Is Kali a Good Martial Art? For Self-Defense & More


Most martial art originates from various countries, such as the Philippines, Japan, and China. As a result, most of them focus on the tradition combined with training. That way, one can truly feel connected to the martial art. Well, Kali is about the same. It originates from the Philippines. However, is it even a solid fighting style?

Kali is a solid martial art because it’s a dynamic, all-around fighting style that utilizes striking, kicking, and improvised weapons such as sticks and rope. Most of Kali is using knives appropriately. As a result, Kali trainees are solid fighters in all realms, including self-defense. 

Although it’s a solid martial art, should you learn it? Will it provide you with any additional value relevant in today’s world? Lastly, if you want to learn self-defense, will Kali help? 

Next, we’ll discuss all of the above and other valuable information. If you’re interested in learning it, I highly encourage you to read this article until the end, as all the information will assist you. 

I wrote an article on the reasons to learn a martial art. If you haven’t started your journey yet, I highly encourage you to read it as it’ll change your mindset. 

Today, it’s not as popular as other martial arts, such as Krav Maga. Consequently, there aren’t many schools that teach it. However, there are plenty of online courses that teach you the basics of Kali. If you’re interested in learning it, I highly encourage you to find a school you like. 

Before jumping in, having the best gear is crucial to see progress while at home. For me, this punching bag (Amazon) has completely changed my training. If you pair it up with these boxing gloves (Amazon), you’ll be solid for training at home. Personally, I own these items. Thus recommending them is comfortable for me as I believe in them.

Does Kali martial arts works?

Knowing how to fight provides plenty of value in today’s changing world. You can encounter many dangerous situations, such as street fights, every single day. Thus if you can protect yourself, you won’t have to worry about getting injured from these situations. So, can you use Kali in said situations?

Kali works because it’s a hand-to-hand martial that utilizes knives and improvised weapons. As a result, using it for self-defense situations is practical. For instance, if a Kali practitioner has a knife on him, he’ll be able to beat anyone who comes his way, as he mastered using it in training. 

martial arts
Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER from Pixabay

Officers with a Karate background performed better in high-stress situations with low/high anxiety environments, such as arrests. (SourceWe can interpret that Kali reduces overall stress and teaches you to react to self-defense situations more calmly. 

Picture the following analogy. An average person can use a knife without a minute of training. Why is that? Because it’s a simple weapon that requires a single motion. 

So, why do Kali if that’s the case?

Imagine the degree to which a Kali practitioner, who trains with a knife weekly, can get to using it. If the average person can use it effectively, the Kali trainee cannot lose. Because of the practicality it provides, it’s valuable.

Additionally, you’ll learn all about hand-to-hand combat. So, how to throw and receive punches properly. Additionally, kicking is part of training. For that, Kali is an all-around fighting style that 100% works. 

Is Kali good for self-defense?

Today, many martial arts aren’t as relevant as they were a long time ago. Because of that, knowing which ones are valuable for existing self-defense situations is crucial for choosing the right one. Well, talking about Kali, is it suitable for self-defense? 

Kali is suitable for self-defense because it teaches the trainee how to use knives and hand-to-hand techniques to disable an opponent. These skills can apply in today’s world because the methods you’ll learn are relevant. As a result, you can learn Kali for self-defense. 

Most Kali trainees will have a knife on them because they learned that. Consequently, there’s no beating a professional with a weapon. Eventually, self-defense isn’t as fancy as many people think. Instead, it’s raw and particularly dynamic. As a result, learning how to adapt with your fighting is vital for self-defense. 

In Kali, you’ll become an all-around fighter that’s capable of many aspects of fighting. For instance, you’ll learn how to punch and kick powerfully. As a result, if you don’t have your weapon on you, you’ll still be able to respond. 

When watching Kali masters fight, you’ll witness a perfect use of weapons. That’s when I understood that it’s no joke. If I were to encounter a Kali trainee, I would run if he had a knife on him. Just terrifying. 

Is Kali effective in MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is a dynamic fighting style that combines many techniques from different martial arts. In addition, it’s an exceedingly prevalent sport worldwide. Lastly, it’s suitable for self-defense purposes. 

Kali is effective in MMA. Because it has many practical techniques, combining them with different martial arts is plausible. If we talk about the sport, it’s not as effective. Because the use of weapons is not legal in MMA, Kali doesn’t provide value- because most of it utilizes knives. 

Overall, there are many techniques one can combine with various martial arts. That way, one can construct a martial art that’s more dynamic, hence more effective. 

However, the case is different when we talk about the sport of MMA. Because the use of weapons is illegal, Kali doesn’t provide value. Eventually, most of the training incorporated knives or improvised weapons, such as sticks and rope. As a result, it has no use inside the ring. 

How long does it take to learn Kali?

This question highly discourages me. Every time I hear the question, “How long does it take to learn to defend myself?” a part of me gets dejected. Self-defense and martial arts are lifestyles. I’m not saying you must commit to the process and train every day- or else you won’t know self-defense. However, you can’t just learn the basics and leave training. It doesn’t work like that. 

As a general rule, learning the basics of Kali will require a few months of weekly sessions. Yet, mastering Kali will demand plenty of effort and more time. To become decent, you’ll have to invest a degree of effort and sweat into the training. Many people show up to training but make no progress. 

Overall, it’s different for everyone. One trainee can show up three times a week and become decent after a month. However, another can show up three times a week and become decent after six months. It all varies on many external factors. 

Is Kali better than Krav Maga?

When comparing two martial arts, we must look at plenty of factors. Yet, we won’t do that. Instead, we’ll focus on which aspects of fighting each is better. For instance, in Krav Maga training, you’ll learn how to counter an attacker with a pistol.

While Krav Maga is better for self-defense, Kali is more useful at using improvised weapons. Both martial arts are fantastic for most purposes. In Kali, you’ll master using the knife to your advantage. On the other hand, in Krav Maga, you’ll learn all about relevant self-defense situations. 

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Both martial arts provide plenty of value. As such, learning each one will grant other skill sets. When looking into both fighting styles, you’ll notice different approaches in many aspects. In Krav Maga, you’ll learn to deal with multiple opponents as much as possible. 

Krav MagaKaliDynamicUses knives and improvised weaponsSuitable for self-defenseSuitable for self-defensePopularMakes a solid fighterThe pros of each martial art

On the other hand, in Kali, you won’t bother with that as much. As a result, there are many differences between the two. Overall, I would say that Krav Maga is better for self-defense because it’s for that. As a result, it’s more effective. 

I highly encourage you to read an article I wrote on when Krav Maga is an effective counter. That way, you’ll understand what I’m talking about to a greater level. 


Overall, Kali is a solid martial art. Learning it will provide plenty of value. Additionally, martial arts deliver plenty of benefits, such as increased self-confidence and better physical shape. As a result, doing any fighting style is wise. 

Kali, in particular, is a solid martial art to learn. Because it’ll teach you many practical techniques and broaden your skillset, it’s effective self-defense. Thus I recommend learning it. 

Yet, if your sole goal is to know self-defense, you may want to consider trying different martial art suitable for that purpose, such as MMA or Krav Maga.

Follow the link to read whether learning Krav Maga is worth it.


I've served in the military as a special forces operator for 4-years. In that period, I've trained in many martial arts, including karate, MMA, BJJ, boxing, and even Krav Maga. I want to share my passion with you, so here it is!

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