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Empower Yourself: Why Kali Escrima is the Ultimate Choice for Women's Self-Defense

When it comes to realistic self-defense, going empty-handed should always be treated as a last resort. Having a weapon you can use skillfully will always give you a big advantage in a fight. Whether you have a knife, a gun, a steel baton, a baseball bat, or a ballpoint pen, you'll have an edge (no pun intended) over your enemy, versus going bare-handed. It doesn't matter whether you're male or female, having a weapon increases your odds of survival. Why do think criminals, soldiers, law enforcement, and government officers always go into battle armed? Because weapons get the job done.

When you're about to face danger, or go into a dangerous area, or are suspicious that danger is present, please de me a favor: grab anything that you can use as a weapon and arm yourself! An umbrella, a piece of wood, a metal pipe, anything. For God's sake do not face danger with your bare hands! That is suicide!

So what weapons can you use for self-defense? In this blog, I'll answer that question and give you many tips on the subject. I don't recommend firearms for self-defense, but if you like guns and are well-trained, then use them. Be sure you know how to shoot accurately under pressure, or you may shoot yourself or others accidentally. Be sure you go to the shooting range every week and practice. In my opinion, there are far safer options for self-defense than firearms. And that's where Kali Escrima comes in.

The Filipino Martial Arts are Weapons-Based Martial Arts

Kali Escrima, also known as the Filipino Martial Arts, are a weapons-based martial arts from the Philippines. This means Kali practitioners prefer to use weapons first, and train weapons first, over empty-handed combat. This doesn't mean that Kali lacks any empty-hands training. On the contrary. Kali has a massive empty-hands curriculum that is usually taught later in the advanced levels. The Filipino Martial Arts were created hundreds of years ago for the purpose of military warfare. Originally, martial arts meant military arts. Military arts focused on extensive training to defeat enemy combatants. Kali Escrima was meant to destroy the enemy; not to submit him, not to dominate him, and not to beat him in a tournament. Kali Escrima is serious business.

When you bring new recruits to bootcamp and train them for active duty in the U.S. military, how are they trained? Recruits are always trained with weapons first. And it's the same when you train new students in Kali Escrima. U.S. military recruits learn how to use rifles, pistols, explosives, and knives in bootcamp. U.S. military recruits also get trained in hand-to-hand fighting, but this is seen as a last resort when you lose all your weapons. It's the same with the Filipino Martial Arts. We train with weapons first and make each practitioner an expert in using weapons. Although we train in hand-to-hand combat, we always go into it as a last resort.

"To a Kali practitioner, it is always weapons first.

Use empty hands only as a last resort."

What are the advantages of using weapons, Kali-style, for women's self-defense?

  1. Weapons are a great equalizer against a bigger and stronger opponent.

  2. Weapons are the only option for survival in a multiple attacker scenario.

  3. Weapons will end the fight much faster than using empty hands.

  4. Weapons will prevent your body from getting damaged in a fight.

  5. Using weapons for self-defense is much easier for older persons, less athletic persons, and even physically handicapped persons.

  6. Weapons are everywhere around you.

1. Weapons are a great equalizer against a bigger and stronger opponent

If you go into battle against bigger, stronger, and tougher enemies, and you resort to using empty-handed tactics, such as punches, kicks, blocks etc., you will be forced to deal with their strength. When they punch you, you will absorb their force. If you block them, you will absorb their force. When you punch or kick them, you have to hit them hard enough to damage them. There is this undeniable element of matching their strength against your strength. And that is not a good idea for you. Imagine a 300 pound adult male coming at you at full force, maybe trying to sexually assault you or beat you to a pulp. Very scary.

But if you carry a razor-sharp knife, and you are trained in Kali Escrima, you have been gifted with an EQUALIZER from the gods. What's an equalizer? It's any object, like a knife, that will give you power, if not more power, over your serial predator. You can neutralize all his advantages by empowering yourself with a bladed weapon. Knives are powerful.

FYI: Kali Escrima is not a "stick-based" fighting art ; it is a knife-based fighting art. Everything we do in Kali is based on the blade.

2. Weapons are the only option for survival in a multiple attacker scenario

I don't care who you are, how many black belts you have, or how many years you've spent training in martial arts - you will not survive a multiple attacker scenario alive unless you use a weapon to defend yourself. Face the facts. This isn't like in the movies where the hero gets surrounded by the bad guys and they all attack him one at a time. What are we all secretly thinking when we see this? Why don't they all jump him at once and beat the crap out of him together? Because that would ruin the fantasy. The director wouldn't want us to see the hero get his ass kicked, right?

Multiple attacker scenarios are the worst. In the real world, if it's a three-on-one or six-on-two scenario, the chances are high you will get your ass kicked, or worse. Why? Because you can only fight one person at one time. But what matters most in a multiple attacker scenario is:

  1. TIME: How long will it take you to incapacitate each attacker.

  2. ODDS: What are your odds of your survival based on the tactics that you choose?

How long will it take you to incapacitate each attacker?

If you're lucky, you will only have a few seconds to attend to each attacker. If you spend more than five seconds on one guy, his buddy will hit you from behind. Ideally, you want to average around 2-3 seconds maximum per bad guy. Speed is the most important quality you have to have in these situations. If you're slow, you're finished.

We've all been conditioned to believe that punching and kicking your way out of a multiple attacker scenario is the way to go because of the movies we watch. But this is not true. If you choose to punch your way out, then good luck. The odds are against you. It doesn't mean you won't succeed; it just means the odds will not be in your favor. Watch a boxing match and notice how long it takes to knock the other person out. With some exceptions, watch an MMA fight and notice how long it takes to finish the other person out. We're talking several minutes to end the fight. Punching and kicking often takes a longer time to finish one opponent.

Now if your tactic of choice is grappling or ground fighting, as in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then you're going to need all the luck you can get. Use Jiu Jitsu and you won't survive a multiple attacker scenario. Grappling arts are meant to wrestle against one opponent at a time, not two or three. Chokes, armlocks, and leg locks won't do you any good if the guy you're submitting has friends beating the crap out of you while you're choking their buddy. The number one weakness of Jiu Jitsu is that it can only fight one person at a time. The second weakness is that it chooses to fight on the ground. In a real street fight, the worst place to go is the ground. Never go to the ground, if you can help it. That is suicide. Stay on your feet and keep moving. The third weakness is that it takes too long to finish one opponent. You don't have a lot of time when it comes to a multiple attacker scenario. You have seconds.

Think of surviving a multiple attacker scenario like gambling in a Las Vegas casino. If you want to increase the odds of survival, bet on the sure thing. If you want to make sure you get beaten or killed, bet on the risky choices. What are the risky choices? Going empty handed is a risky choice. What are the odds you'll be able to pull off effective strikes or grappling techniques against real people under a high stress, high adrenalin situation? Keep in mind, you will experience shock, confusion, and panic if you aren't trained properly. Emotions may hinder you. Bare-handed fighting always must be treated as a last resort.

What is a sure thing? Using a weapon is a sure thing. If you pull out a knife, a machete, or an axe, then the odds increase 500% in your favor, especially if you're trained in Kali and have experience. Three-on-one, four-on-one, five-on-one are still winning scenarios for a Kali practitioner armed with a razor-sharp machete, good speed, and fast reflexes. So many martial arts treat using weapons like a contagious disease, as if resorting to using a weapon is a form of cheating or dishonor. Or they may be unfamiliar with weapons, so they get scared of it. Guess what? Using a weapon will save your life, so get over it.

Here are some famous Kali experts whom you've seen before:

Denzel Washington's Robert McCall in "The Equalizer."

Scarlett Johansen's Natasha Romanoff in "The Avengers."

Matt Damon's Jason Bourne in "Bourne Identity."

Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt in "Mission Impossible."

Adriane Palicki's Bobbi Morse in "Marvel's Agents of Shield."

Maria Sten's Frances Neagley in "Jack Reacher."

There is a long list of Hollywood films where the hero/heroine is a super spy, secret government agent, or special forces expert, and they all use Kali as their fighting style. Why? Because Kali is fast, lethal, and efficient. It was designed for use against more than one enemy and it works even when the enemy is armed. That's why most U.S. government agencies, like the CIA, Secret Service, and FBI use it. Top-tier U.S. Special Forces units, like the Navy Seals and Delta Force also use Kali.

3. Weapons will end the fight much faster than going empty hands

An average person who uses bare hands to survive and end a multiple attacker scenario could take a minute or more to finish her enemies. If she's lucky. If she's not, she will come to an unfortunate end. One guy grabs you from behind and stops you from moving, while his buddy beats you to a pulp from the front. That's the reality of the streets. Never expect an attack to be just a one-on-one thing because it never is. There's always more than one aggressor involved.

An average person who uses a knife, a gun, or any form of impact weapon (stick, pipe, tire iron, baseball bat, cane, hammer etc.) will end that multiple attacker scenario in mere seconds. Why? Because it doesn't take a long time to hurt someone with a knife, a gun, or an impact weapon. For example, an average untrained person using a knife to defend herself turns her into a very dangerous animal, even when faced with more than one attacker. That person will end the fight in seconds. A trained Kali Escrima practitioner using a knife becomes a nuclear bomb with feet. Anyone who gets in her way is going to get surgically dissected in seconds. The same goes if she uses an impact weapon, like a steel baton. I generally don't recommend firearms for self-defense. Too many things could go really wrong with carrying a gun. But I recommend knives, batons, and any variation in the bladed and impact weapon category.

Blades and knives are "touch weapons" - they do not require strength or power to cause damage. They just have to make solid contact with the target to work.

4. Weapons will prevent your body getting damaged in a fight

If you throw punches in a fight, you risk injuring your hands. If you throw kicks, you risk injuring your feet and legs.

If you use a knife to fight with, you won't hurt your hands. If you use a baseball bat, you won't hurt your hands. If you use a steel baton, you won't hurt your hands. So here's a quick, no-brainer review of the facts:

Using your body parts to strike another human's body with force carries a high risk of injury to you. Your body will absorb all impact force.

Using bladed weapons or impact weapons, such as knives and batons, to strike another human's body do not carry any risk of injury. The weapons will absorb all impact force.

So which makes logical sense to use in a fight? Would you choose a fighting style that promotes bare-handed combat? Or would you choose a fighting style that promotes weapons-based combat? You decide. Kali Escrima is a weapons-based style.

5. Using weapons for self-defense is better for the elderly, the less athletic, and the physically handicapped

If you're older, less athletic, and maybe physically handicapped, I highly recommend using weapons for self-defense. Remember that using weapons demand less energy and less muscular strength to win a fight.

An elderly woman armed with a wooden cane, if trained properly, can still use that cane to defend herself. Can you reasonably expect that elderly woman to use kicks and punches to fight back? She'd probably break her bones if she punches anything solid. But she still has the ability to slash and thrust with her cane.

If you're out of shape and lack athletic skill, but carry a pocket knife, you can still defend yourself successfully against multiple enemies. Knives don't require strength or power to be effective. But if you train in Kali, you will improve your fitness levels and athletic prowess. The training will improve your speed, strength, stamina, coordination, and balance, among other things.

6. Weapons are everywhere around you

My teacher and mentor Guro Dan Inosanto always says, A Kali practitioner is never unarmed. To a Kali practitioner, weapons are everywhere around us. The reason most people don't see weapons in their everyday environment is because their definition of what qualifies as a weapon is very limited. They haven't seen into the Matrix yet. You have to expand your mind and use your imagination as to what constitutes a weapon. Be resourceful. Scan your environment and be clever. Here's a list of examples of weapons you can find:

  1. Impact weapons

    1. Sticks

    2. Cane

    3. Umbrella

    4. Hammer

    5. Baseball bat

    6. Coffee mug

    7. Crowbar

  2. Bladed weapons

    1. Steak knife

    2. Folding knife

    3. Box cutter

    4. Scalpel

  3. Thrusting weapons

    1. Screwdriver

    2. Ballpoint pen

    3. Fork

    4. Mop handle

    5. Hair brush

  4. Flexible weapons

    1. Scarf

    2. Sash

    3. Towel

    4. Rope

    5. Chain

    6. Belt

    7. Whip

  5. Hand-thrown weapons

    1. Coins

    2. Salt and pepper

    3. Hot coffee

    4. Bottles

    5. Pens

Did you notice that none of the weapons I listed above were fantasy weapons, like the kind you'd see with traditional martial arts from Japan or China. Those weapons will get you arrested if you carry them around. You can't walk around American streets armed with katanas, kamas, nunchakus, ninja stars, or ninja swords, or you'll end up in jail. You can't go to your job bringing ancient weapons from the Shaolin temple! Those types of weapons, the kind a lot of people fantasize about, are fantasy weapons. Good for cosplay or Halloween, but bad for self-defense. Why? Because you won't have everyday access to them. You can't use them or you'll get arrested.

Kali, on the other hand, deals with everyday reality. What weapons do Kali practitioners train, use, and carry with them? Folding knives, fixed blade knives, kerambits (small curved knives), steel batons, machetes, firearms, baseball bats, among other things. Our weapons are concealed and do not draw attention. They are simple, basic, and can be carried almost anywhere. They are modern and derive from modern technology. Kali does not live in the distant past of ancient Japan or China: we live in the present reality of our 21st century world.

The bottom line is, if you are serious about self-defense and you're concerned about dealing with more than one attacker, then you should consider learning and training Kali Escrima. Weapons-combat is perfect for women because it equalizes a man's strength, size, and aggression. No matter how big he is, how strong he is, and how many there are of them, you will have the super advantage over them when you carry a weapon and know how to use it the best way. There's nothing wrong with having an advantage, is there?

We offer classes on Kali Escrima at Tandez Academy. We offer a complete and comprehensive Kali Escrima curriculum, six days a week. I happen to love Kali - it is my favorite fighting style to teach. If you're interested, please contact us at 408 373 0204 or email me at:

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