Panuntukan or Panatukan as it is more commonly known in the west comes from the Filipino word Suntokan meaning brawling, it is the art of brawling using every available part of your body to defend yourself, e.g. fists, elbows, head butts, Knees, Shoulders, kicking, stamping, grappling, throwing, tripping, pinning, nerve dysfunctions, choking, neck breaks etc although it can be very brutal it is based on very scientific laws of movement and body mechanics, in my interpretation of the art it is unbalancing while hitting your opponent or hitting while unbalancing your opponent, it is based more on striking as opposed to too much grappling, the reason behind it is you should always be aware of being attacked by multiple opponents, so you need to keep moving and not pin or tie yourself up with one opponent as you can easily be attacked by someone else very quickly while dealing with the initial attack. We would employ the walking through the opponent principle as well as the following principles; Absorption, Deflection, Projection, Use your centre, Centreline, Three way action, Subconscious non thinking, Entering, Hip to hip, Never go back on the same path, No flat edges, Energy transfer, Focus to the smallest point, Control the distance etc. There are many more principles to learn and apply, over 350 to make any martial art technique effective, but I will save this for another time.
Why is it called Panuntukan instead of Panatukan?
Great question and I think we have to look at how the Philippines is made up as a country to answer this question, there are 7,107 islands with over 80 distinct dialects.
Some of the main ones are Bikolano, Cebuano, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Waray. So for people outside the Philippines you can see how confusing it gets, for example take the blade and stick arts from the Philippines, They can be called, Kali, Arnis, Eskrima, Escrima, Baston, Arnis de mano and many more generic names. The correct name for Filipino Boxing is Panuntukan but I think because of the language differences westerners had a problem with the pronunciation so it was easier to say Panatukan, over time and this is how we now know it in the west, I am not saying that’s right merely explaining the reason why it is.
Panuntukan based on my interpretation should not be a 50/50 fight we are not trying to stand there and score points over the dead zone that is a sure way of being defeated as there is always someone faster or stronger, instead we use body mechanics, physiology and the laws of nature to ensure the victory a lot of practitioners of panatukan think we are just doing western boxing with a few kicks and elbows strikes and the occasional lock, for me that is not it.
You hear it called Filipino Dirty boxing can you explain that?
Sure no problem, in the UK we have boxing and it has been going on in one form or another since man has been fighting from the beginning of time, in 1867 under the sponsorship of John Sholto Douglas, ninth Marques of Queensberry, from whom they take their name the bouts were for money and the rules are as follows:
Rule 1—To be a fair stand-up boxing match in a 24-foot ring, or as near that size as practicable.
Rule 2—No wrestling or hugging allowed.
Rule 3—The rounds to be of three minutes’ duration, and one minute’s time between rounds.
Rule 4—If either man falls through weakness or otherwise, he must get up unassisted, 10 seconds to be allowed him to do so, the other man meanwhile to return to his corner, and when the fallen man is on his legs the round is to be resumed and continued until the three minutes have expired. If one man fails to come to the scratch in the 10 seconds allowed, it shall be in the power of the referee to give his award in favour of the other man.
Rule 5—A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down.
Rule 6—No seconds or any other person to be allowed in the ring during the rounds.
Rule 7—should the contest be stopped by any unavoidable interference, the referee to name the time and place as soon as possible for finishing the contest; so that the match must be won and lost, unless the backers of both men agree to draw the stakes.
Rule 8—the gloves to be fair-sized boxing gloves of the best quality and new.
Rule 9—should a glove burst, or come off, it must be replaced to the referee’s satisfaction.
Rule 10—A man on one knee is considered down and if struck is entitled to the stakes.
Rule 11—No shoes or boots with springs allowed.
Rule 12—The contest in all other respects to be governed by revised rules of the London Prize Ring. See London Prize Ring rules.
So this led to the formation of the Marques of Queensberry rules.
Panuntukan boxing has none of these rules and you are allowed to do whatever comes to means it is not a fair fight in this context. In the west if someone does not abide by the rules it is considered dirty, to be a dirty fighter. Hence why it is called dirty boxing as it is not governed by these parameters.
We would say they are not following the Marques of Queensberry rules.
How did you come to study Panuntukan?
It has been born out of 46 years experience in the martial arts and travelling to many countries worldwide including the Philippines, China, India, USA, Australia, Europe etc. I started with boxing at the tender age of 8, and Judo at 10 years old, in those days we had nothing fancy like Karate or Kung Fu it was only after Bruce Lee came along that things really took off. Everyone wanted to be like him, move like him. After Bruce Lee burst onto the scene it made me want to kick and punch and although the Judo then was a lot more different than it is today, it did not satisfy my insatiable appetite, Kung Fu and Karate clubs started popping up everywhere, we had no mobile phones, no internet to research clubs or instructors. I remember finding a poster in a library for this Karate club but it was three buses rides away, but I really wanted to do it so I joined up. To say it was a baptism of fire would be an understatement, it was very old fashion training around 1974, All the students standing in a line performing 1000’s kicks and punches then they would be performed again on the Makiwara (traditional Japanese striking pad) my knuckles still have calluses to this day. The spirit training we endured would be continuous sparring until you broke down physically and mentally, literally crying and to the point of utter exhaustion, we had no gum shields or groin guards in those days, I would tuck some socks down there just to protect my meat and two veg, because these were considered legal targets back then and I was only twelve and wanted to have some children eventually! Then the constant endless exercises of laying down on the floor while other students ran along your stomach, partners getting on your back and you having to perform 100’s of stances and squats, ropes tied to your legs and then be pulled apart by the other students, you could see they had some malice in their eyes but this was accepted as normal training, then the punishment beatings (you lined up in front of the other students who then proceeded to punch and kick you as hard as they could while you were in a squatting position and with your hands on your head), this would be for if you arrived late for class or forgot your Kata/Form in the class. If you did not wash/clean your Karate gi or if there was blood on your Karate gi from last lesson, then finally when you could not take any more you would then be rebuilt by Sensei and your attitude, spirit and moral grew stronger. Fast forward 45 years and you could not teach martial arts this way anymore or you would be open to law suits, duty of care actions etc. Is the old fashion way of teaching better? For me it was just the way it was, my education, my apprenticeship.
What captured you into doing the Filipino arts?
Karate namely Shotokan has always been my first love in the martial arts without it I don’t think I would have the discipline, tenacity, will power or the structure to learn new things, for me the great thing on learning that I took away from my Karate days is to break everything down, baby step it so to speak, an example when learning a new Kata, I would do the first three moves of the Kata and then when these were in my subconscious and I could perform them well I would move on to the next three moves. Some of the Shotokan katas/forms are very long an example Gojushiho-dai and Sho Katas has over 70 moves in each one so breaking it down this way made more sense and a lot easier to retain the information. Even today I still use this method, I play the piano and when learning a new piece of music I only learn the first three bars and when I get these I move on to the next three. Martial arts to me has always been a work in progress and I always try to challenge myself everyday when doing it, so it is only natural to evolve, after studying Shotokan for many years , along with some kung Fu, small circle jujitsu, Thai boxing, pressure points, Italian knife and a few other arts my interest became aroused in the Filipino arts when I saw a demonstration given by Remy Presas and I became spell bound, His movements, the way he flowed from one weapon to the next, he would have a sword and then do the same thing with empty hands, he went on to use the stick with his right hand and just changed it to his left hand and still locked the person up it was seamless, he used locking , take downs, nerve strikes, grappling, disarms, two sticks at the same time, Sword and knife, double knife, the speed and flow was effortless it was so different to what I was accustomed to. So my journey began in the Filipino arts and to me it seemed like a natural progression to my martial arts study and evolution. It’s interesting to note that in the past I have chatted to a lot of different masters and I have politely asked, what have you changed or how has your art evolved since it was passed down to you? The replies were varied and compelling, some masters said they have not changed anything, it is exactly as it was passed down to them, I thought to myself that is a shame they have not added to it or evolved it in some way. It is one way to look at it as possibly they think that it is undiluted, untarnished, the line is unbroken but if nothing is added of themselves or it has not had a chance to excogitate then we may as well use a cave man wheel to put on our cars instead of a formula 1 version that we have now after all it is still a wheel. So going back to your question the flow of the Filipino arts captured me and how you can use a sword, knife, double knife, locks, throws and take downs, flexible weapons like a belt, rope or sarong (malong) and then how it all translates to empty hands with exactly the same movements it is just beautiful to study a freedom of expression. It was a sad loss to the martial arts community to lose Remy Presas so early; when we travelled to the Philippines we paid our respects to Remy Presas and his brother Ernesto at their resting place.
What is your interpretation of Panuntukan?
That is an interesting question as it comes up a lot when I give seminars on panuntukan, For me it is an expression of the principles, you hit to unbalance or you unbalance to hit.
It may look a little different than other Panuntukan and this is because I don’t want to trade punches over the 50/50 space, that means in this range he can hit you as much as you can hit him and that can’t be good as you are relying on being faster and stronger than your opponent and for me I want to get to the opponents weak side and go through him as soon as possible. We don’t get paid for overtime! To give you an example of the 50/50 space if there are two snipers in opposing trenches it would be no use just popping your head up and hoping that you don’t get shot or that you can shoot him while he pops his head up. The space between the two trenches was known as No man’s land and this is dead space and you don’t want to compete over this space it’s not effective for combat as eloquently demonstrated in WW1. Another point I Would like to make is I don’t tend to grapple too much in my expression of Panuntukan, as I am always aware that you can still be attacked by multiple opponents while still dealing with the initial attack, So I base it on striking and moving, there may be a place to grapple but it always depends on the situation as there are no hard and fast rules as circumstances always dictate the direction you should take but I may grab one of the perpetrators immobilise him and use him as a body shield who knows. So Panuntukan should be applied when you are close to your opponent and you can use your core weapons first, unbalancing, knees, elbows, Head butts, only after using these weapons I would punch and kick and the reason is the further away from your core you are the more ineffectual you are, an example when you punch you may damage the small bones in your hands and or have your wrist collapse on impact, the reverberation going back up the arm may injure a joint etc. We have principles that we use in all martial arts and I have listed over 350 of them and am slowly applying them to everything I do, no wonder martial arts takes such a long time become proficient. Let start on the most basic principle, No Posture, no balance, no fight, if your opponent has no balance because you take his posture you cut his fighting ability away immediately as his overriding natural instinct is to keep stable in order for him to launch an attack. You must be in a point of stability to strike effectively this is logical so if take the balance away and you have already completed 95% of the task. Most striking arts try and hit the person to cause the unbalance, pain and or a dizzy effect to gain the momentum to finish off the opponent, we take the posture or space right from the start as soon as we touch or even before by moving into position. The second of the most basic principles is footwork; if you are not standing there you cannot be hit. The third of the most basic most basic principles is keeping your elbows in, if you lift anything heavy you always keep your elbows in at your side and use your core, centre just watch a small child lift something heavy they will do this naturally.
To Close Keep your Martial Arts Principle based and you won’t go wrong.