William Anderson


The

History and Developement

of

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 invaders.

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.