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Kun Tao Silat

Kun Tao Silat
  • As explained by Bill Cox and Ray Terry of The Martial Arts Resource (see external links below)

What is Kun Tao Silat?

First one needs to search for the roots of KunTao in China. Kun Tao is the southern (Fukien/Hokkien) word for martial arts. It means fist way. In the northern part of China, the same word is pronounced Chuan Fa. Now the modern Chinese term for these arts is Wushu.

When the Chinese traders started to trade with other nearby countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia) they of course brought their arts with them. This occurred around the 9th century. However there was a bigger movement around the 12th century during the Manchurian invasion[?]. The people who mainly left China at this point were the Hakka people. These people were known for their traveling exploits. Their name Hakka means guest family or royal family, hence perhaps the reasoning for the exodus from China during the Manchurian invasion.

In Indonesia the art was referred to as Kun Tao. Now in Indonesia due to political reasons the government frowned upon the use of Chinese, and outlawed the speaking of Chinese, the use of Chinese names, and most of all the practice of Kun Tao. The Chinese have always been a group that keeps to themselves and the art at this point kind of went underground and was only practiced in the Chinese communities. What some Chinese practitioners did was to just start calling their art Silat and giving it an Indonesian name. So some Silat systems today have a strong Chinese influence, like Mustika Kwitang[?].

And now because of this there is NO Kun Tao Silat art form in Indonesia. There is either (Chinese) Kun Tao or (Indonesian) Pencak Silat[?]. This is also the same in Malaysia (who have Bersilat[?]). Because the Philippines lies geographically between these two countries it has been influenced by both areas. There was no restriction put on the Chinese in the Philippines and therefore Kun Tao was openly displayed.

This then became intermingled with Silat where eventually it evolved into Kun Tao Silat. This is the art of the Tausug[?] people. They live in the Sulu[?] islands of the Philippines. This is separate from Mindinao[?]. In the Sulu area the total art of Kun Tao Silat, which would be the same as saying Pencak Silat or Bersilat, is still sub-divided into two arts.

The Kun Tao portion however did not retain the influence of the Chinese, probably because the art most likely came from Borneo where they practice an art called Kun Tao Bankui[?]. Please remember that part of Philippine history is that 10 Datus left Borneo and settled in what is now known as the Philippines. Therefore establishing a school called Bothoan, where many things were taught including their martial arts. There has been so much change and intermingling in the Philippines in these arts that most Filipinos consider the art indigenous to the Philippines.

This is why Grandmaster Carlito Lanyada changed the spelling of his ancestor's art from Kun Tao to Kuntaw, to relate more to the Tagalog tongue.

Please keep in mind that, yes, in the Philippines there is an art called Kun Tao Silat, but this is not the case in Indonesia. Sometimes an Indonesian teacher will refer to his art as Kun Tao Silat in order to give honour and tribute to both his Indonesian and Chinese teachers.

  • Note: "Kun Tao Silat de Thouars" is the system of Willem de Thouars.

Major players: Steve Gartin, George Morin, Phillip Sailas, Randall Goodwin, Richard Buel, Chuck Stahman, Dave Anderson, John Garcia, Keith Moffett, Dave Sponenberg, Stewart Lauper, Chas Clements

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