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Kuntao or Kuntao Silat is a Hokkien term referring to martial arts practiced by the Chinese community of Southeast Asia and have usually been influenced by silat. The word kuntao means way of the fist (similar to Chuan Fa, or Fist Technique). Translating Kuntao as ‘Way of the Fist’ is too literal, it really means ‘fighting art’ or ‘martial art’.Purely Chinese kuntao styles exist in China and Taiwan, but kuntao styles have been spread for centuries by merchants and other travelling Chinese people. Forms of kuntao are practiced in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia (particularly Borneo) and the Philippines (where it is often called Kuntaw) as well as in some other countries. Some kuntao styles were not changed but many were. This happened because the styles had to be adapted to a new environment, fighting in different terrain, fighting local styles, defending or fighting with local weapons.
Most Indonesian kuntao styles began to integrate techniques from silat styles and some even changed their name from “kuntao” to “silat”. For example, Liu Seong Kuntao is a hybrid kuntao-silat system. Kuntao Silat is the Martial Arts practiced by several ethnic groups in the south of the Philippines. It is said that it is the combination of indigenous Silat and Chinese Kuntao which arrived in the Philippines by Chinese merchants.
Kuntao is a relatively little known art in the United States. Considered by practitioners to be a “true” form of Kung Fu (pre temple destruction) it is often called “Chinese Boxing” or “Taiwanese Boxing” by its practitioners because it is traditionally practiced in an aura of secrecy; in fact few martial artists were familiar with the style until very recently (early 21st century). Only with the advent of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) in the U.S. has the art even begun to approach mainstream dissemination. Even so, few traditional Kuntao schools exist in the states today.