The History and Culture behind Filipino Weapons

Now this is based on knowledge I have acquired during my various Philippine trips over the years.
It is also based on my observations. At this point in my life, I have been there enough times to come to these conclusions.


A lot of the blades that I have on the TFW web site are very rare. We found some of them from some old men on whatever island in the Philippines, others were in my friends family tribe handed down through generations. Others were located in museums in the Philippines. I found some here in the Museum of Natural History as well.
The ones that I noticed that are common carry in the Philippines today is the. Those are common in the Visayan area. Though the Pinute is popular ALL over the Philippines it seems like. The Itak Tagalog is more popular in some parts of the north, from the Central Tagalog region actually…which is really a Pinute with a subtle design change.


I actually saw a few people in the south with Kris swords. That freaked me out to see people carrying these weapons in this day and age. It was not common to see…plus think about it, the Kris does not double as a tool. Made me wonder how much blood was on those Kris swords I saw being carried.


In the North, it was common to see the Golok The word Golok is common in Indonesia. But that makes sense since Bagiuo region are a result of the early Indonesian travelers who caught a wind that brought them to the north. I was told they were going to the Southern Philippines and caught a wind that brought them further north. My friends there look very Indonesian
which is subtly different than the looks of Filipinos in the mid regions.


I have seen a few Karambits,, but I think it is more the style in modern day that catches their eye. Again, that is an Indonesian influence. There is another type of Karambit called a Lihok. Its ugly, it does not have that ring at the end of it…it has just a common handle…but it is deadly. Definitely not just a tool. I will be having that one soon as part of the TFW collection. I am not sure of the history of it right now but its common in the northern region. My guess is that it is also an Indonesian influence due to the looks of it but I can be wrong.


The War Golok is actually another northern design…a design that is a result of the Spanish breaking the tips of the Sword of the Filipinos. The Filipinos were very good at thrust and slash action with their swords. The Spanish were intimidated by the slash and thrust fighting tactic of the Filipinos. Especially during a lot of the rebellion that was going on at the time so Spanish soldiers were
ordered to take all the swords of the Filipinos and break off the tips of their swords. If anyone was seen with a tip on their swords (mostly within the Manila/Luzon region), they were killed. Every one had to follow that law or suffer the consequences. All their blades had to be forged with a flat top, though a newer fighting method of making it a little heavier and gaining a new hacking style of fighting still made it a formidable weapon. I have a War Golok that is very old…it has killed 5 different people. The 5 people were burned and the ashes were put on the sheath to keep the spirits of the warrior power in that blade. It is a priceless
gift to me. You can literally smell the death on this sheath and blade. If any of you ever make it to my school in Waterbury, Connecticut, I will show it to you. I was told not to let anyone touch it so you will not be able to touch it. It disrupts the spiritual balance of the blade. And I may have to use it some day so I need the spirits in my favor. ***wink**.


The Espada Y Daga is not a common blade to see carried today but it is still VERY popular in the Philippines and to Filipino martial art (FMA) enthusiats. I think it is kept alive through Kali, Arnis and Eskrima practitioners and instructors. It is popular in San Miguel, Illustisimo and Pekiti Tirsia…I am sure many other FMA styles as


The Garab sword is another one you see that is still carried today. The Garab knife is a very popular design there. It is a good tool for coconuts and cutting of about everything that is done there in the Philippines. And it is definitely a formidable weapon. I like that knife. I have seen that all over the Visayan area and all over the south. I have seen many people on the side of the road using it as a tool in the job they were doing.


The Iron Wood sticks are still carried as a self defense weapon. In the more civilized areas, you can still get prison time for slicing up a person like anywhere else now a days (not that it does not happen there), so Iron wood seems to make a good self defense weapon. I have heard that some tribal arguments are settled with various types of Iron Wood sticks. One hit with one of them will break whatever it makes contact with or death occurs. It’s not like fighting with rattan where you can show off your bruises after a good fight or two. Those Iron Wood Sticks are real weapons created and designed to break bones and kill. They are not training tools like rattans sticks are.


The Pakal knives are a combat weapon made for exactly that, to be held in
pakal position (Known as ice-pick or earth position) comfortably. Those are pretty much
designs of my friends tribe. You can see those on,

You can feel a big difference from a knife designed for the icepick position in comparison to one that isn’t. Very practical and they feel great in the hand(s). I personally like to carry one knife in standard position and the other one in ice pick position. The fighting method in that position is great for close-range.


The Balisong (sometimes referred to as a butterfly knife) as seen on – is still a popular carry. All the Special Action Force Commandos and the Marines all had Balisongs. I know this because I had trained some of them in Kuntao and Pekiti Tirsia Kali over the years in my travels there to the Philippines. Many are my friends also. I found that they carry a Balisong to be quite amazing though. I feel it is
a good knife but there are simpler ones for the military to carry but with good practice, it’s a very lethal weapon. In Batangas, you can see many of the tourist versions of Balisongs all over the place for sale. To me they are cheap made by comparison to mine
but then again, I am spoiled by good quality.


Pretty much, all the others on the TFW site are considered extinct today. Like I said, we had to seek them out and bring them back to life again. We are working hard to revive these ancient swords due to the fact they are an important part of ancient Filipino history.


All cultures were once blade oriented cultures. They had to be or you would not exist today. All our ancestors had to fight with the blade at one time or another for whatever reason to survive and carry on our DNA. Today, the blade cultures are pretty well dead. That is due to the modern existence of firearms. You pull out a blade, you get blown away. So to keep up with the rest of the world, every one got a firearm. Especially the military that used to carry bladed weapons and shields. The reason the bladed weapons culture is still alive in the Philippines and other parts of SE Asia is because those people depend on them as tools for survival, much like we did in the ancient past. They use them for everything they make, including art, crafts, repairs, crops, etc. Many of them are poor people who cannot afford modern tools (or a gun for that matter), they were brought up with the blade as a tool so they are used to it. In turn, you will see an occasional hacking up of a body or two when a drunken argument is going on or someone wronged another and revenge takes place.

Bladed weapons will always give us a natural feeling of fascination. They have been weapons as well as tools in our ancestor’s life since the beginning of time and will continue to be part of us some how or another in the future. They are also works of beautiful art. The art work decorates the reason they exist. The fear we feel, is knowing in our minds what these bladed weapons can do and have done in the past to other human beings.

Ron Kosakowski
Practical Self Defense Training Center
847 Hamilton
Ave (Rt 69).
Waterbury, CT 06706