The Karate-Kali Connection

Modern Karate is often unrealistic.

Either you can’t use certain techniques, or you can’t strike certain targets, or you obsess over “form” (rather than FUNCTION).

That’s why I often travel to Okinawa – the birthplace of Karate.

Sadly, the reverse influence of modern Karate has forced many dojos to change their ways. The art is becoming a sport… even in Japan.

For this reason, I’ve had to seek out many different grandmasters to collect as much knowledge as possible before its lost forever.

That’s why I’ve discovered something highly unusual.

On my last trip to Okinawa, 3 different grandmasters in 3 different dojos taught me one exercise that was *identical*. Yet they all claimed it was unique to “their style”.

This means the exercise must have been handed down from ancient times, before Karate was divided into different styles.

But here’s the crazy part… this exact same exercise is also practiced in a Filipino martial art named Kali.

To learn more, I decided to meet an expert!

Watch the video:


  • Paul Danaher
    Hi Jess San . This exercise is used in many martial across the Far East . See You tubeMaul Mornie (Silat) . I would imagine from Chinese and Japanese migration to the various countries in and around the South China Sea and vice verser spread the techniques . Many used them in real combat using Machetes , knives Iand bare hand. I imagine this would be similar to how southern wushu and Okinawan te would have looked when they were real combat art’s.Have a look at Seiyu Oyata’s video’s on you tube and you will see this very exercise accompanied with real Kyushu. It kind of put’s everything together. We use this exercise at my dojo and it fits in very well with naihanchi(tekki) applications,in fact with most Kata applications if used at the beginning of a move. Also it makes an excellent bridge between long range fighting into closer range techniques and grappling. I and my class enjoy watching you videos and articles very much . Keep searching. With respect . Paul Danaher. Something Dan Shotokan.
    • Thanks for chiming in Paul-san! Very interesting. What particularly caught my attention regarding Kali was the etymological connection (Hubud = Entangle. Tegumi/Kumite = Entangle Hands). It would be interesting to find out if the same terminology is used in other traditional Southeast Asian martial arts.
      • Paul Danaher
        Not being much of a wordsmith Jesse San..(I can barely speak English,. My native Tongue.)I can’t comment on that ,but there’s definitely similarities between the Hubud and double blocks /strikes in Wing Chun and Silat .Maybe there’s also an Indian influence from Kalaripayattu. ( I think that’s how it’s spelt ).Maybe one day you could go on one of your video .ventures to find the real origin’s . That would make one hell of a series. All the best . In respect Paul.
      • Hi Sensei Jessei sounds like a promising video
  • Divsha
    Perhaps you could come to India to explore Karate connections with our ancient martial art Kalaripayattu? I would love to know if the two arts are related... you see, Kalaripayattu is not popular at all, even in India.
    • I'd love that! It's definitely on my to-do list.
  • Sydfrey
    Hi Jesse-Sensei. It's nice to see that your way of karate found its way to the Philippines through Kali. We also call it Arnis or Eskrima here. I practice karate by the way and I have been following you for quite a long time. Your video about Kali relating to karate is very inspiring for me since I've always wanted to link my karate to our native martial art; and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to find interesting techniques there that I might connect to some of the techniques in our kata especially in the bunkai. What struck me was the part where the Kali master pulls your neck and immediately does a forearm strike with the same arm. I remember something like that in Empi I think, where you punch high then the fist opens in a rotating fashion. You did it yourself in the video, demonstrated it without the opponent. Then I said oh! that's like empi. So I think it will be nice to cross train with it. :-) Keep the videos coming and always keeping it real. :-)
    • Thanks a lot! Great observation. So many kata applications!
  • Loved this episode and information! Excellent demonstration by Johan Skalberg of his Art. Have been fortunate to be present several years as he does teaching at Capital Conquest in Canada as part of World Kobudo Federation. The link to Karate was evident to me also. Thank You for sharing! Was not aware of use in Okinawa of such, but more familiar with similar use of Tegumi exercices and practice from Hanshi Patrick McCarthy of IRKRS and Koryu-Uchinadi.
  • Don Burnnside
    Hey Jesse SAN we in Chito Ryu have a kata called Nisei-shi. It starts with a block we call Kakiwake Uke. We have been told that it is a wedge block. It is done with both hands so in essence we are entangling the opponent. Never thought of it that way but am always totally open to new ideas. This was really an eye opener. Domo
  • Eric
    Jesse Sensei I saw you went to Guru Johan Skalbberg. And are discovering the SE Asian Connections to Okinawa. Many years ago that was the reason I started incorporating the Tapi Tapi, Hubud, Harimau Dumog which is only common sense since Okinawa was a trading port for Asia between Taiwan China (Korea) and S Asia. I myself have gone back Into my Kenpo/ Kempo Jiu Jitsu as it was taught by Shihan Bobby Lowe of Kyokushin and Kempo Jiu Jitsu Sil Lum pai Danzan Ryu and Boxing in 1970’s , while the Emperado brothers of the Philippines along with Dan Inosanto were instrumental in the incorporation of FMA into American System of Kenpo. Their were two huge groups in the United States teaching in America one Palama Hawaii and the other in Stockton California. The Emperado’s helped found KAJUKENBO and Dan Inosanto a Black Belt under Ed Parker who had learned Mitose (Yoshida) Kenpo and added Kapu- Kuialua Hawaiian System of Bone Breaking to it along with Okazaki Dannzan Ryu. As told by Mas Guru Dan Inosanto who also was protégé of Jun Fan aka. Bruce Lee and while also trained in Maphalindo and Mande Mude Silat FMA puts it. 80% of the sailors on Spanish ships were Filipinos especially in the Americas. In fact just before WWII the Japanese approached masters in Philippines to come on a culture exchange. And they loaded on a ship to go to Japan and when it was in the middle of the Pacific they sank the ship. Although a dark period is actually a smart way to weaken your enemies defenses. So the main source including Presas and Emperados and Stockton area families was the source for much of the Kali Silat Arnis in much of the world. In fact many of the systems were reintroduced by Filipino Americans to the Philippines. From such families as Cables, Preses, Emperados. OSU! Terima Qasi.
  • Oswald Moore
    Hmmm, handed down from ancient times, or they learned it from a youtube video in more modern times. Both are viable, possible and realistic. I'm kind of skeptical, in the sense that the body can only move in a set number of ways so it is not unusual to find similar techniques being taught and practiced in a wide range of martial arts even without having direct contact with each other. It doesn't always mean it has been handed down from ancient times or from a common source. I do like the close similarities between the trapping/counter movements in Tensho and what the Kali teacher and you were doing in the video with the two hand trapping. We have been doing that in the dojo for decades, not because of a connection through history, but because Dan Inosanto (and some other kali teachers) came to the dojo and taught us. I think the close similarities are because some guys in Okinawa and some guys in Philippines both came to similar conclusions at different times.
  • Akashi
    What are your thoughts one nei gong? Here is an interview of a master that's seem to be quite knowledgeable and doesn't make outlandish claims,the you tube channel is "the martial man"
  • Cam
    Even if there's no derivative connection (karate, as Te, is said to have derived from kempo during exchanges between Chinese and Okinawan fishermen--in the old days, Okinawa was closer to China than Japan; kempo itself is a Shaolin method), there are modern connections due to post-war US servicemen interest (bases in both Okinawa and the Philippines). Most people think of Dan Inosanto when it comes to Filipino martial arts in the US. But Arsenio Advincula has been a devotee of Isshinryu karate and Arnis for decades. My own dojo followed in those footsteps, practicing both Isshinryu and Arnis. Shimabuku's narrow and mobile stances (taken from Shorinryu) make a transition to Arnis techique easy.

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