All About Filipino Knife Fighting: A Complete Overview

If you have read the history of the Philippines, you will know that Filipinos are good fighters when it comes to defending their lands and territories. Most sultans and datus in many Philippines islands are armed with native weapons and skilled martial artists. Filipinos also know how to do open hand techniques to defend themselves. Other countries may have knife fight weapons and techniques, and Filipinos do have the same.

Filipino knife fighting is called Arnis, Kali, or Eskrima. Though classified as a Philippine martial art, these can also be considered in the form of knife fighting as it emphasizes the uses of sticks, knives, and bladed weapons. It also comes with techniques that do not use weapons called open hand techniques. 

Arnis is a classic Filipino knife fighting martial art that can save your life. Though you can use a knife, hand, sword, or stick, the knife is a highly respected and feared weapon accessory because of its speed, power, and elusiveness. Many would consider Arnis one of the best knife-fighting martial arts in the world. To get into details about knife fighting martial arts in the Philippines, kindly read more below.

History of Filipino Knife Fighting

Back in history, before Spain colonized the country, it was ruled by Datus and Sultans. They are protecting their land and using their weapons. The county is known for its blade culture. If you dig into Philippine history, many tribes have different blade weapons. That is used in a variety of forms, some are for farming, some ore for hunting, and some are for fighting.

Names of the Knives used by Filipinos for Knife Fighting

The Susuwat of Moros

There are Moros in the Philippines, and they are courageous. They are very protective of their land and will die to protect them. The Moro region of the country is located in the Southern Philippines. This part of the country was never conquered by the Spaniards or Americans, nor the Northern mountains of Luzon. 

Susuwat is the ethnic weapon of the Moros. This weapon is light and is used by many indigenous people in Mindanao. This weapon is a single blade with a broad tip and triple prong designed for forwarding cutting. This sword can range from 24 to 28 inches in length, and it comes with a hoop grip in case of slipping when wet. 


The Bolo of Katipunan

The Bolo is a big cutting knife similar to a machete. This huge cutting knife is widely used in the country and became the symbol of fighting for freedom when the Katipuneros sought independence against the Spaniards. 

 Filipinos used the Bolo during the Battle of Mactan, Spanish Conquest, Philippine Revolution, Spanish-American War, Philippine American War, World War 1, and World War 2. Though Bolo is primarily used in clearing vegetation or during trailblazing, it is also used in the Filipino Martial Arts or Arnis as part of training.

Barong of the Tausug

Barong is also a traditional blade used by the Tausug. As you may know, Tausug is one of the country’s bravest people. They will die for their rights are not and will never be afraid of colonizers. Barong is a thick, leaf-shaped, single-edged blade word. Barong is a weapon used by Muslim Filipinos.

Barong is a weapon explicitly used by Tausug, Sama-Bajau, or Yakan in the Northern Philippines. The length of this knife is 56 centimeters, the blade length of the older one is 20 to 56 centimeters, while the newer blades go around 46 to 56 centimeters.


Balisong of Tagalog

Balisong is a butterfly knife and is also called a Batangas knife. This weapon is a folding pocket knife that originates in the country. People in the Tagalog region commonly use Balisong. This weapon is used for self-defense. However, this knife is now banned and restricted in the country and is no longer common in urban areas. 


Kampilan is a single-edged sword that many Filipinos use in different countries. Various ethnic groups used it for protection and warfare. This weapon is considered a sword and is significantly used by ancient barangays, rajahnates, and sultanates. The Kapampangan, Ilocanos, use this weapon Tagalogs, Totoon Pangasinan, Visayans, Lumad, Moros, Iranun, Maguindanao, Maranao, Tausug and Bajau. 

Kampilan is one of the weapons used in the Battle of Mactan, Spanish COnquest, and Moro Wars. This sword can weigh approximately 0.85 to 1.3 kilograms with 90 to 100 centimeters in length and about 70-centimeter blade length. 

Pinuti of the Visayans

Pinuti is a Visayan sword used for warfare. This weapon is primarily intended for agricultural use. The word Pinuti means whitened in the Cebuano language. Though this weapon is used mainly for agriculture, it became a weapon for many farmers. Farmers will sharpen the blades by polishing them clean and white. 

Pirah of the Yakan

For warfare, the Yakan has a weapon for knife fighting called Pirah. Its heavy blade and white tip characterize this knife. Pirah is the traditional weapon of the Yakan people on Basilan Island. Though this weapon was initially created for agricultural use, it was later used for combat. 

Sundang of the Visayan

The Visayan people widely use Sundang; it is primarily used for household chores like cutting meat, vegetables, and fruits. However, it was also used for defense during wars and even for combat in the long run. Sundang is one of the most popular weapons used during the Philippine revolution. This weapon was used against the Spanish Empire and during the subsequent Philippine-American War. 


Itak of the Tagalogs

When Filipinos hear the word Itak, the thing that will always come into their mind is a weapon used for combat and self-defense. This weapon is known as a jungle bolo or tip bolo. Itak was also one of the most popular weapons during the Philippine Revolution and the American War.


The Philippines is a blade country as they use blades as weapons for warfare before, during, and after the colonization. Arnis is a Filipino martial art that uses a variety of weapons, including knives. The country has different types of blade weapons that vary on different occasions. Though primarily created for agricultural use, most of these weapons became a weapon for warfare and combat. Filipinos use these weapons to protect their territories and to seek freedom.

Regina and Joe

Hello! It's Regina and Joe here. Like many other couples, we met online and after a long-distance relationship, Joe decided to move to the Philippines, where we married and live together since 2017. In this blog, we will teach you how to enjoy the Philippines to the fullest and what to expect from Filipino culture. Who more than us can understand both the West and the East?

Recent Posts