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Tools for Training Filipino Kali Alone

Posted by Leslie Buck on

The more frequently you train, the sooner you will see your skills develop. Having the right tools and having an area setup for training will encourage you to do it more often. Whether you have a dedicated space or have to go to the park may change how you prepare, but there are a few essentials you will want to have. Below is a list of tools that will facilitate your training as well as some suggestions for setting up a training area.

Essential Tools

These are some of the primary tools you will want to have available for training.


Though you can get a lot of training done with just one stick, having a variety can add other dimensions to your practice. Here are some options below.

rattan sticks - Rattan sticks are the primary training tools for training the Filipino martial arts. At the very least, you want to have a pair of rattan sticks. These can be used for striking or placed on the ground to serve as a template for your footwork.

lightweight sticks
- For speed training, it is helpful to have a pair of light sticks. Though these will not hold up well for impact, they will help you get a feel for speed when practicing. Often thin rattan sticks will serve this purpose. Use these for testing your limits with quick combinations, jabbing attacks and witiks.

heavy sticks - Heavy sticks will help you develop fluid strikes and build strength. You have to be careful not to put too much stress on your wrist, elbow and shoulder, but when used properly, a heavy stick is a very useful tool for developing your Kali skills. Heavy sticks can be made of plumbing pipe, hardwood, or even plastic rod.

sticks of different lengths - Though there may be an ideal stick length for you determined by your body proportions, the actual weapon you are training for or your particular system, it is still useful to train with sticks of various lengths. You will find that using different lengths from time to time will help you become more versatile. One of the advantages the Filipino Martial Arts has is the commonality in mechanics across weapon types. If you train with sticks of various lengths, you can enhance your ability to apply your skills with many different weapons whether long or short.

extra durable sticks
- When training for impact you need sticks that will last. Rattan is good because it can absorb some of the reverberation caused by impact. However rattan will break down with impact training. Plastic rod or metal pipe is useful for hitting tires, but it can also put more stress on your joints, so work up to it gradually and be careful not to develop overuse injuries by doing to much. If you do use rattan for regular impact training, use your older sticks or some that are more rugged.

electrical tape - Rattan sticks are perishable. The more frequently you hit them together or you hit tires, the more quickly they will deteriorate. Electrical tape will extend the life of your sticks. When they start to fray, add some electrical tape to the damaged area. Though duct tape sounds like a good idea, it can become a sticky mess. Other tapes may be stronger than electrical tape, but many of them become slippery when you grip them. Electrical tape will flex well with the stick. Also, it will not leave too much adhesive on the stick when it gets torn during use. When the tape tears from practice, just pull off the torn tape and apply more.

Training Blades

training knives - In addition to sticks, you will want to have some training knives for practice. Softer ones are better for sparring and hard contact drills with a partner. More rigid training knives are better for disarming drills. Longer knives may resemble traditional knives more, but shorter ones will likely be more similar to your everyday carry knife or knives.

long training blades - To perfect your blade awareness skills, a long blade that has a simulated edge is very useful. These can range from a simple, thin flat board or wedge-shaped stick to a realistic plastic or metal replica blade. As long as it helps you see where your blade edge is, then you can benefit from using it. However, the more like the real blade you intend to fight with, the better it will serve you. By having a training blade that has a similar grip, weight and balance to the real blade, you will find that the transition from one to the other is easier to make.

Training Area

If you have the luxury of setting up a training area, there are a few more items that will enhance your training.

striking dummy - Much like a boxer can learn to generate power, practice combinations and develop conditioning on a heavy bag, so can you with a striking dummy. One of the most common and cheapest solutions for this is using tires. You can construct a column with multiple tires placed over a mounted post, hang a single tire from a tree or build an elaborate dummy to give you multiple targets high and low. A portable solution is a single tire with a bungee cord or tie-down straps.

footwork patterns - In a dedicated space, you may consider painting triangular patterns on the floor to act as a template for practicing your footwork. Otherwise, using your sticks or sidewalk chalk to make patterns on the ground will help you when you are perfecting your footwork skills.

striking patterns - Using painter’s tape on a wall, dry erase markers on a whiteboard, or even chalk on a fence, draw triangles, exes, stars, etc. that help you make your striking combinations more precise. Simply follow them when perfecting the angles of your strikes or use them to help you imagine intersecting the strikes of your opponent.

Other Useful Items

Here are a few more things that you may find useful for your training.

training notebook - Keep your training notebook handy to record any techniques you want to review or note anything about your practice session.  

whiteboard - I like to have a whiteboard available during my training to post the techniques or skills I want to develop.  I can quickly jot down any thoughts on the board during training, then transfer them to my journal afterwards.

- Whether it be a kitchen timer or your mobile phone, a timer will help you stay focused on specific drills, push yourself during a conditioning session, or simply keep you from wasting time when your schedule is tight.  If it has a par timer feature, you can use it for speed and timing drills.

video camera
- Use a camcorder and tripod or smart phone with a stand to record your training. Analyze your progress and diagnose your mechanics by watching yourself during your training session.

gloves - Unless you are a sushi chef or a hand model, I don’t recommend your wear gloves all the time, but if you are doing a lot of impact training, you will develop blisters. A little is ok, but too much will interfere with your training. Some light baseball batting gloves or gloves with a gripping surface will help you when your hands start to break down.

first aid supplies - Whether you caught your balisong wrong, burst your blister while hitting a tire, or tried live blade for the first time, some basic first aid supplies are useful to have. 

Otherwise, there are a few other items that are a matter of personal preference to have with you, such as water, music, etc.  It's up to you.


One of the benefits of learning the Filipino martial arts, is that very little gear is actually needed. However, having a variety of gear will help you focus on specific skills. Having a dedicated training space is not required, but it will help you get into the mood for training and make it convenient to pick up a stick and go.

The items described above are just the basic tools, there are certainly more you could add. Gather these items as you see a need for them, and good luck with your training.

If you need some economical rattan sticks for impact training in the Filipino Martial Arts, check out what we have at Kali Gear. Our rough rattan sticks are just as durable as a regular stick, but they are cheaper because they are not as smooth. Let us know if you want them to be light, medium, or heavy, and we will find the right fit for you.


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