Kuntaw, Ancient Filipino Martial Art
Kuntaw is said to be one of the oldest self-defense arts devised by Filipino Muslim royalty prior to the Spanish regime. Long before the coming of the Spaniards to the Philippines, systems of unarmed (Kuntawan) and armed (Kali/Escrima) fighting were being taught and developed.
Kuntaw is a Filipinized term for the Chinese and Indonesian martial arts of KunTao and is sometimes referred to as ‘Filipino Kung Fu’. The particular styles of Kuntaw practiced by Filipinos since the 14th century were considered a secret fighting art and have evolved into two distinct branches over the years. The first is Kuntawan, which is the combination of hand and foot techniques and the other is Sikaran, which is mainly the use of kicking and foot techniques.
One of the foremost existing proponents of the Kuntaw system is Grand Master Carlito Lanada of the IKF Kuntaw Federation.
“The art originally consisted of only soft, open hand techniques with emphasis on holding and locking while striking with either hand or feet”, explained GM Lanada. “After World War II, the Japanese, Okinawan, and Korean arts came to the Philippines. This gave me an opportunity to see different hard styles of martial arts. I studied them, borrowed what I needed, and synthesized them into my own techniques.”
“No one style contains all the answers or a magic formula which can transform a weakling into a human fighting machine. What I did was revise the old to satisfy the new. I was willing to try something different in my school for the sake of my students to help them grow to his or her fullest potential. I chose to expand and modernize the art and added hard techniques to the style. This made Kuntaw into a hard/soft style with avenues of response to any kind of attack.”
“In Kuntaw, the study of vital points of the human body and how to hit them is a special art in itself, which is called Kuntaw sapol, meaning hitting the vital points,” said Grand Master Lanada. “These points are broken down into three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. There are a hundred or more vital points in the human body, but many of these can only be reached by an acupuncturist’s needle. The points we emphasize are the easiest to get to and are where nerves, sensitive bones, breakable joints, and vital organs are located.”
“For centuries the deadly fighting art of Kuntaw was passed from father to son,” said Grand Master Lanada. “When my grandfather, Amang Huenyo, left the island of Mindano and settled on Luzon he brought with him his knowledge of the art of Kuntaw. He taught my father who in turn taught me and as legal heir I continue to pass on the art of Kuntaw. The legacy of my ancestors will be kept alive through my students and family”.
Kuntaw Arnis Lima Lama has many different styles incorporated into it and along with empty hands it also uses the Stick and the Blade. Still, locks, takedowns and disarms continue to be a major part of this art used in self-defense and street applications.