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Kuntaw History – Fact, Fiction or Delusion

FMA Informative Issue #4 - Kuntaw - Basics
FMA Informative Issue #29 - Kuntaw - Sayaw-An of Kuntaw
Sayaw-An of Kuntaw

I have written about the history of Kuntaw in many magazines, and of course the books that I have written and have been published. The history that I have written was told to me personally by Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada, his wife, and his father (who was still living at the time). It seems that once Grandmaster Lanada migrated to the United States that he would constantly change his history or add something etc. Or someone would add parts of his history that I personally never heard him say. Example on his supposed personal website that really was not his personal website since a personal or others added things to it as time went by.
So I have noted things that were said at times that were not said to me but some people took as he said it because it was written some place and then when not part of his organization, made it a goal to disprove and bring the fact to light about what was said to ensure Grandmaster Lanada looked bad and was lying.
Of course throughout the years dealing various Filipino arts I have found and I think you will agree most of the history is by word of mouth for documentation seems to be lacking. Like the good one that the art derived or was handed down or the practitioners past relative was Lapu Lapu. Anyway on with Kuntaw history as told to me personally by Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada Sr., when first interviewing him in the mid-seventies.

Since the dawn of civilization, man has invariably employed his superior strength with the use of his hands and feet, to fight and defend himself and his family in the face of danger. Later man revolutionized and perfected this kind of unarmed combat into different styles of self-defense. Self-defense today has many prevailing styles. Each race has its own way of improving its own way of improving its own styles within its legitimate sphere. No race can monopolize the art of hand and foot fighting and claim afterwards that it all originated from them, since the arts are undeniably inherent to all men.
The concepts of modern self-defense is based upon historical evolutionary events that can be traced back from past generations. In this art, the Katutubong Kapatid (native brothers) proved it when the illustrated their bravery and nationalism in protection the honor of their native land (the Philippines), which they cherished and loved.
In 1834 the Spanish opened Manila Bay to world trade. (Hard to verify if Amang Huinyo stowed away on a ship from Mindanao to Manila Bay. Would there still be a manifest? And as told to me Amang Huinyo “stowed away” did not book passage).
Simultaneously a young man left Cotobato Mindanao to seek his fortune. (It has been seen or claimed at one time that Grandmaster Carlito Lanada family was of the Tausūg people, He never relayed that to me. And I never really heard that until he came to the United States and it was not from him, but read it on a website claiming to be his official website. And because his great grandfather came from Mindanao, people have believed that his family was Muslim and converted to Christianity. (Not all people in Mindanao are Muslims) Which I have never heard Grandmaster Lanada claim personally. I was told that what his great grandfather learned was Kuntao which makes sense since that region was and is an ethnic group of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Plus the Tausūg people are basically in Sulu, which is an autonomous island province of the Philippines located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
Grandmaster Lanada has never confessed to be of the Muslim faith or that of his family to me or have I heard him say it to anyone. His great grandfather came from Cotobato Mindanao: Cotabato is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in the SOCCSKSARGEN region in Mindanao. Its capital is Kidapawan City. Cotabato lies on the eastern part of Region XII and is centrally located in Mindanao. It is bounded on the north by the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon, on the east by Davao City and Davao del Norte, on the west by Maguindanao and on the southeast by Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.
Cotabato is strategically linked to the major “Arterial Road System” that traverses and connects the province to Davao City - SOCCSKSARGEN - Cotabato Corridor. The Cotabato via Kabacan - Maramag - Kibawe, Bukidnon Sayre Highway meanwhile serves as its link to the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan City Corridor. Cotabato stretches west from Mount Apo, which separates it from Davao, to the Piapayungan Range on its boundary with Lanao
.) This man was Amang Huinyo Eugenio {Huinyo was changed to the family name used to this day which is “Lanada” in an effort to colonize the people of the Philippines completely the Spaniards issued a decree that the people of the islands must change their names to a Spanish surname.
Once reaching Luzon Island he settled in Ogbon, Nabua, Cam, located outside Naga City in the Bicol region. In 1837 he formed and organized Katitunan - Api (an organization that fought for the abused and the oppressed victims of the Spanish).
In 1892 Andres Bonifacio organized Kataastaasang Kagalang - glang Katipunan ng mga Awak ng Bayan (The Exalted and Most Honorable Society of the Sons of the people). In 1896 after planning and strategically operations the revolution for freedom from the Spanish became a reality.
Amang along with his two sons Yoyong and Yong I Ban in support of their country taught Kuntaw to the freedom fighters in their region. Since it was outlawed that any type of fighting was to be practiced by the Filipino’s during the reign of the Spanish. The Filipino’s had to disguise their practicing by forming a dance that would amuse the Spanish, but let them practice their fighting arts. To add to this Amang and his sons also wanting to have more freedom in their teachings dug an underground cave, at night they would gather the young men of the village and in concealment taught the men the art of Kuntaw. With this training it contributed to the defeat and aided in the freedom of the Philippines from the dominance of the Spanish.
With the defeat of the Spanish and the Filipino people achieving freedom, the fighting arts of the country were coming into view, no longer having to be practiced in secrecy. In 1901 Iban with the support of his father Amang (now nicknamed “Pilato” which translates as “skillfulness in Kali and Kuntawian techniques” - techniques handed down to him from his father, for his actions during the revolution) organized Maharlika ng Kuntawista. However, Amang was to only see a small part of the success of this art, which was passed from his father for he passed away in the year of 1933.
Grandmaster Lanada says that the word Kuntaw is derived from two words kunsegrado and hataw “unsegrado - meaning sacredness’” and “Hataw - meaning strike.” (It was told to me on my first interview with Grandmaster Lanada that originally Kuntaw was spelled Kuntao however his grandfather replaced the ‘O’ with the ‘W’ to conform to the Tagalog language. This he continued to tell me until his interview with Mark Wiley his book “Filipino Martial Culture”. After being interviewed Grandmaster Lanada has denied that Kuntaw was originally Kuntao.)         

Iban continued to teach the art, and was the proud father of a son named Steban who also learned from his father the art of Kuntaw. Steban grew and married and had a son Carlito (the Carlito of today). Carlito a youth lived with his father and grandfather the village they lived in was secluded where neighbors were miles away. Because of their isolation, Carlito did not have peers to relate to and consequently in his leisure moments practiced Kuntaw with his father and grandfather.
Carlito would accompany his father to all the provincial celebrations and watch with great interest when exhibitions of the fighting arts were presented. One of his favorite sports was called “the circle fight,” in which two contestants get in a circle and try to push or pull the other off balance. The one who maintained his balance was declared the winner. Just when the fighting arts commenced to merge into the open, another blockade to recognition was to become an obstacle in getting Kuntaw recognized.
1941 the Japanese invaded the Philippine Islands. Again the art of Kuntaw was to go underground to be taught for the use in defending the Philippines. Iban a commander of the Filipino guerilla force in and around Renconda Nabua terrorized the Japanese forces in the area, using his own son Carlito as a message runner and a lookout to reconnoiter. Using his son Carlito as a message runner, messages were hidden inside the coconuts. For, who would think much of a young boy running through the jungle with a coconut under his arm? It could be for his own nourishment or for his family, “but in reality he was delivering messages to friendly forces and neighboring villages.” Reporting Japanese troop movements together along with the guerilla force they were a constant opposing force against the enemy in the region.
With the passing of the Japanese occupation, the Lanada family again brought Kuntaw out to the public. In hopes of making this (what they called) ancient art recognized and strong once again in the region as it was before the Spanish dominance of the Philippines.
Iban realizing to make Kuntaw known he would have to get the art out to the world, planned to send his son Carlito Lanada to Olongapo City to spread the philosophies and teachings of Kuntaw. Thinking that with the American’s help the art would spread and flourish outside the Philippines throughout the world.
For it was in Olongapo City that the Americans had one of the largest U.S. Naval Bases (Subic Bay Naval Station) in the South Pacific, in which thousands upon thousands of Americans passed through en route to all areas of the world.
Carlito left his province in 1958 going to Olongapo City to commence to establish the art of Kuntaw.
Grandmaster Carlito Lanada, added elements from other Filipino martial arts to his personal style. Arts such as Sikaran (also known as sipa or tadyakan, “the art of foot fighting”), Gumol (also known as lampogan) and Buno, an art related to Gumol. (These last two arts both employed grappling, locks and holds similar to judo), and Karate.
Kuntawas told to me by Grandmaster Carlito Lanada is an art of the Katutubong Filipino hand and foot fighting in its hard and soft ways. It is a style of fighting which uses the natural weapons of the body for blocking, striking, and kicking. Using the hands for balance, parrying, and grappling techniques, as well as throwing, the legs are used for powerful kicking techniques from various angles, including jumping, sweeping, and stomping techniques, as well as the knowledge employed to use maneuvers at various angles of attacking or counterattacking. Kuntaw is unlimited in its combinations.
At first not being taken seriously and essentially being laughed at and challenged by other martial arts organizations, he was finding the way rough and not very prosperous at all.  Here was a young man wearing a belt colored red, white, and blue claiming to be a sixth degree of an art that had been secretly taught for hundreds of years. The belt given to him by his father represented the Filipino flag and the determination, courage, and freedom the nation stood for in its self.
To all who came near, Grandmaster Lanada talked of unity of the fighting arts, unity in that each should show and have respect for each art as a separate art and all arts as a whole, a belief which he still most strongly has lectured on throughout time up to the today.
When first opening his school on Fendler Street in 1960 it was called the “Philippine Kung Fu Kuntaw Association,” Kung Fu being used to fit in with the ideas of the martial arts then being that everyone thought of the martial arts as Kung Fu, Karate, or Judo. In 1964 moving his school to Linda Theatre, which had gone out of business, he reinstated the name of Maharlika Kuntaw (Royal Blood of Kuntaw), “the original name handed down from his grandfather Yoyong.”
The teachings were strict and very aggressive. Training in the Linda Theatre brought many students to Kuntaw. The training starts with exercises to loosen the body, then with a combination of exercises to build the body and stretch the muscles in preparation for the evening’s drills. Upon completion of the exercises, the students were then put through basic drills of movements in striking, blocking, and kicking. Then it was time for the instructors to take students in training according to their degree of rank.
Grandmaster Lanada would constantly make his rounds to see that instructors were teaching each group correctly. Executing the movements of Kuntaw with an understanding of the development of coordination, balance, and power for each technique.
As you observed the class, you could see beginners working and perfecting their basics, others working on the flowing catlike movements of forms. Yet others the finer techniques of sparring.
In 1974, Fredinand Marcos honored Grandmaster Lanada with one of his countries’ highest honors. This award singled out Grandmaster Lanada for his work in rediscovering the art of Kuntaw, one of the few original-fighting arts of the Philippines. It was also at this time Maharlika Kuntaw Association became Kuntaw ng Pilipinas (in line with the saying everything Philippines)
With the awards came a regeneration of the art, which opened doors to military agencies in the Philippine armed services and throughout the American bases in the Philippines. Kuntaw was now on the move and growing with schools located throughout the world in such places as Bahrain, Guam, England, Germany, the Arab Emerates, Yemen, Canada, and the United States. Kuntaw was International so in 1979, Carlito Lanada established the International Kuntaw Federation.
In 1984 Grandmaster Lanada’s father Amang Iban Lanada passed away. But not before seeing his son making his dream come true. The dream of Kuntaw reaching out throughout the world and commence to be established among all martial arts throughout the world.

Note: Also to be added is that when Mark Wiley interview Grandmaster Carlito Lanada, for his book “Filipino Martial Culture” in either 1994 or 1995 while Grandmaster Lanada was living in  Virginia, many of the answers that Carlito Lanada gave contradict what he was saying since the 1970’s and 80’s. Also Grandmaster Carlito Lanada came up with the name Kuntaw Lima-Lima (five-five) which I was told was for his stick fighting art. Kuntaw never really had a stick fighting art, people that I have talked with actually never learned any stick fighting art from Carlito Lanada personally but from other instructors at the school in OLangapo, Philippines. Until that time I had never seen any stick fighting in the main school in the Philippines (other than when Professor Remy Presas visited), yes there were helmets and body gear hanging on the wall, along with other things that were never used, that I saw. Asking Carlito Lanada about this Kuntaw Lima-Lima he told me once he had relocated to San Diego, California that he added it in 1994, with 5 strikes, 5 blocks, and 5 forms - thus Kuntaw Lima-Lima).

Personal Account as a Kuntaw Practitioner
I started Kuntaw in San Antonio, Zambales, Philippines under two instructors that quit Kuntaw or were thrown out in 1974 and 1975. Anyway I would visit Grandmaster in Olangapo occasionally mostly during the day for I worked in the evenings at the US Communication Station as Armed Forces Police and Military Security Police.
Since I commenced Kuntaw the only forms I have ever learned are the same ones that Grandmaster Bud Cothern or Kuntaw Legacy, Grandmaster Benjamin Ortiz of Saudi, Grandmaster Basco - Philippines, Grandmaster Jon Bais of Bais Tres Manos and countless others throughout the world. And were the only forms that I have witnessed from any true Kuntawista until 1996, when Grandmaster Lanada commenced making changes to the forms. There have been other forms, which I have seen, but when I was part of Kuntaw he was taught what is in this book.

I was either stationed in the Philippines or returned to the Philippines off and on, while aboard different ships of the United States Navy, until retiring from the Navy in 1994.
Grandmaster Lanada came to the United States and eventually lived in San Diego, CA. Where I was in Partnership with Grandmaster (then Master) Bud Cothern and his top student Garth Constantine.
Late in 1995 while Bud and myself were having lunch with Grandmaster Lanada I laid out a business plan to get Kuntaw together and prosperous throughout the world. It was also at that meeting that Grandmaster Lanada wanted Bud and myself to become Grandmasters of Kuntaw. Both or us turned him down and the arrangement was, I was to be his Administrator and Bud his Technical Advisor. At that time also was the time Lanada was starting to change the forms.
It was January 1996 that Grandmaster Lanada, Bud Cothern, and myself went through all of the Kuntaw forms discussing the changes that Grandmaster Lanada wanted to implement. And I wrote them down as Grandmaster Lanada instructed and wanted them to be.
At one time I discussed the changes with Grandmaster Lanada privately why he was doing it and the answer he gave was; well let us say was unacceptable to me and I went and talked to my business partners and said I would not teach them, but would continue to teach the original forms I had learned. For one Lanada would constantly change them (his choice to do so, since he is the Grandmaster) and another some of the moves were not in-line with Kuntaw or were over kill as they say, but what Grandmaster Lanada told me privately really made up my decision in not teaching them. Bud Cothern at first went along with the changes, but then reverted back to the forms shown in this book.
As time continued and things happened it was later in 1996 that I got fed-up with things and resigned, departed, quit whatever you want to call it from the International Kuntaw Federation and went on my way. (Note: When I left I also stated to Grandmaster Lanada that I would always believe and be a part of Kuntaw ng Pilipinas, but left the International Kuntaw Federation, until he would open his eyes and listen to people that had his best interest and make it so the art supported him as it should have been getting it organized and prosperous. This almost happened in 2010 and 2011 until something happened and it again went to the way-side, I have heard what happened but was not personally involved so it is not for me to comment). Then I became what one is call in Kuntaw; a Black Sheep of Kuntaw an outcast.
I moved from San Diego to Nevada where I still taught Kuntaw, giving Grandmaster Lanada credit as my teacher. I was not in contact with anyone in Kuntaw. Except for Bud Cothern for a while and that even ceased as we both moved on in life.
It was towards the end of 2010 when Grandmaster Cothern contacted me and told him what he was doing and he was a Grandmaster (Lanada talked him into it as I was told by Bud Cothern) and asked me to come back into Kuntaw. My reply was, “I do not think so” due to personal reasons and relocated to Arizona.
Let it be noted that while I was a student of Kuntaw in the Philippines I did participate in tournaments, these where the old tournaments that if you had protection you had a cup and maybe a mouth piece, other than that it was style, control (or you would think control). I won my share and learned from my-loses. When arriving stateside I did not care to participate with the hand and foot gear you had to wear plus head gear etc., and I have observed at that time (this was before full contact) on many occasions it is not really style, but who could touch who first for the point and found at times (not all) it was who you knew that got you a win. I have had students compete and of course having the Kuntaw School with Bud and Garth our students competed and did well, exceptionally well I believes.

Anyway here is what was accomplished in Kuntaw before I departed:
Promotions and Certificate Awarded by Great Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada personally to Steven K. Dowd
Yellow Belt - February 14, 1972 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - Certificate #0104
Green Belt - March 7, 1973 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - Certificate #0104
Blue Belt - December 4, 1973 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - Certificate #0104
3rd Degree Brown Belt - December 2, 1974 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - Certificate #010
2nd Degree Brown Belt - September 4, 1975 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - # Certificate #0104
1st Degree Brown Belt - October 27, 1976 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - #0104
1st Degree Black Belt - June 17, 1977 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - Certificate #0104
2nd Degree Black Belt - February 18, 1978 - Maharlika Kuntaw Association - Certificate #0104
3rd Degree Black Belt - May 14, 1978 - Kuntaw ng Pilipinas - Certificate #0104
4th Degree Black Belt - July 29, 1978 - Kuntaw ng Pilipinas - Certificate #0104
5th Degree Black Belt - August 4, 1979 - International Kuntaw Federation - Certificate #00011
6th Degree Red, White & Blue Belt - August 22, 1995 - International Kuntaw Federation - Certificate #0104
(If you want to count his blog then promoted to 7th and 8th degree, but personally I do not believe it counts, no paperwork, other than on the internet in the Grandmasters past blog accounts).
January 1, 1978 - Maharlika Kuntaw Federation - Director U.S.A.
July 14, 1978 - Instructors Permit Kuntaw ng Pilipinas
July 29, 1978 - Kuntaw ng Pilipinas - Coordinator U.S.A. and Subic Naval Base, Philippines
August 4, 1979 - January 16, 1982 - Member Board of Director International Kuntaw Federation
January 16, 1982 - February 1991 - International Kuntaw Federation - Acting President
(Gave up the Acting President position due to being in Kuwait and Iraq and thought it would be better if someone else took the position, since he did that was black balled until 1994).
I was contacted by Lanada in 2012 and he was going to promote me to Grandmaster, again I said no.
Finally excepted Grandmaster on May 31, 2015

Personal Word From: Grandmaster Steven K. Dowd
When I departed Kuntaw I was a 6th Degree Red, White and Blue Belt and consider myself to this day of holding that rank in Kuntaw. I have seen on Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada Sr. blog where I was promoted at one time to 7th Degree and then to 8th Degree, but have no paperwork so do not consider it valid. I have been asked twice to accept the rank of Grandmaster in Kuntaw and have turned it down each time.
I am not affiliated with Maharlika Kuntaw, Kuntaw ng Pilipinas, International Kuntaw Federation, or NATO all under the guidance of Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada Sr. since 1996.
I am also not affiliate with the American Maharlika Kuntaw Association or Kuntaw Legacy.

I do not wish to dispute any facts on Kuntaw, for there are so many at the time of this writing it is like it changes with the weather. And this is just my experiences and thoughts.
I do not teach Kuntaw at seminars, only in group or private sessions. And only the Kuntaw that I learned.
Let it be Noted: I do not teach any of the new forms of Kuntaw, and per Grandmaster Lanada of Kuntaw on March 4, 2012 stated in his personal blog: Kuntaw World International Kuntaw Federation / Kuntaw ng Pilipinas / Maharlika Kuntaw Association / NATO re-alignment standardization forms, such as X-A, X-B, H-forms, Sayaw-An, Maya, Sagayan or Sag, Kuntaw, and the advance Silangan, Mayon, Singkilan, Narra or Naga, and for the Grandmaster forms Sampaguita.
Old members who still know and practice the obsolete forms can keep them for your personal use, but never teach to Kuntaw World members so they do not become confused with what the Kuntaw World is teaching.

So in taking that word from the Grandmaster: These requirements and forms are not in line with the requirements of Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada Sr. “Kuntaw World.” And it is suggested that if you want to be a part of the Kuntaw World you seek those that are authorized to teach the official ways of the Kuntaw World organizations.

I have been on my own privately promoting Kuntaw, (not teaching it openly, just privately) I have talked about it in the Philippines and other places on what I know, which was told to him by Grandmaster Lanada and his father, if it is wrong then it is wrong since vendettas have come about by past students to prove anything that Grandmaster Lanada has said in the past are untruths, but mostly after they left Grandmaster Lanada for whatever reason until they left they just accepted or believed what was said. Now whether the Grandmaster said untruths, well as everyone knows stories grow and get distorted as time passes, and of course there is always a so-in-so that knows the truth.
As said by a practitioner of Kuntaw: “I have talked to many old timers within Kuntaw who all have conflicting stories. Why is eyewitness testimony unreliable in court? Everyone shades what they saw with their own version of the truth. Remember there are 4 sides to a story; theirs, yours, the bystander’s, and the actual truth.”
“There is an old saying pertaining to the martial art philosophy which states, “One must first learn civility before he can learn the art, and one must first know his ethics before he knows his skills.” Civility, there is a good word not used much anymore. For those who have forgotten it means courtesy, politeness, a polite action. Politeness is showing good manners toward others, in behavior and speech. Civil: a polite reply. Part of being civil and polite is that when you disagree with something, keep it to yourself or discuss it quietly with like-minded people. You should not be airing your arrogance, your vanity, your pride of past accomplishments as it belittles yourself as well as others. A true man does not need to tear down or destroy others in order to feel better about himself.”
So with this being said, and basically because I was so sick and tired hearing about how bad the man is, I would rather hear about the progress and brotherhood of the art. Cause the more one speaks on how bad the man is it reflects the art, get over it and talk about the art, if you cannot find anything in the art positive, please move on to something else. Quit being narrow minded and look at the big picture and the future. Be professional and quit whining. I have no more comments to make to closed minded people and do not wish to hear from them.
May Kuntaw Prosper through the Kuntaw Legacy, and the American Maharlika Kuntaw Association (AMKA). And hopefully someday the International Kuntaw Federation.
Now you can take this as fact, or not or take it as a grain of salt it is up to you. Makes no difference to me.” The important thing is that Kuntaw continues, with knowledgeable teachers to pass on their knowledge of Kuntaw.
Remember to forgive, forget and move on is divine. To hold a grudge and let it fester just brings you down to their level and makes you look as maybe there is something wrong with you also.”
One of the key rules that I personally learned in Kuntaw is respect all true to the art. This does not say you must agree with them but you should respect them.
Note: There have been accusations and misunderstandings on the meaning of Kyud and Kyudai
Per: Great Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada Sr.
In the Kuntaw World Organization the word Kyud = meaning a male member (Kasapi) should be address “Kyud” as brother, and “Kyudai” meaning a female member should be called Kyudai as sister. This way of addressing members (Kasapi) of the said organization, everyone makes closer relation to each other.
Note: The word Kyud and Kyudai are just a self-realization of Great Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada Sr.that can’t be found in any dictionaries. This is also a way to avoid hesitant of addressing the subject their professional position.

Last Comment
To much talk over the years about what it is not...what I will share with you is that Kuntaw is a valid art and in the 1970’s and 1980’s was one of the most respected arts in the Philippines. The Kuntaw art has proven itself time and time again... one of the problems with the art of Kuntaw is most of the senior ranking practitioners learned a little of the art and has only repeated what they know instead of learning more or have added from other arts and then saying it is a part of Kuntaw. “Ask Yourself”... Do you know the techniques and forms to the belt level that you wear?
The reason I have continued to be a practitioner of Kuntaw for over 49 years is that I have continually believed in the art which was taught to me. Even though Grandmaster Carlito A. Lanada and I have had our differences.
Many members like myself, which have been totally dedicated have been disowned or betrayed by the Kuntaw organization... but with that said... as long as I am able to perform, demonstrate, and share my knowledge of the art of Kuntaw... I will give Carlito A. Lanada Sr. the credit for the art of Kuntaw.
What I do know is that it is a valid and very effective fighting system... Unlike so many others today...