History and Developement
Philopino Martial Arts
Filipino martial arts have been known to exist since the fifteenth
century. At that time, the Philippines were inhibited by Chinese,
East Indians, Indonesians, Moros, along with the indigenous
tribes of the islands. The Muslims from Indonesia incorporated
the bladed weapons into their dances, who brought about the art
of Arnis, or Filipino bladed arts. The Indonesians also introduced
the footwork and hard strikes from the fighting system of Penchak
Silat into the fighting arts of the Philippines. The Chinese
introduced the soft or internal techniques into the development of
the Filipino Martial arts.
Kuntaw was originated by the Tausug tribe of Mindanao and was one
of the fighting arts used by the Muslims of this region during the
Spanish Occupation. Although the Spanish outlawed all forms of
fighting arts during their occupation of the Philippines, Kuntaw
continued to be developed and practiced by dedicated masters and
students by training in secrecy and out of the view of the Spanish
overlords. Their skill in hand to hand combat and the use of
bladed weapons that was incorporated into their fighting arts
development continued to be used in the defense of their homeland
and history shows that Mindanao was never conquered by the
Spanish. This shows the fierce fighting spirit of the Filipino
Muslims as they defended their landed from any and all foreign
The first exposure of the Filipino martial arts was in 1521,
when Magellan tried to convert the island of Mactan into
Christianity. But Rajah Lapu-Lapu and the Muslim tribes of
Mactan were opposed to foreign influence into their religion
of Muslim. Magellan thought his Spanish armor and Toledo
steel would be more than a match for the indigenous fighters.
But history shows that Magellan was mistaken, as the Kuntawistas
of Mactan killed him in a fierce hand to hand battle in which
Magellan was killed by the bladed weapons and empty hand fighting
systems of the fanatical Muslim fighters.
Kuntaw was brought out of Mindanao and settled in the Bicol region
of the Visayas in 1901 by Yoyong Henyo. The art was handed down
from father to son until the current Grandmaster, Carlito Lanada
assumed the responsibility of making sure that his family's art
of combat would not be lost for all time.
Kuntaw was first publicly displayed in 1960, when Grandmaster
Lanada opened his school in Olangapo City. Grandmaster Lanada
opened this school for the purpose of reviving the art of Kuntaw,
one of the oldest essential arts of self-defense by the Filipino
Muslims prior to the Spanish occupation. In 1974, Grandmaster
Lanada was awarded one of the Philippines' highest honors by
President Marcos. This recognition opened up the opportunity
for Kuntaw to become one of the hand to hand combat systems
taught to the Philippine Armed Forces.
Kuntaw is a fighting system that uses the natural weapons of the
body for striking, kicking, throwing, and joint manipulations.
The hands are used for balance, parrying, and grappling techniques
while the legs are used for lowline kicks and kicks at various
other angles which includes takedowns and sweeping techniques.
These techniques are taught in combinations called forms or in
Karate terms "kata".
Kuntaw techniques are applicable to empty hand defenses as well
as attacks with bladed weapons. Training with weapons starts
after the student understands the empty hand fundamentals that
are taught as a means of developing hand-eye coordination.
Weapons training in Kuntaw consists of arnis (Filipino
stickfighting) and the use of bladed weapons of various types.
Kuntaw's fighting technique development was a result of the input
of the fighting systems from the different ethnic groups migrating
to the Philippines from their specific regions of Southeast Asia.
The Muslims injected a large amount of their sword techniques and
customs into the Arnis-Kali part of Kuntaw while the Chinese
martial arts introduced the soft internal conditioning and the
external hard styles into the empty hand techniques. The
Indonesian martial arts known as Silat also influenced the
various footwork and trapping techniques for the movements away
and into the field of attacks.
Despite the fact that Kuntaw is a defensive/offensive fighting
art, Kuntawistas use the philosophy of avoiding all forms of
conflict. This philosophy is described as retreating to the wall
and comes from the respect of all living things. The philosophy
of retreat to the wall is defined by Grandmaster Lanada as
"retreat if possible, fight if necessary.