Kalis Ilustrisimo

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Kalis Ilustrisimo
Kali Ilustrisimo logo.jpg

Kalis Ilustrisimo (formerly known as Kali Ilustrisimo) is a blade-based Filipino Martial Art (Arnis) founded by Antonio "Tatang" Ilustrisimo.


Referred to simply as Escrima by Tatang and as Doblete Repeticion by previous generations of his family,[1] It was also named Olisistrisimo Escrima by Robert Morales, a portmanteau of olisi (one of the Filipino terms for stick), and the surname of its practitioner, Ilustrisimo. In Manila, it was known as Ilustrisimo Arnis.[2]

During the mid 1980s, after the term Kali for Filipino Martial Arts became popular, the system began to be referred to as Kali Ilustrisimo.

In latter years, as the term Kali for FMA became embroiled in controversy in the Philippines in terms of origin (arnis and escrima being the more common terms),[1] the name of the art as practiced by Tatang was officially changed to Kalis Ilustrisimo as more appropriate to mean "The Sword of Ilustrisimo": kalis (or keris) being another term for sword/blade, as the art of Tatang is more blade-oriented than stick-oriented.


Main article: Antonio Ilustrisimo
Members of Kalis Ilustrisimo at Rizal Park

The Ilustrisimo clan from Bantayan Island in the Northern part of the Cebu region was known for their Eskrima and has practiced its own traditional stick and sword fighting style for over five generations. Its first known practitioner was Pablo Ilustrisimo who passed it on to Juan de Dios Ilustrisimo, who then passed it to the brothers Isidro, Melecio and Regino (the better known of Tatang's uncles). Tatang was mentored by his father Isidro as well as by his uncles. Another illustrious ancestor was Agapito Ilustrismo, a rebel against the Spaniards who escaped to Mount Banahaw and established a religious cult.[3]

Tatang retained his family style while he lived a long, storied, and tumultuous life and refined his fighting style from the influences of at least Pedro Cortez, a Zamboangueño bounty hunter, and a Tausug family who adopted him from age 10 to 17. He had his experiences as an eskrimador in various matches, as a seaman going around South-East Asia and as a security-enforcer for business establishments in various areas of the Philippines, including the Tondo-Binondo areas of Manila. He faced numerous duels, challenges as well as "death matches" with live blades. Family members that Tatang taught were his cousin Floro Villabrille (1912-1992) and his grandnephew Samuel Ilustrisimo.

Throughout most of his latter life, Tatang was secretive about his methods of fighting for they had kept him alive and undefeated for decades. It was only in 1976 that Tatang started openly teaching his refinement of the famly style to "outsiders", with Antonio "Tony" Diego (1946-2014) and Epifanio "Yuli" Romo as his first students in Manila where he had migrated.[2] Other notable students were Christopher "Topher" Ricketts (1955–2010), Romeo "Romy" Macapagal, Pedro Reyes, Edgar Sulite (1957-1997), Rey Galang, Norman Suanico, Inocencio Glaraga, Roberto Morales (deceased 2010), Ernesto Talag, Henry Espera, and Mark Wiley.[2] Prior to World War II, Tatang had also privately taught a contemporary, Timoteo Maranga (later on Major Maranga of the Cebu police force).

Even at his advanced age, Tatang retained the respect accorded him as a fighter in the tough streets of Tondo where he resided. As a testament to his reputation, archive footage of Ilustrisimo taken well into his 80s show his speed, control, timing and accuracy with sticks, blades as well as empty hand disarms against live blades in spite of his failing eyesight.

After Grand Master Tatang Ilustrisimo's death in 1997, Tony Diego was elected the head of Kalis Ilustrisimo. Tony Diego later added a descriptive to the system which became known as Kalis Ilustrisimo Repeticion Orihinal. This was on the suggestion of the late Pedro Reyes -- that the senior students of Tatang should set up their own schools. Thus, there were: Bahad Zu'bu by Yuli Romo, Kali Combatant by Pedring Romo, Bakbakan International by Topher Ricketts and Rey Galang, Tagpas Kalis Ilustrisimo by Romy Macapagal, Luneta Kali Ilustrisimo by Pedro Reyes and Samuel Ilustrisimo, Olistrisimo Eskrima by Roberto Morales, and Rapido Realismo by Henry Espera.[2] Romy Macapagal, as archivist of the Kalis Ilustrisimo system and not founding a school, dropped “Tagpas” and retained Kalis Ilustrismo. A junior student of Tatang, Raymond Floro, has named his style Floro Fighting Systems specializing in knife-work.

Grandmaster Diego had named Tom Dy Tang as successor of Kalis Ilustrismo Repeticion Orihinal twelve years prior to his death (2002). Grandmaster Diego died on August 25, 2014. Tom Dy Tang then renamed his system Kalis Ilustrisimo Orihinal Repeticion. Peachie Baron teaches GM Diego’s “Punta y Daga” style. Meanwhile, GM Diego’s Kalis Ilustrisimo Repeticion Orihinal style continues to be taught by Arnold Narzo who was appointed Chief Instructor by GM Diego two years (2012) before his death (2014).[4]


  1. ^ a b Nepangue, MD, Ned R.; Macachor, Celestino C. (2007). Cebuano Eskrima:Beyond the Myth. United States of America: Xlibris. ISBN 978-1-4257-4621-6. 
  2. ^ a b c d Diego, Antonio; Ricketts, Christopher (1999). The Secrets of Kalis Ilustrisimo: The Filipino Fighting Art Explained. Singapore: Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8048-3145-1. 
  3. ^ Marasigan, Vicente (1985). A Banahaw Guru: Symbolic Deeds of Agapito Illustrisimo. 
  4. ^ Romeo Macapagal (August 30, 2014). "Tribute and tribulation". Manila Times. 


See Also[edit]

External Links[edit]

  • The Deadly Art of Kalis Illustrisimo, A Candid Interview with Master Romy Macapagal [1]