Foreign powers have invaded the Philippines many times. The most significant of these invaders were the Spanish, who brought their language and fighting styles. The extent to which this influenced indigenous martial arts is the subject of vigorous debate. While Filipino styles use largely Spanish terminology, their techniques little resemble those of European fighting arts. The best-known local style is Escrima (pp. 155-156), a system of armed and unarmed fighting.

Filipino martial arts saw regular use in combat until relatively recent times. During the American occupation, after the Spanish-American War, the local resistance fought back using martial-arts skills. The ferocious Moros inspired the American military to beef up the service pistol from .38 to .45 caliber in order to better stop fanatical warriors. During World War ii, resistance fighters against the Japanese used Escrima and Pentjak Silat alongside firearms and explosives to attack the Japanese garrison.

The Philippines have been relatively peaceful since WWii, but some regions are still infested with pirates and religious or political resistance groups. Escrima remains popular, both for settling scores and in stickfighting sporting events.

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