Kuntaw – Origin and history as stated by 4th generation Great GrandMaster Carlito Lanada Sr. in his book “Kuntaw – The Ancient Filipino Martial Arts” states, “Many people from other countries made the Philippines their home bringing with them many new fighting styles, contributing to the culture and martial way of fighting. There are two distinct arts involved in the unarmed system of fighting and classified under the art of “Sikad” or Sikaran, which deal alone in the use of foot techniques. The dancing art of fighting is called “Kuntawan” practiced by Muslim royalties in its pure and original form. Kuntaw is the system of fighting art utilizing with the combination of hand and foot techniques in its hard and soft ways. No one can be sure exactly how Kuntaw originated, but it has proven to be an effective fighting art.
Along with the tales handed down to present generation, were the question raised by others, theories about the word of Kuntaw. First, Kuntaw…literally means hand and foot although the word “Kuntaw” basically a combination of two syllable words. “KUN” and “TAW” which are derived respectively from “kunsagrado” meaning “sacred” and “hataw” means “strike” forming together “kunsagradong hataw” or “sacred strike” taught to Muslim royalties “Maharlika”. Second, that Kuntaw came from the word KunTao, the “o” being changed “w” to better conform to local dialect of the region. Kuntao traces its roots back 1500 years to ancient China. Legend tells of a Taoist priest named Lama Darmon who left the Shaolin Temple during the Mongols Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) and migrated to Indonesia. He was a Master of Shaolin Chuan-fa “Fist Fighting”, Tai Chi Chuan, and Pa Kwa Zen (Pa Kua Chang) “Eight Diagram Heaven”. With the heavy concentration of Muslims and the change in language his art became known as Koon-Tao “Fist Way” or Chinese Kun-Tao. Trading ships between the Philippines and Indonesia are presumed to have introduced Chinese Kun-Tao. The Muslims adopted and made Kuntaw a secretive art taught to Maharlika and thus Kuntaw concentrated in Mindanao and the southern Philippines, which is predominantly a Muslim region.
There are only few written footprints about Kuntaw’s first step in the Philippines; yet, training and history were passed down to offsprings and thus the secrecy. First record marked in 1521 when Magellan arrived in Cebu Island. Magellan was involved in tribal disputes that leads to his death along with his men at the hands of Lapu-Lapu. Datu (Chief) Lapu-Lapu of Mactan Island was trained and skillful in the system of fighting “Kinaadman” of Binaston, Binangkaw and Kuntawan way. The natives were armed only with their kinaadman of bamboo spears, blow-pipes, bows and arrows, and fire hardened sticks (kampilan). They showed off their skills against Magellan and his men armed with muskets, swords, and wearing battle armor. To this day Lapu-Lapu is regarded as the first hero of the Philippines. The Spaniards eventually returned. With superior weapons and tactics, such as introducing Christianity and converting tribes to Roman Catholicsm and using them to conquer neighboring tribes. The Philippines became the colony of Spain for more than 300 years. This event raised the trivia of Philippines being known as the only Christian nation in the Far East. Spanish regime ended in the year 1898, leaving the country in the hands of Americans by the virtue of the “Treaty of Paris” on December 10,1898.
The Muslims were not quite defeated. They kept their faith intact and their skills secret. Soncuya, a Spanish historian of this time mentioned about Filipino schools called “Bothoan” that teaches Arnis and Kuntaw from the 13th century to the start of the Spanish occupation. During the Spanish regime many laws were imposed under the Royal Decree of King Philip II in 1583. All forms of martial arts were outlawed as with the carrying of bladed weapons. Spanish language was being taught in schools and Spanish surnames were directed to be used by all native Filipinos. The arts as seen were named “Arnis de Mano” (harness of hand), “spada y Daga” (sword and dagger) and “Escrima” or Fencing. The outlawing of training brought another major change in the arts. The Filipinos devised the Moro-Moro plays depicting the conquering and Christianization of the native Filipinos. Walking sticks and wooden swords were able to disguise training as play acting. Sticks were widely available and were used in the rice fields or jungles to search out snakes. Sticks replaced swords and the stick fighting arts became predominant and evolved to the present forms. Through the Moro-Moro plays, Kuntaw’s present advanced forms were born, such as Singkilan, Maya, Sagayan and the Sayawan (Dancing). With the evolution of stick fighting arts, the hand and foot fighting became separate entities. The Spanish occupation came to an end when Admiral Dewey sailed into Manila Bay and sunk the Spanish fleet during the Spaninsh/ American war in 1898. The Filipinos revolted and the revolution finally subdued in 1901 with the capture of their leader General Emilio Aguinaldo. Thus started the American occupation, with the goal of giving independence once the government and people are able to
sustain themselves. This set the stage of the present Kuntaw. In 1901 following the ceasing of hostilities with America, an adventurer from the Tausog tribe of Mindanao – Yuyong Huenyo Lanyada went north to Luzon Island seeking his fortune. He settled in Ogbon, Nabua, Camarines Sur in Albay province, Bicol region. He change the spelling of his name to better conform to the local dialect to; Yuyong Henyo Lanada. In 1905 Yong Iban Lanada was born and in 1936 the present day GrandMaster Carlito A. Lanada was born.
The art of Kuntaw was passed from father to son as tradition dictated. In 1942 World War II was in progress and the Japanese occupied the Philippines. Yong Iban by then was well known for his Kuntawan way and was nicknamed “Pilato”, after Ponce Pilot, and became a commander of the Filipino guerilla fighter movement. Training his men in the Kuntawan way and trading sticks for bolos brought out the deadly arms of Arnis. Carlito then 6-9 years of age was used as a messenger carrying messages in coconuts field to guerilla leaders. To this day he still remembers those nightly runs and the effectiveness of his family Kuntaw. The culmination of the occupation and war in 1945 started the real training for Carlito. His Lolo (Grandfather) Yuyong passed away in 1946 and his father became his mentor in the Kuntawan way. Carlito accompanies his father everytime the latter goes to the local betting matches. Usually bets are in sacks of rice and rules such as types of weapons to be used are formalized before each matches, mostly they are death matches. He watched as his father won countless matches and gained fame. Thus, came his drive for training and knowledge in the martial way. He took the spirit of his Lolo and journeyed North in 1957 to find his fortune. He settled in Olongapo City outside the U.S. Naval Base, Subic Bay. During this time, other arts are arriving, like Karate styles from Okinawa and Japan, Moo Du Kwon and Tae Kwan Do from Korea, and various Chinese Kung Fu styles. To this date his Kuntaw had been characterized by the use of the combination of open hand and feet with holding and locking techniques.