Kuntao – The Secretive Martial Art From South-East Asia


What is Kuntao?

Kuntao is a martial art that has a very discreet history and many techniques. Although today it has grown immensely popular and is commonly known, this was not always the case.

In order to keep the art’s techniques a secret, Kuntao used to be practised in private. The history of Kuntao itself is shrouded in secrecy. The art has a lot of similarities with some other martial arts making it a struggle to determine an exact date of creation.

However, how Kuntao made its way from China to South-East Asia is something that is known. The art was brought to South-East Asia by Chinese colonists in the colonial era.

As Chinese settlers set up in their new homes and some ventured further into Asian countries the art stuck with these people. For this reason, the art was practised in almost all Chinese communities in South-East Asia.

Obviously, though the art also evolved during this colonization period. It is for this reasons there are a lot of different variations on Kuntao. Because of the secrecy in the practice of these arts it has created some confusion over which arts were created first.

However, it is widely agreed that Kuntao was one of the first of these arts. It wasn’t until the mid 1900’s that Kuntao moved on from its secret practice.

Up until that point, public demonstrations of the art were altered in order to cover up any techniques that were seen as important in the overall use of the art.

What is also clear though about these secret training sessions in this art is that if Kuntao continued in that direction it may have gone extinct.

Kuntao Techniques

Kuntao is an art that encourages natural movement. Unlike other martial arts that solely look to nature as a form of motivation for techniques, Kuntao looks into people.

It looks into us at our youngest, oldest, highest and lowest. By doing this the art has built a natural flowing concept that a front on stance with the right foot forward. The art is a very aggressive style.

It promotes swift movements to allow for fights to quickly be concluded. The art promotes keeping a distance from the opponent in order to allow its half-clenched and casual blocking methodology to shine.

This prevents potential damage from opponents strikes. However this distance doesn’t weaken the fast and aggressive approach. By implementing high leg kicks along with long arm movements practitioners in the art have the ability to remain distant but aggressive.

What If Kuntao Never Became An Open Martial Art?

This assumed potential extinction raises an interesting question, what if Kuntao never opened up to the public? What if it was still practiced in secret even today?

Well the immediate assumption is the art wouldn’t last. But this raises another question of whether this assumption is reasonable.

Kuntao has been practiced for hundreds or potentially even thousands of years. It seems almost impossible for an art to just die out after such a long period of time.

But alas it is the most likely result of the art remaining secret. The art obviously continued its legacy in the past by passing down the techniques through friends and family.

However if we look at other occasions of this form of transferring information we can see it doesn’t last.

Not only does it leave the art open to the unknown in unpredictable events but it also allows the art to be vulnerable to modernization. People obviously have changed a lot in the 21st century. Technology has evolved exponentially and the world is a different place.

People want to go out and see the world, they want to explore and make a name for themselves. This desire would lead people away from continuing the tradition of passing down and learning Kuntao.

It is though impossible to tell what would have happened. But under assumption we can say that the art most likely would have slowly faded. Sure it may have some practitioners if it remained secretive but those numbers would dwindle more and more over time.