Does Kali Work in the “Real World”? Read On . . .


On occasion, I get the question; “Will Kali (Filipino Martial Arts) work in the real world?” That begs another question, “What is the real world?” I know that sounds like a question that Morpheus would ask Neo, but it really is an important question

Does Kali work in the real world?

What is the Real World?

When people ask that question, I understand what they are trying to get at. They are asking will this technique work in a competitive, combative or self-defense application? And it is valid. As far as historical precedence, we can say that yes, Filipino martial arts (Kali) did work for the defense and conquering of many tribes of the Philippines over several hundred years. It has also be integrated into many law enforcement and military training systems. The question is what does that have to do with you now?

Some people are interested to know if they find yourself in a dire situation that they will be able to trust the things that Kali has taught them.  That is something that should be answered, but it is not that simple. The answer is yes and no. It depends on you. For example, just because you own a firearm (and maybe even fired it once or twice) does not mean that you should trust that you will be able to use it effectively when you need it. It really depends on the dedication of the user. 

How much time have you dedicated to learning that skill?

Have you integrated it into your natural responses and movements?

Have you pressure tested it?

Once you have spent hundreds of hours answering those questions you can without a doubt determine that the probability will go up that the technique/skill  COULD work for you in a dire situation. There are way too many variables, so there are still no guarantees.

I guess then my question to that person would be is that what your “Real World” looks like? 

What is your Actual Real World?

I would say for many of us our reality doesn’t spend much time in the area of competition, combatives or self defense. It probably revolves more around family, work and friends. So, your “Real World” may have less immediate concerns about hurting someone, defending yourself or winning any match. Your real world concerns may have more to do with mental and physical health, personal development and social interaction.

Training in the Filipino Martial Arts (at least through my instructors Guro Rick Faye and Guro Dan Inosanto) has definitely helped many people with this type of real world. Kali has some very unique traits that are suited to improve mental and physical health, personal development and Social interaction. One of the unique things about Kali is that they use weapons and often times in both hands. So you will use your left and right side much more equally than other training methods. It also has a high emphasis on movement and footwork. Put those 2 things together and you have some very interesting neurological benefits.

The training, integration and pressure testing of these skills are still very important, but look much different when looking for ” Actual Real World” results. I tell my students that you know your kali is working when you grab things with your less dominate hand without thinking about it. 

Here is a video from Paul McCarthy, a student and instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto and  kinesiologist that is doing a study with UCLA on the positive mental effect that FMA training has on an individual in what he calls “Cognitive Kali”. (14+mins but well worth your time)

So that is great explanation of one of the  “Real World” benefits of training Filipino Martial Arts. It has very little to do with the combat viability and some much more to do with your every day “Real World”! To learn more about Filipino Martial Arts or even try a class click the link below.

Click below to take the first step on your path of personal discovery and personal development though martial arts!