A Shield

By Christopher Zoukis

Image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

Kali Sikaran is a martial arts system developed in Southeast Asia during the Majapahit Empire.  The Majapahit Empire, concentrated on the Island of Java in contemporary Indonesia, thrived because of its proximity to commercial trading routes on the Indian Ocean.  More specifically, the empire controlled the Straits of Malacca, which meant Java was a maritime hub.  At its pinnacle, the Majapahit Empire extended over the bulk of Southeast Asia, from Sumatra to New Guinea, including the present day regions of Singapore, Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines, Brunei and East Timor.  The Majapahit Empire began to wane when the laws of royal succession suffered ambiguity.  Emperors took multiple wives, concubines and consorts, resulting in a hazy understanding of who was the legitimate heir of the empire.  Each time the reigning emperor died, chaos and civil unrest followed.  In the end, the Majapahit Empire’s control over the Malacca Straits was displaced by the Sultanate of Malacca and as a result, Islam superseded Hinduism as the predominant religion.  The empire crumbled.

Spain began colonizing the Maharlikas Islands, in 1521 and named the islands the Philippines after Philippe II, the King of Spain.

When the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in the 16th century, the indigenous population defended themselves against the invaders by means of Kali.  The Filipino hero, Lapu Lapu, was a master of Kali, a ferocious fighting art evolved from the Silat of the Majapahit Empire.  Lapu Lapu’s system of fighting was known as Kali Pangamut.  Lapu Lapu and his Kalista warriors resisted the invaders with terrible effect and, according to recorded history Lapu Lapu killed the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan on the beach of Mactan on April 27, 1521. Only a few of Ferdinand Magellan’s soldiers returned to Spain, and it took until 1565 before Spain attempted to colonize the Philippines again.

The term Kali is thought by some to be a contraction of the words Kamut Lihok, ‘movements of the body.’  Others believe the term had its origin in the word Kalis, ‘sword.’  On the islands of Negros, Samar and Pany, the art is known as Kaliradman, Kalirongan or Pankalikali, respectively.

The etymology of Sikaran comes from the word sikad (or sipa an), which is defined as ‘kick.’  Thus, Sikaran means the art of kicking.  Due to the unpredictability of close quarter combat, where the possibility of losing a weapon or being caught without a weapon exists, Kali Sikaran focuses on the ability to shift gracefully from fighting with weapons to fighting with empty hands.

Kali Sikaran contains elements and influences from a number of different fighting styles:  Filipino Kali from the Philippines; Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong from Thailand; and Pencak Silat from Indonesia and Malaysia.