STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION_________The tropical island chain off the eastern coast of Indochina was first settled by Negrito Pigmies from Central Asia during prehistoric times. Living in small hunter / gatherer clans, they intermingled and fought over territory using the primitive weapons of the time. Bows and arrows, blow guns, slings, spears, and crude knives were the main weapons, and were mostly hunting tools because the Negrito pigmy’s very existence relied on their ability to use these weapons well to bring home food for the table. These hunting tools were only used as weapons of war when the need arose.


The arrival of the next cultural group to this island chain happened around 200 BC. Indo Malay Proto Malay brought with them   the first recorded name of the islands: The MAHARLIKAS (MAHAR- SUPREME OR ROYAL, LIKA -PEOPLE) and a slightly   more sophisticated approach to doing battle. Using skillfully forged bladed weapons and tactics that used the weapons economically, they brought the concept of individual combat to a new level. Known as KALI, this Indo/ Malaysian system incorporated many different blade style and shapes. As individual as their owners, each could be utilized in several ways.  The Negritos were pushed northward as more Malay arrivals settled here. The Pigmies, not being especially warlike adapted to battle the Malay and skills formed in battle were passed on to the survivors of the battles. Each village developed its own style of fighting and incorporated other styles as they came in contact, either through casual contact or in all out combat. As different as they were, these bladed arts were labeled all as KALI.


The Chinese culture developed in its own way in parallel with the Indonesians. Many fighting systems were being developed; each province or even city had its own fighting style as diverse as its practitioners. Mountain areas had hard kicking systems (because of the strong legs developed in climbing), seaports had hand and weapons systems, farmers had low stance systems (because of the marshy or wet ground). The Chinese were also traders throughout the China Seas for many generations, sailing into the Maharlikas brought them wealth because of the spices and other trade items found there. Wherever the Chinese traveled they would take along members of their religious community. These members all had a background of training in the physical and mental aspects of martial arts. Shaolin-ssu monks brought their art of Kempo to the Maharlikas and made the existing arts more valuable because of the kicking punching skills and various weapons arts added to the already diverse fighting systems. Other martial arts arrived throughout history and added to the diversity of the Filipino martial arts. Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and other cultures brought to the Maharlikas bits and pieces of their native fighting arts. The Filipinos would take from these arts what they felt they could use and disregard the rest.


Because of its position on the map, the Maharlikas were a cross road of travel and culture. This also brought piracy, territorial disputes, and fights over who owned the island's bounty. The Filipino martial arts were forged in blood and tested in battle, if a technique or skill didn't work, it was discarded. As the Filipino martial arts developed they began to split and specialize into different styles much the same way that martial arts in Europe, China, Japan, and Korea separated. Mountainous area arts became specialized in kicking types; SIPA, SIKARAN. The low land arts used sweeping and throwing techniques and became BUNO, SILAT, and KUNTAW SILAT. The waterfront fishing communities were a haven for Chinese based systems and the many different arts utilized weapons systems of many types but the weapons skills were generally called KALI (these would later split and become separate arts of ARNIS and ESCRIMA). On March 19, 1521, the Maharlikas were visited by a ship from halfway around the world. The flagship Victoria from Spain, captained by Ferdinand Magellan, arrived on St. Lazarus Day just offshore of the island SAMAR. He claimed the new land for King Philippe of Spain and so named the island San Lazaro.


As was the case with most explorers, whatever they "found" became theirs, whether or not someone already possessed the land. This discovery brought western man now into the picture of the melting pot. Because the apparent Spanish superiority of weapons and culture, the islands were claimed to be Spanish and all the inhabitants were to be Christianized. Any references to past rulers, languages, laws, possessions were struck down. Anyone who questioned the authority of the Spanish was put to death as subversive. In the process of claiming the islands, Magellan met with some resistance, which he overcame by making some of the Rajahs (tribal chieftains) part of his ruling class.


One Rajah, LAPU LAPU, did not wish to be Christianized and rebelled at the idea that his people were to belong to Spain. This brought an angry Magellan and his ship to the island of MACTAN, where Magellan was going to personally put down this resistance. He believed his conquistadors armed with Toledo blade and armor were more than a match for naked heathens armed with sticks, spears, and inferior blades. They met in battle in the shallow water and sandy beach, naked native against trained Spanish soldiers.








Using the techniques gained from many battles the Katutubong fought the Spanish back using knives, swords, and fire hardened sticks. The Spanish were forced to retreat and regroup, their leader Magellan, was felled by a sharpened stick stuck through his heart and lung. They labeled these rebellious fighters MOROS, after the Moors that gave them such trouble in a past skirmish in Turkey. The Spanish soon returned with a new battle plan; thinking that it would take a Moro to beat a Moro they began using other tribes that were loyal to them to fight the rebels.  Many tribes soon fell, despite their skills in battle and their ANTING ANTING (Magical amulets). The Spanish soon took control of these islands. But, the Muslim Moros in the southern islands were never quite defeated. To this day they still fight for an independent sovereignty for their way of life.


The Spanish, after learning a hard lesson at the hands of Lapu Lapu and his villagers, abolished the practice of all Filipino martial arts, thinking that this would insure that future generations would not learn any effective form of resistance. The ban outlawed any practice or training in Kali, Kuntaw, or Silat. The ingenious Filipinos however had other ideas. They learned how to hide their arts in children's games and in dances performed at times of celebrations.


The present game of HACKY-SACK is one example of a game that was invented to keep the footwork and kicking skills sharp and ready for use. An ethnic dance, TINIKLING (jumping bird) used two to four long poles clacked together while dancers jumped and twirled avoiding being caught in its trap. This dance also hid the defensive- offensive stance changes in the fighting arts. The use of the deadly KRIS ( a wavy bladed sword) and native BOLOS ( long knives) used  in the arts were hidden in ckick-clack dances where dancers would turn and strike stick to rattan stick to provide an interesting rhythm for the dancers to follow while practicing the fluid maneuvers of the KALI arts. The Spanish were so fooled by the sticks and the high degree of skill that the dancers had they labeled the skill ARNIS DE MANO or harnessing of the hand. After all, how could clacking of a bunch of sticks frighten a fully armed Spanish Conquistador? The true skills were soon related to secret training at night from father to son neighbor-to-neighbor and brother-to-brother. The Filipino martial arts had gone underground, but they still thrived.


Kuntaw is a Filipino martial art that was organized in the Philippines. Fighting skills were "borrowed" from the many cultures that arrived in the Philippines by migration, invasion, or by trade. These fighting skills were organized into a viable fighting system. This fighting system handles the three ranges of fighting largo (long), Medio (short), and Corto (close) as well as the three altitudes of fighting air, standing, and ground fighting.


These fighting skills come from many different areas of the Orient. However, the three main arts that form the nucleus of Kuntaw are from India (KALI), Indonesia / Indochina (PENTJAK SILAT), and China (SHAOLIN-SSU KEMPO/ CHUAN FA). From Kali, short range destruction of the weapon... From Kempo, hard kicking and punching long range, high range attacks to the body and from Silat came the circular, flowing, snake-like movements that attacked the base or balance of an opponent up close. The three main Filipino arts in Kuntaw are Buno (Filipino wrestling), Sikaran (kicking / punching), and Bugtongan (sport stick fighting).

The Filipinos would strive to streamline the ability to teach and pass on fighting skills in the shortest time with the best results possible. Thus the formula of simple direct and effective was instituted. After all, if it took too long to learn, chances are you would be caught learning the technique.


During the occupation, many forms of Kuntaw developed  , some were mainly hands, some were mainly feet. The current style of Kuntaw being taught under the Maharlika Kuntaw banner as flown by Maha Guro Smith has its roots from several sources.

The spirit of those early Moro warriors never died. When the Spanish American war was over, the United States soon found that ruling the Moros was easier said than done. After finding out the hard way that a Moro Kris sword could cut through the barrel and stock of a Springfield rifle as well as the unprotected neck of the trained Marine soldier holding it, the US. Military had to re think its tactics. It soon issued leather strapping for the collars of the Marines uniforms for added protection. Marines would for this reason be called "leathernecks". Soldiers stationed in the Philippines were there because of the US Seventh Fleet refueling station. They learned of the rage, and ferocity of a Moro warrior on a rampage. The service issue .38 revolvers would not stop a native in his frenzy. The Military soon issued the .45 semi automatic pistol, this allowed the Marines to knock the Moros literally off their feet as they tried to slash and cut their way into the compound.


Time did for the US. Marines what it did for the Spanish. It let everyone settle into an uneasy truce. When the Spanish settled the Philippines, the Kali practitioners adapted the straight sword and fencing style of the Spanish soldiers into their art. Also came the style of using a dagger in one hand and a sword in the other. The Filipinos dubbed this style espada daga (sword and dagger). The US troops fighting the Japanese in W.W.II tried to give supporting Filipinos guns, but they preferred to use machetes that the GIs were issued.  Using the skills of Kali and Kuntaw, they became known to the Japanese as "Devils Spawn" becoming a pain in the side of the Japanese trying to occupy this tropical island.


Most oriental martial arts have become known just after cultural exchanges(wars): Karate W.W.II, Tae Kwon Do the Korean War, now since the Viet Nam skirmish the arts of Silat, Kali, and Maharlika Kuntaw have been brought back by servicemen to an interested world. Though relatively a newcomer in the scene of martial arts today, Maharlika Kuntaw and other Filipino martial arts in general are making their mark. While they have been held in secrecy for all these years, they are no less effective. Now that the current generation of instructors has allowed the Filipino arts to be taught to westerners, they are enjoying the respect and popularity they deserve. First put on film by the late martial arts legend; Bruce Lee, they have become further spread by Dan Inosanto, Jeff Imada, Chuck Norris, and Gracilla Castillas. While not instructors of Maharlika Kuntaw, they have pushed Filipino arts to the forefront by their use of Filipino Martial Arts drills, moves, and underwriting the viability of these arts.











While Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and various forms of Kung Fu are the main arts being taught in the Philippines   Escrima, Eskrima, Sikaran, Kuntaw, and Kali are the true Filipino arts taught.  There are many others just as intense and just as deadly. 


  Mr. Smith went on to become the head instructor of Filipino martial arts at Northwestern Michigan College, becoming the first Filipino Martial art being taught for credit ever at any College in the United States. There are over 200,000 students of Kuntaw at this time; the largest group is, as expected, in the Philippines. The next largest group is in Saudi Arabia.


Kuntaw was primarily developed as a defensive art, but it can be used as an offensive art given the right circumstances. Weapons are a major part of Kuntaw techniques, these weapons may be a fist, elbow, knee, foot, or hand held object such as a knife, stick, or sword. Movements in Kuntaw were developed from the use of these weapons and from the defense of these weapons.


Though Kuntaw is basically evasive, it is a dramatic evasiveness. The movements used are light and fast to avoid an attack, but they are designed to use this action to counter back to the opponent. These movements do not stop an attack or oppose the force delivered; instead they re-direct the force back to the source by gaining control of the force. In effect, using the opponent's force against them without wasting much of your own energy or using any additional force. These movements may direct attacking force to a safe area or position that allows the practitioner to get in and take the opponent's base or balance. This gives the Kuntawista the ability to lock, throw, or sweep the opponent to the ground.



Martial arts are no different than other arts. What makes them special is the medium that they use. A sculptor uses stone, a painter uses oils and acrylics, a dancer uses music and movement, a martial artist uses his mind and body as a weapon. No art can claim superiority over another. Which is better a painting or a statue? A song or a poem? It all depends on the mood or story the artist wants to present. Which is better Tai Chi or Karate? It depends on the amount of effort you wish to expend and the results you expect...


Doing battle over the ages has changed and the strategies have changed. Some martial arts are still taught as they were in the 19th century. Desert Storm could not have been fought using civil war techniques, strategies, and weapons. You have to adjust, adapt, and be realistic. Kuntaw has its roots in change and adaptation. The concepts remain- the techniques and weapons are endless. Kuntaw too has changed, as each person   touches the art they add to it those things that make it right for them. Many techniques come and go from instructor to instructor. According to H.P. MacArthur “Kuntaw made some radical changes in 1975 to make the art more condusive to blend with other competitive arts in the Philippines. Many of the soft aspects were supplemented by more Korean/Japanese influenced techniques. This allowed the practitioners to readily compete in the Asian Games tournament scene.”

 The Author was trained before this radical change took place and considers the soft aspect to be a major selling point of the art. Not that it is the same as such and such. More like – it is different than such and such. The uniqueness of the art is why he started training in the art and this is why he continues to seek out the soft /flowing aspects of the Filipino arts.


 To Quote Grand Master Carlito A. Lanada-“The addition of application to the original art by each succeeding master, so that the art can evolve, has become a tradition. I chose to expand and modernize the art and added hard techniques to the style. It lives and continues to evolve. May this continue to be the case.”   Thus the art promoted by GGM Carlito Lanada is  more in tune to Shorin Ryu and Shotokan Karate that it is to Kali and Sikaran.


The author has made a concerted effort to reflect the original path of Kuntaw to the soft /dance like aspects associated with the Filipino sister arts. If you traveled to the many different Kuntaw schools in the United States, you would find differences in each. The way they teach and the way they portray the art. Mister Smith has been an active competitor in the Michigan and Canadian Karate circuits for many years and has found that the soft catlike style of the art has some superior aspects. His large collection of awards lay testament to this fact. There are so many Korean and Japanese schools that don’t touch on the weapon and flowing skills that Kuntaw has to offer. This is the uniqueness that has made this art so in demand for seminar and private training.


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