History of Doce Pares

Eskrima or esgrima. Kali. Arnis. Pangamut. Pangolisi. Panandata. Kalirongan. Didya. Kabaraon. Pagkalikali. Sinawali. Kaliradman. Pagaradman. Estokada. Estoque. Fraile. Armas de mano.

Whatever name different ethnic areas in the Philippines claim, at the heart it is the same—it is the only known Filipino traditional martial art of self-defense. Its noble heritage embodies the vaunted Filipino values of courage, endurance, skill, and discipline.

After the great Lapu-Lapu showed to the world the superior fighting skills of native Filipinos by defeating Ferdinand Magellan, the Filipino stickfighting art slipped into the shadows of neglect as the land soon became colonized and native traditions banished. While other Asian martial arts soared to their highest immense popularity, the indigenous Filipino stickfighting art remained stagnant except for a few who preserved the art through the centuries.

1975 marked an awakening with the development of the National Arnis Kali Eskrima Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) with the sole mission to give life and propagate the art in other parts of the world. Without fanfare, the people behind NARAPHIL gradually opened the eyes of the martial arts world to the extraordinary beauty and tactical skill of Filipino Martial Arts.

Now, the Filipino Martial Art belongs to the world.


Doce Pares does not refer to one particular style. It is an assemblage of various styles that were brought and introduced into the organization by the founding masters in 1932. To the credit of the leaders of the organization, these diverse and often contrasting styles and skills were all successfully integrated and passed on to the next generation of Doce Pares adherents. The following styles each comprise a portion of the Doce Pares Multi-Style training curriculum:

  • The Close Range style (corto) of Lorenzo and Teodoro Saavendra
  • The Medium Range style of Jesus Cui
  • The Espada y Daga and Corto Orihinal style of Felimon “Momoy” Cañete
  • The Long Range style of Yoling Cañete and Vincent “Inting” Carin
  • In later years, the Corto style of Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete and Pangamut of Maximo Cañete

Over the years the styles were gradually incorporated into one training method, while retaining the individual character of each system. The second generation of the Cañete Clan were afforded the rare opportunity of becoming well versed in these various styles and ranges of Filipino Martial Arts. The development of each style and evolution of what we now call the Doce Pares Multi-Style system during the past three decades has largely been credited to Grandmaster Dionisio “Diony” Cañete, the son of Yoling Cañete. In his efforts to preserve and promote Doce Pares as it was when it was formed in 1932, GM Diony wove together the various styles of the original masters into one logical and methodical curriculum. This was done in such a way that, even in the midst of innovations and modifications, the essence of the original component styles remain undiluted.


Eskrima, Kali, Arnis has roots deep in the culture and history of the Filipino people. Though the exact date of its origin remains unclear, historical evidence suggest that this art of self defense - involving the use of long and short sticks, a dagger or other blunt instruments - undoubtedly existed long before the arrival of the first Spanish colonizers in the country.

Lapulapu, a Filipino hero, was believed to be one of the foremost masters of Arnis, which was known during that time in the native dialect as pangamut. Lapulapu vigorously trained his men for "showdown" fights against tribal enemies long before his historic battle with Ferdinand Magellan on April 27, 1521, on Mactan Island. When Magellan, the first circumnavigator of the world, tried to subdue the recalcitrant Lapulapu, the Spaniards were met not with a hail of bullets but with wooden instruments, spears, and bolos. Magellan lost his life in that battle.

Lapulapu's father, Datu Mangal, most likely brought stickfighting to Mactan Island, and Sri Batugong and his son Sri Bantung Lumay brought the art to the neighboring island of Sugbu (present day Cebu). Bantug Lumay’s son, Rajah Humabon, became arch rivals withLapulapu and this feud between local chieftains contributed significantly to early development of the "old" Arnis. Thus, when Miguel Lopez de Legaspi landed established the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines in 1565, he and his men noted that the Filipinos were in a class by themselves in the arts of stickfighting and swordfighting.

The Many Names of Filipino Martial Arts

Due to Spanish influence Filipino martial culture art came to be known as arnis de mano, which derives from the Spanish word arnes, meaning "trappings", or "defensive armor". It also acquired namesake such as estokada, estoque, fraile, armas de mano or simply arnis. Among the Tagalogs, it is known as pananandata; to the Pangasinan natives, kalirongan; to the Ilocanos, didya or kabaraon; to the Ibanan, pagkalikali; to the Pampagenos, sinawali; and to the Visayans, kaliradman or pagaradman, or later, esgrima or eskrima. The word eskrima is derived from the Spanish word esgrima which means a "game between two combatants with the use of blunt instruments.”

Filipino Martial Arts today

The revival of arnis to its present level of popularity is credited to the National Arnis Kali Eskrima Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL), which was organized in 1975, mainly to promote and propagate this Filipino art. Among their projects were the staging of the First Asian Martial Arts Festival in 1976, the First National Arnis Championship in March, 1979 in Cebu City, the First World Eskrima Kali Arnis Championships in Cebu City on August 11-13, 1989. It was during the first world championships that NARAPHIL organized a convention that led to the formation of the World Eskrima Arnis Kali Federation (WEKAF). Representatives of ten countries including the Philippines became the charter members of the federation.

The Doce Pares Multi-Style system and GM Diony were featured on an episode of “Human Weapon” which aired on The History Channel in Fall 2007.

Cindy Lou Cuesta