Arnis in popular culture

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Arnis in popular culture reflects the impact that the Filipino martial arts of arnis/eskrima/kali have made outside of the martial arts community. The three terms are roughly interchangeable and for the purpose of convenience, the term arnis will be used throughout the article. These arts emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, blades, improvised weapons and hand-to-hand fighting which is formally known as Mano Mano or Pangamut.[1] Because of this training with live weapons, elements of arnis have made an impact in film, video games, television, and comic books. Arnis is often used to train actors and stuntmen how to handle similar weapons for use in movies.[2]


  • In the animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon ( Disney, 2021), the fighting style of Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) is based on pencak silat from Indonesia and arnis from the Philippines.
  • In the 2021 film Dune, according to director Denis Villeneuve, eskrima is used as the primary style of fighting in the film due to the use of personal force fields necessitating a return to knife fighting, as only slow moving objects may penetrate said shielding.
  • In the 2020 Netflix film, The Old Guard featured Charlize Theron, and her fellow actors using various martial arts for their scenes, including Hung Gur, taekwondo, judo, silat, kali, and more.
  • In the 2015 film Spy starring Melissa McCarthy, Filipino martial arts are used for the movies fight scenes. Melissa McCarthy was trained in kali by Diana Lee Inosanto who is the daughter of Dan Inosanto.
  • According to film director James Wan during a cast interview, the final fight scene with Vin Diesel and Jason Statham in Furious 7 was inspired by eskrima, using metal pipes and wrenches instead of sticks. Vin Diesel had trained in eskrima from prior experience.[3]
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe features arnis being used by Winter Soldier, Black Widow and Hawkeye.
  • The award-winning 2014 film Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo film about Katipunan revolutionary leader Andrés Bonifacio (who is often depicted with a signature bolo in popular culture and artworks) extensively used Filipino martial arts for the bladed fight scenes. Sonny Sison was fight choreographer.
  • In the 2014 film The Equalizer, Denzel Washington uses Filipino martial arts techniques to take out a room of Russian thugs using weapons like a knife and improvised weapons such as a shot glass and cork screws which were used like push daggers. Denzel Washington is also a student of Filipino Martial Arts legend Dan Inosanto.
  • Rafael Kayanan of the Sayoc Kali system was the Fight Choreographer for the close quarter fights where Liam Neeson fights various opponents inside the airplane of the 2014 film Non-Stop.[4][circular reference]
  • Arnis was extensively used in the 2014 film I, Frankenstein. Actor Aaron Eckhart trained for 6 months under Ron Balicki and Diana Lee Inosanto for the role.[5]
  • In the 2 TV movie specials of SP (SP: Yabou-hen (SP: Motion Picture I) - 2010 & SP: Kakumei Hen (SP: Motion Picture II) - 2011), Kaoru Inoue (Junichi Okada) used kali in fighting most of the antagonists in the films.
  • In the movie The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption Agromael (Dave Batista) uses arnis in his fight scenes.
  • In the movie Wrong Side of Town the characters of Dave Batista called Big Ronnie or BR and Marrese Crump called Markus or Bordas Bodyguard are using arnis in fight scenes
  • The Bladed Hand: The Global Impact of Filipino Martial Arts is a 2011 documentary film by Jay Ignacio, Sonny Sison, Kent Vives which features interviews from many of the prominent Filipino grandmasters around the world and in the Philippines who are alive today.[6] It is unprecedented as they were able to obtain permission to document arnis systems which have held long bitter rivalries with each other, something which would not have been possible a decade ago.
  • In the 2011 movie Hanna, the characters played by Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan are shown practicing 6-step sinawali double-stick drills at the beginning of the film. Towards the end, Hanna gets into a fight and uses Filipino trapping and knife-fighting techniques. Ronan trained at the Inosanto Academy for the role and Jeff Imada was fight choreographer for the film as well.[7][8]
  • Olivier Schneider was the fight choreographer for the 2011 film Unknown starring Liam Neeson. Schneider and Neeson had both previously worked on Taken in 2008. In Unknown, Neesons character regains his effective combat skills and uses a broken piece of glass like a knife to kill his assailant.
  • In the 2010 Korean movie The Man from Nowhere, the main character, Cha Tae-sik, takes out a room full of henchman using Filipino empty-hand and knife-fighting techniques. A fight also happens between Cha Tae-sik and a Thai gang member in which they use a variety of Filipino trapping techniques. The Thai gang member is armed with a Karambit which is used in Filipino Martial Arts and Silat Training.
  • In the 2010 movie Kick-Ass, the title character, played by Aaron Johnson, used arnis sticks to fight criminals and Hit-Girl played by Chloë Grace Moretz used the signature Filipino balisong knives.
  • In the 2010 movie Repo Men, Forest Whitaker (a long time kali student under Dan Inosanto) and Jude Law used kali for the vicious fight scenes with Jeff Imada as fight choreographer.[9]
  • In the 2010 movie The Book of Eli, the title character, played by Denzel Washington, uses a stylized Bolo blade in self-defense. Washington trained for months in kali fighting styles in preparation for the role under Dan Inosanto and his senior student Jeff Imada.[10]
  • Eskrimadors is a landmark 2009 Filipino Martial Arts documentary film by Kerwin Go which features the real-life legendary grandmasters and interviews from Doce Pares, Balintawak Eskrima and other major schools from the Cebu area. It is of particular significance because it is the first documentary film on FMA that was made by a Filipino.
  • In the 2009 movie Ninja Assassin, kali was used in the dual weapon choreography. Chad Stahelski and Jonathan Eusebio of 87Eleven Action Design were fight choreographers.[11] Stahelski and Eusebio are students of Dan Inosanto.
  • Olivier Schneider was the fight choreographer for the 2008 film Taken. starring Liam Neeson. Neeson trained under Schneider and used a combination of Wing Chun, silat and arnis.[12]
  • In the 2008 James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, actor Daniel Craig used Filipino martial arts to subdue a knife-wielding assassin. 2nd-unit director Dan Bradley worked with the same team from the Bourne series of movies for the fight choreography.[full citation needed]
  • In the 2002 movie The Bourne Identity and its 2004 and 2007 sequels, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Matt Damon used kali for the fight scenes, and was trained by Damon Caro and Jonathan Eusebio.[13][14] The primary fight choreographer was Jeff Imada assisted by Damon Caro and Jonathan Eusebio, all students of Dan Inosanto. The first film's director Doug Liman stated that kali's principles of minimal effort influenced their development of Bourne's character.
  • In the 2008 movie Big Stan, the title character, played by Rob Schneider, fights prison inmates with a mop broken in half as his kali sticks and his last opponent was Dan Inosanto.
  • In the 2008 movie Punisher: War Zone, Ray Stevenson (Punisher) practiced arnis as part of his stick-fighting and knife-fighting training.
  • In the popularly referenced 2007 movie 300, arnis/kali/eskrima was used as the base for the blade and shield choreography.[15] FMA's signature heavy use of the off-hand can be seen in the offensive use of the shield. The fight choreographer, Damon Caro is a senior student of Dan Inosanto. History does not tell us much about the fighting style of the Spartans so it was not known how they actually fought in ancient Greece so arnis was used as a replacement.
  • In the Chronicles of Riddick series, Riddick (Vin Diesel) employs a more aggressive variation of arnis.[16][17] Paul Rapovski of Kali de Leon was the fight choreographer.
  • In the 2006 movie Mission: Impossible III, Tom Cruise and Keri Russell's characters were shown training with rattan sticks.
  • In the 2005 movie, The Prodigy, fight/stunt coordinator Ron Balicki stylized all the fights in the movie using arnis techniques.
  • In the 2006 movie The Sensei, Diana Lee Inosanto's character teaches a young boy arnis.
  • Wesley Snipes used arnis in 2004's Blade: Trinity. Fight coordinator Chuck Jeffries is a kali expert (under Dan Inosanto) and Snipes learned from Jeff Ward who was fight choreographer in the first 2 movies.
  • In the 2004 movie Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Milla Jovovich's character was trained by Ron Balicki to use arnis to finish off several opponents with expandable batons. Ron Balicki (a senior JKD/kali instructor under Dan Inosanto) and his daughter Diana Lee Inosanto were the fight choreographers.
  • Mano Mano 3: Arnis the Lost Art is a 2004 film starring Ronnie Ricketts, the brother of Christopher Ricketts who is a founder of the Bakbakan International style
  • In Daredevil movie (2003),Ben Affleck is Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer who fights for justice in the courtroom and on the streets of New York as the masked vigilante Daredevil, using a stick for main weapon.
  • The 2003 movie The Hunted starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro showcased Filipino knife fighting which was choreographed by Tom Kier and Rafael Kayanan from Sayoc Kali.[18]
  • In Matrix Reloaded ( 2003), Neo usina the two halves of a broken spear like batons, was able to block the henchmen's strikes with one spear piece and immediately attack with the other. Two henchmen were attempting to attack Neo on his left and right side. However, Neo, using his weapons, was able to quickly defend himself and attack them simultaneously.
  • In the 20O3 film Lara Croft Tomb Raider : Cradle of Life starring Angelina Jolie, Filipino Martial Arts are used for some fight scenes. Angelina appears training with kali sticks against bo staff
  • The 2002 sequel movie Blade II features arnis once again. Kali instructor Jeff Ward returned as fight coordinator and Wesley Snipes studied under him.
  • In the 2002 movie Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Lucy Liu's character uses arnis to fend off her opponents with a pair of sticks.
  • In the 2002 movie Equilibrium, the commentary reveals that arnis is used in the fight between John Preston and Brandt.
  • In the 2001 movie Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li's character uses eskrima-based stick fighting in one scene where he was trapped inside the dojo full of black belters.
  • Arnis is the weapon style used in the choreography of the popular 1998 comic-book film Blade. Fight choreographer Jeff Ward is a Pekiti Tirsia instructor and stunt coordinators Jeff Imada plus Chuck Jeffries are Inosanto Kali experts as well.
  • In 1997's Mortal Kombat Annihilation, Sultan Uddin (Cabales Eskrima) not only portrayed Reptile, but choreographed Princess Kitana's fight sequence showcasing movements of Eskrima Serrada.
  • In the 1996 movie Barb Wire, Temuera Morrison's character uses empty-handed arnis to fight Customs agents, Diana Lee Inosanto and Ron Balicki.
  • In the 1995 film Under Siege 2, Steven Seagal Uses a knife.[19][20]
  • In the 1992 film Under Siege, Steven Seagal has a knife fight against Tommy Lee Jones.[19][20]
  • In Mission of Justice (1992) Jeff Wincott faces down a gauntlet of cudgel stick-wielding combatants in a hallway.
  • In Martial Law 2 (1992), Jeff Wincott does sinawali and fought two thugs in a dojo.
  • In the 1991 film A Grande Arte A.K.A. (Exposure), Peter Coyote fights Tcheky Karyo using knives and against another villain.
  • In the 1991 film Out for Justice, Steven Seagal fights Dan Inosanto using a broken pool cue against Dan's sticks.
  • In 1991 The Perfect Weapon shows the title character played by Jeff Speakman using arnis in several scenes (arnis had been adopted by the American kempō schools as of '91).
  • Kamagong, a 1986 film starring Lito Lapid as an arnisador featuring the titular sticks made from highly sought-after kamagong hardwood.
  • Big Trouble in Little China, a 1986 film starring Kurt Russell showed a triad member (Jeff Imada) demonstrating sinawali with a balisong and a collapsible baton in the airport during the pivotal kidnap scene. Imada was the choreographer for this movie as well. Many of the triad stuntmen in the film were students of Inosanto, with Dan Inosanto making an appearance as well during the fight scene in the storage room.
  • Arnis: The Sticks of Death, a 1984 film starring Rolando Dantes of Modern Arnis, one of the earliest films about arnis.
  • The Pacific Connection, a 1974 film starring Rolando Dantes.
  • In his unfinished film Game of Death (1978) Bruce Lee faced his close collaborator and arnis master Dan Inosanto in one of the featured battles with masters of different martial arts as he climbs the tower. This is one of the films that first brought arnis to popular international attention.
  • In Enter the Dragon (1973) This is best illustrated in the fight scene with the guards in which Bruce Lee uses their own weapons against them. Bruce is demonstrating escrima, using doble baston (double sticks) to subdue the guards.


  • In 2020 The Mandalorian's first season finale, the Armorer uses eskrima as she laid the pain down on a cadre of stormtroopers.[21]
  • Castlevania (2017–2021) season 2 episode 6, Dracula (Graham McTavish) moves his castle to Brăila while Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) slices and dices demonic attackers. These include a fire drake and an awesome crow-demon guy, killed with kali techniques with two weapons.
  • In The Umbrella Academy (2019), Cha-Cha uses a pool cue broken in half against Allison and Diego,showing arnis techniques.
  • Coco Martin was trained in arnis sticks, boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) by a fellow martial artist, stuntman and actor Val Iglesias for his protagonist role as a policeman named SPO2 Ricardo "Cardo" Dalisay in Ang Probinsyano.[22]
  • In episode 2 of the 2017 J-drama Crisis: Special Security Squad, the squad was practicing eskrima as part of their training routine.
  • The main character Matt Murdock uses arnis sticks given to him by his teacher Stick in the 2015 Daredevil Internet TV Series by Marvel Television and Netflix.
  • The character Mockingbird played by Adrianne Palicki in the ABC television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the martial art in her fight scenes.
  • Sayoc Kali has been being used for the fight choreography in the CBS TV series NCIS: Los Angeles since 2012. Among the trainers and fight choreographers is Rafael Kayanan.[23][24]
  • In Arrow season one episode "The Odyssey", during a flashback, Slade Wilson trains Oliver Queen, the main character of the series, in eskrima. He was also previously shown training with his ally and bodyguard, John Diggle, using this martial art. In the fight between Ra's al Ghul and Oliver in season three episode "The Climb", they are seen to be using a Straight Kris which is a type of Filipino Sword. In season eight, Connor Hawke wields electrified eskrima sticks. Arnis is used throughout the series for the fight choreography done by James Bamford.
  • In Young Justice, Robin and Nightwing are known to use eskrima sticks just like their comic book counterparts.
  • In Avatar: The Legend of Korra, The Lieutenant wields two electrified kali sticks powered by a generator on his back.
  • The Marvel Studios TV series Mutant X featured Kali Deleon.[17]
  • The show Relic Hunter starring Tia Carrere also used Kali Deleon in the choreography.[17]
  • Kali Deleon was also used in the Disney Channel children's series The Famous Jett Jackson as well.[17]
  • In the Discovery Channel series Fight Quest, hosts Doug Anderson and Jimmy Smith trained under Pekiti Tirsia (Tuhon Leo Gaje) and Modern Arnis (GM Cristino Vasquez) instructors.
  • In the BBC Three series Last Man Standing, contestants travel to Banahaw to learn arnis, and have a showdown in which one contestant is crowned winner.
  • On the History Channel's program Human Weapon, the hosts Jason Chambers and Bill Duff practiced various styles of arnis/eskrima/kali, eventually sparring with a Doce Pares champion.
  • The weapons choreography in the Encantadia fantasy TV series shown on GMA Network in the Philippines features some eskrima moves and the actors were given light training by arnisadors.
  • In Highlander: The Series, Adrian Paul's character Duncan MacLeod switched to arnis sticks when he renounced the blade after he accidentally slew his friend Richie Ryan. Actor Paul had travelled to the Philippines to learn the art and was trained by "an old man with missing teeth".
  • The fighting style of the character Teyla Emmagan from Stargate: Atlantis is based on arnis.
  • In Mortal Kombat Conquest, Sultan Uddin showcased Eskrima Serrada as the character Noob Saibot.
  • In Leverage, retrieval specialist Eliot Spencer's fighting style is based primarily on arnis and panantukan.
  • In SP, Kaoru Inoue of the SP division uses arnis as his main martial art.[25] Junichi Okada had been trained by kali instructor Yorinaga Nakamura for some time prior to his leading role in the TV series that he is allowed to teach kali in Japan when Okada had announced it in a 2010 press conference.[25]
  • Professional wrestler Steve Blackman used arnis as a signature weapon during his tenure in the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) as part of his pre-match entrance.
  • In the season 2 of Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, George Gore, both an ally and rival of Yusaku Fujiki, the series' main character uses a series of cards (it is called archetype in the said franchise) called "Dinowrestler", and it is based on fighting-styled dinosaurs, firstly named after their fighting style, along with respective dinosaur names as its name basis (in this case, Dinowrestler Eskrimamenochi, named after Mamenchisaurus and eskrima).

Video games[edit]

Western comics[edit]

  • The character Grail in Whilce Portacio's Wetworks is a Filipino who uses arnis as energy-projection melee weapons.
  • Several popular DC Comics characters use arnis as part of their typical martial arts regimen. Specifically, Dick Grayson as Nightwing[28] and Barbara Gordon both fight with the sticks as a main part of their arsenal, and are defining weapons of their two characters. Other members of the Gotham vigilante population have trained in arnis/eskrima/kali, and it is referenced in the books with some frequency.
  • The character Deadpool in Fabian Nicieza's Cable and Deadpool series, specifically, has been shown using eskrima sticks.
  • Marvel Comics character Mockingbird, Bobbi Morse, a member of the superhero team The Avengers, makes use of a combined form of arnis and kobudō, using two 'battle staves' for the former style, which she can attach together to make use of the latter. While she is capable of arnis, she is a much stronger kobudō fighter, and so tends to prefer using the latter, but has at times also used the former.
  • The titular character Kick-Ass uses arnis as his primary weapon in both the comics and its live action film.
  • Nightcrawler of the X-Men has occasionally been depicted using arnis, primarily with his pirate-like swords. In the first issue of his 2014 ongoing series even opened up with a sequence of him and Wolverine training together using the method, with Nightcrawler using his tail to combat with three sticks rather than just the usual pair.
  • Night Thrasher of the New Warriors is also known to use these weapons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wiley, Mark V. (2000). Filipino Fighting Arts: Theory and Practice. Tuttle Publishing. pp. 1–15. ISBN 0-86568-180-5.
  2. ^ Coleman, Jim (April 1, 1986). "Bruce Lee's Son Speaks Out". Black Belt Magazine. 24 (4): 20–24, 104.
  3. ^ "'Furious 7' Cast Extended Interview". Today Online. March 24, 2015.
  4. ^ "Sayoc Kali".
  5. ^ This Frankenstein monster is a Filipino martial arts expert Nepales, Ruben V., Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jan.30, 2014
  6. ^ Zafra, Jessica (March 19, 2010). "The greatest Filipino cultural export is kicking ass". Philippine Star.
  7. ^ Charlie Jane Anders (April 7, 2011). "Why futuristic assassin movie Hanna is the anti-Sucker Punch, according to director Joe Wright". io9.
  8. ^ "Saoirse Ronan on Combat Training for Hanna: Wondercon 2011". YouTube. ST Media. April 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Forest Whitaker shows off Pinoy martial arts skills". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on February 17, 2008.
  10. ^ "The Book of Eli - Behind the Scenes:Stunts". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo!. 2010. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012.
  11. ^ "Interview with Chad Stahelski of 87Eleven - the Fight Team of Ninja Assassin, The Matrix and More!". Fight Flicks. Archived from the original on March 24, 2012.
  12. ^ "Olivier Schneider Martial Arts Background". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "How to Fight Like Jason Bourne with Jeff Imada". YouTube. April 8, 2009.
  14. ^ "The Bourne Supremacy interview with Matt Damon and Jeff Imada". YouTube. April 8, 2009.
  15. ^ "Frank Miller's 300 - Journal 5". Archived from the original on November 7, 2010. Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  16. ^ Dog Brothers Forum Thread on Vin Diesel & Riddick Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny, August 18, 2004
  17. ^ a b c d Interview with Kali Master Ama Guro Jun de Leon Hewitson, Nick, Detroit Kali-Silat Academy, April 6, 2013
  18. ^ "Behind the scenes interview on the knife fighting used in The Hunted". YouTube.
  19. ^ a b "Ilonggo martial arts in Hollywood films -, Philippine News for Filipinos". February 3, 2009. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  20. ^ a b "Neo Tribe Kali". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  21. ^ "The Armorer's Fighting Style from the Mandalorian Explained". November 12, 2020.
  22. ^ "Coco Martin's rigorous training & preparations for FPJ's Ang Probinsyano". May 25, 2015. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  23. ^ MANO, PO! Marana, Joseph, Lakas Filipino Martial Arts, Feb.26, 2014
  24. ^ NCIS:LA KNIFE FIGHT!!! Rafael Kayanan Art Blog, February 18, 2012
  25. ^ a b "V6 Okada Junichi now a martial arts instructor". Tokyo Hive. September 10, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
  26. ^ "The Bourne Conspiracy - Working with Jeff Imada". YouTube.
  27. ^ "WATCH: Pinay character 'Josie Rizal' debuts in new Tekken game". GMA News Online. March 29, 2015.
  28. ^ Batman Comics Issue #650