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Old 7th December 2018, 04:55 AM   #1
Rafngard
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Default Filipino Wooden kris.

Hello All,

I'm putting this here in this category, rather than Ethnographic Miscellania, though I definitely considered that category. If the admins disagree and move this post, I won't at all get upset

I recently picked up this lovely wooden kris. I think the wood is kamagong, with mother of pearl and maybe copper inlay. I haven't been able to find anything like it online. I was hoping that someone might have information on this sort of thing.

I study Kali/arnis/eskrima and I've long heard that "back in the day" (in this case WWII, + or - a decade or so) eskrimadors fought duels with sticks, but not the rattan we train with, but things that looked more like wooden swords I've seen the word "garotte" used to describe these (or perhaps the more flat sticks, or both). The owner of my gym has one (hopefully he'll let me take pics in the not too distant future) with similar inlay, but it wasn't kamagong (I want to say it was something like bahi) and it was shaped more like a jian. That said, I've only seen it once, and didn't get a good look at it.

So what do people think? Is this a weapon, a training tool, or just "folk art" sold to "those who travel?" Something else entirely?

Any and all opinions welcome.

Thanks,
Leif
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Old 7th December 2018, 04:58 AM   #2
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And also, because it amused me, a photo of this with an old maranao kris. a kamagong "garotte" / flat stick (a formidable in it's own right!), and a well used rattan stick.

I call it "Layers of abstraction."
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Old 7th December 2018, 05:45 AM   #3
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Have to admit, not seen one like this. However, I doubt it is for practice. The workmanship is to nice to be torn up, and besides, the inlays would pop out upon impact.

Very nice.
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Old 7th December 2018, 05:57 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafngard
Hello All,

I study Kali/arnis/eskrima and I've long heard that "back in the day" (in this case WWII, + or - a decade or so) eskrimadors fought duels with sticks, but not the rattan we train with, but things that looked more like wooden swords I've seen the word "garotte" used to describe these (or perhaps the more flat sticks, or both). The owner of my gym has one (hopefully he'll let me take pics in the not too distant future) with similar inlay, but it wasn't kamagong (I want to say it was something like bahi) and it was shaped more like a jian. That said, I've only seen it once, and didn't get a good look at it.

So what do people think? Is this a weapon, a training tool, or just "folk art" sold to "those who travel?" Something else entirely?

Any and all opinions welcome.

Thanks,
Leif


Good day sir,

Great piece of memorabilia there, the art is superb. In my opinion, it's only a display piece, 'folk art' as you may say. I hope you would not mind if I express an opinion that may shatter your perception of FMA and BangsaMoro weapons.

As an instructor of FMA, I fully understand your interest in weapons such as the kris. The latter and other BangsaMoro weapons- Barung, Kampilan, Pira, etc.- have been entrenched via the use of trainers, the concept of 'kali' as an ancient mother art that supposedly utilized such weapons, and other modern-day commercial and cultural influences. I mean, who doesn't want to wield a barung or a kris while doing flashy FMA routines. So many FMA systems claimed proficiency in wielding these. A year or two ago, I used to believe that the BangsaMoro weapons could be effectively and efficiently used by FMA practitioners.

Fast forward to present-day. I have held antique barungs and kampilans. I have tried wielding them with FMA- and failed miserably. I have heard of worse stories- FMA masters injured- blade cuts, wrist fractures- while playing around with the BangsaMoro weapons. I have personally witnessed two FMA masters of well-known traditional lineages pick up century-old barungs with the intent of doing a routine, then, upon sensing the unexpected heaviness and weight distribution of the weapon- put them back down.

The reason for this is that FMA, whose roots lie in Eskrima, a Visayan art, is not really meant for wielding BangsaMoro weapons. It was designed for light, fast, highly agile blades.

The art that was designed for BangsaMoro weapon-wielding falls under the Moro Fighting Arts (MFA) of the people of Mindanao; this includes BangsaMoro Silat and Kuntau (not to be mistaken with pencak silat or kali-silat styles), a secretive and holistic art that is traditionally passed down only to family members or trusted friends. I am currently taking up one of the many styles available under MFA, and its weaponry component (the art usually has an unarmed and weapon components) has allowed me to wield both antique and modern-day BangsaMoro weapons with relative ease. It does not utilize sticks even at the beginning phase; it dives into trainers or live blades because it is a blade-only art.

MFA is not well-known because unlike FMA, it is not mainstream nor commercialized. There are very, very few people teaching it (in the Philippines, I know of only two) due to the secretive and culture-bound traditions of the art. I only know of one person teaching the art outside of the Philippines, and he teaches it only to a very exclusive circle.

Anyway, I hope I didn't come off as too abrasive regarding this matter. Pugay!

ADDENDUM: you can check out 'authentic BangsaMoro Cultural Dances' on YouTube. Some MFA styles are also featured there. The weapon component is demo'd (filed under silat, warrior with a barung).

Last edited by xasterix : 7th December 2018 at 07:45 AM.
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Old 7th December 2018, 11:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Have to admit, not seen one like this. However, I doubt it is for practice. The workmanship is to nice to be torn up, and besides, the inlays would pop out upon impact.


So would this be decorative, or do you think it could serve some other purpose? It seems to nice to be for "those who travel."

The other one, that my gym owner has, I have seen used in practice, with impacts against a standard rattan stick. I don't know how hard they were going. I'll try to get some pics of it.

Thanks,
Leif
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Old 7th December 2018, 12:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix
I hope you would not mind if I express an opinion that may shatter your perception of FMA and BangsaMoro weapons.


Not to worry, my perceptions were shattered sometime ago :-)
A bit about me. I'm an American, and so a bit removed from the original context of FMA. The flavor of FMA that I study comes through Dan Inosanto, a Filipino American who picked up the art mostly from older Filipino immigrants in California. So it's more than a little syncratic and demystified. I'm well aware that most of guys guro Dan learned from were Vasayan (though one, Juanito LaCoste, supposedly learned from a Moro family in Mindanao, but I take that with a grain of salt). I suspect that the inclusion of Moro weapon trainers has more to due to their reputation as an "unconquerable people" (and maybe how often you see those "Weapons of Moroland" plaques in Filipino-American homes) than any roots of FMA systems.

While I do study FMA, I consider Silat to by my name art, specifically Mande muda (from Sunda) after Pak Herman Suwanda, and now his sister, Ibu Rita. However, I've also studied Silat Suffian Bela Diri with Maul Mornie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xasterix

Fast forward to present-day. I have held antique barungs and kampilans. I have tried wielding them with FMA- and failed miserably. I have heard of worse stories- FMA masters injured- blade cuts, wrist fractures- while playing around with the BangsaMoro weapons.


I will occasionally do some basic solo drills with some of my antique weapons. Kali, as I know it, works well with blades from Luzon, and of course the Vasayans (thought he weight distribution on old Garabs feels too forward heavy). It works well enough on older Moro Kris, even older Barongs (some of the newer kris and barongs are again too forward weighted). It even works well enough with some Indonesian goloks.

That said, 1) I'm not an advanced FMA practitioner (like I said, I think of silat as my main art). 2) I'm not going very hard or fast with them (They are antiques!).

So take that for what it is.

Have fun,
Leif
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Old 7th December 2018, 04:19 PM   #7
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As others have suggested, it would be a shame mess up this lovely inlay by practicing with this piece. It would, however, make a nice wall hanger.
I often see unadorned wooden swords for sale that i suspect are more likely meant for practice. Here is a kris and a barong.
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Old 7th December 2018, 04:21 PM   #8
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I do agree with xasterix's take on FMA though and working with the wooden swords i posted above would not be likely to give the practitioner a very good feel for the weight and balance of actual kris and barong weapons.
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Old 7th December 2018, 06:21 PM   #9
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David,

Those are definitely intended for training. Whether or not they're good for impact training (i.e. hitting things with) is a matter of some debate. For a lot of FMA practitioners, it depends on the kind of wood. Kamagong is often seen as less useful for impact training, as when it breaks, it tends to shatter and create tons of little shards. Bahi, on the other hand, will fray like rattan does.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David
I do agree with xasterix's take on FMA though and working with the wooden swords i posted above would not be likely to give the practitioner a very good feel for the weight and balance of actual kris and barong weapons.


You're absolutely right in this regard. The wood doesn't feel or move like the blade. I know of at least one FMA instructor, a pekiti tirsia guy who recommends that you "train with what you carry," due to weight and balance issues. Fortunately, for me personally, I don't live the kind of life where I need to carry anything more than a pocket knife. :-)

Have fun,
Leif
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Old 7th December 2018, 07:02 PM   #10
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Well, if no one has seen one like this, let me ask these questions.
Does the inlay work seem Filipino, from a style perspective?
If so, from where in the Philippines? While it matches the profile rather closely of an antique moro kris (even being shorter in length than a lot of modern training equipment) but the inlay doesn't seem very Moro to my (largely untrained) eyes.

Am I right in thinking that the mother of pearl indicates WWII or later?

Thanks,
Leif
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Old 7th December 2018, 07:42 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafngard
Well, if no one has seen one like this, let me ask these questions.
Does the inlay work seem Filipino, from a style perspective?
If so, from where in the Philippines? While it matches the profile rather closely of an antique moro kris (even being shorter in length than a lot of modern training equipment) but the inlay doesn't seem very Moro to my (largely untrained) eyes.

Am I right in thinking that the mother of pearl indicates WWII or later?

Thanks,
Leif


Hi again Leif,

Thanks for taking my assertion constructively. Moving forward, the inlay work is reminiscent of ukkil from Sulu. While the ukkil I usually encounter on modern BangsaMoro weapons - especially those made by the Tausug- have waves as primary motif, there would be vines from time to time, or creeping plants with flowers (such as the one depicted on your wooden kris). The first thing I usually look at is symmetry- if it's symmetrical, then there's a stronger probability that it was made by BangsaMoro hands (although can't really be 100% sure; there are weapon reproduction outfits that counterfeit well). There are usually two types of symmetry: AB - BA, the most common (mirror), and AB - AB (same theme, but not mirrored; repeated) and I can see both types occurring on your wooden kris.

Regarding age, it's difficult to ascertain, as modern-day pieces still use MOP.
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