How Jason Momoa Used This Filipino Martial Arts Move in Dune to Send His Son a Secret Message


Jason Momoa—Khal of Khals, Chieftain of the Alkenny, and without a doubt, one of the coolest men on the planet. That’s a pretty awesome guy to have for a father. Not everyone gets to boast that their pops is Aquaman or Khal Drogo, but Momoa’s kids with Lisa Bonet—Lola and Nakoa—get to call him both. And now, they get to add legendary space fighter Duncan Idaho to the list. 

Momoa will be playing the galactic warrior in the upcoming Denis Villeneuve movie Dune, set to premiere in Philippine cinemas on November 10. The sci-fi film is positioning itself to be the next great space epic, with Momoa playing one of the most physical characters in the movie. Idaho will be involved in a number of fight scenes alongside his co-star Timothee Chalamet, who was revealed to have used the Filipino martial art of Balintawak Eskrima in his fighting style. 

Chalamet wasn’t the only one whose moves were inspired by Filipino martial arts. Momoa, who’s done everything from jujitsu to fighting with a trident, was initiated into Kali when he began training for Dune. 

Kali is another interchangeable term for Arnis and Eskrima, the national martial art. It’s become a popular form of combat for stunt choreographers on big Hollywood sets, as films like The Old Guard, The Jason Bourne series, and Hanna used Filipino Martial arts extensively. 

In Dune, Arnis/Kali/Eskrima were integral influences for the fighting styles of the House Atreides. One special scene featuring Jason Momoa includes a classic Kali move—the pugay, a special salute meant to show respect. Not a fighting move or stance, Momoa snuck in the salute as a secret message to his son.


“We did a bunch of stuff like Kali. I never really learned that,” shared Momoa to Indiewire. “My son does that. There’s definitely these intimate moments where I’m signaling to my son. That’s a Kali move, where you put your hand on your heart and put it on your head. That’s to Timothée in the movie, but that’s to my son in real life.”

Before you mock Pinoy pride, it’s important to note that Filipino Martial Arts has been a silent influence on the Hollywood action industry for decades. It was first introduced in 1973 when Bruce Lee fought with doble baston in Enter the Dragon, and then again in the 1978 movie Game of Death starring Lee and Filipino-American Arnis master Dan Inosanto. Filipino Martial Arts have since influenced fighting scenes in everything from Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Mission: Impossible III to Kick-Ass and Quantum of Solace. And now, Kali is going galactic as it’s featured in perhaps one of the greatest space operas of our time, Dune.

Photo by WARNER BROS..
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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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