this film (I really liked it!), it contributes significantly to the meagre documentation available on the Filipino Martial Arts and Pinoy culture. Without applying the limiting filters of western journalism, it shows it like it was - for a short while at least, in the early 21st century, through one man's experiences. So then, some of us, who have never been there, might know - and so that some of us, who have, will remember.

This is a very personal work from a talented media artist. It should be part of any FMA collection. And did I mention? The sound track is excellent and the kickin' beats dropped at the curtain are way phat.

Thanks Nick!

Contact Nick at Kombat Instruments Limited for any questions or orders at:

nick (at)

Loki Jorgenson
FMA Database Editor


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