Panantukan is a term many of Guro Dan Inosanto’s Instructors used when describing the empty hand striking arts of the Philippines. The other commonly used term was Sikaran, but back in the 70’s many martial artist thought Guro Inosanto was saying Shotokan, which is a martial art from Japan and entirely different. So to differentiate the arts, many of his Instructors told him to use the term Panantukan. The term Pangamut was also used for empty hand aspects of Filipino Martial Arts but it’s original use was “highly skilled” with both weapons AND empty hands.
Filipinos have always been skilled boxers. Coming from the use of weapons, they understood the need for footwork. The great Muhammod Ali, famous for his footwork, traveled to the Philippines where he returned with great footwork. These Filipino boxers kept their hands in close to the body and face to keep them from getting hit or cut by weapons. They used body shifting, head movement and footwork. These were elements that were unseen by American boxers until the time of the American occupation of the Philippines. During which time the American soldiers introduced boxing as a sport and more humane way of setteling disputes. Filipinos took to this sport with gusto. This lead to many famous Filipino boxers back in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. You can review my notes on older posts in this blog for more information on boxers from that era.
In fact, when you look at boxing now, you are seeing a version of Panantukan. The early pioneers of Western Boxing had the upright or leaned back posture of European Boxing. With hands held out away from the body, palms up in what we refer to as the “John Sullivan” stance. In contrast to what boxing began to look like when the Americans met the Filipino! After that, boxing was never the same, boxers used footwork, not shuffleing. They kept their hands up and in tight, not extended as before. They moved their heads and shifted the body. None of that had ever happend in boxing before the Filipino influence. You can still see a difference today in American Boxing vs. European Boxing. It’s not as pronounced as before, but they still don’t look or move quite like the American version of today.
Today Panantukan is considred to be one of the most well rounded and versitle striking systems in the martial arts world. It includes the use of destructions to the arms and legs, making it hard for the opponent to punch, parry or move. It uses a wide variety of strikes, from punches, to eye jabs, forearm strikes, elbows, even head butts. For this reason many people like to use the term “Dirty Boxing” when they talk about Panantukan, however, it’s only dirty if you are thinking of it in terms of sport! If you are talking about real fighting nothing is dirty, just effective and non effective! The art also includes the use of gaining control of the opponent by grabbing the neck, pushing to off-balance and even stepping on his foot! All to gain advantage and put yourself in a postition to hit more effectively and so he can hit less effectively.
One of the questions I get alot is “Why not just use Western Boxing?” True, there a great many things about boxing as it is practiced today that are useful. Hard conditioning, the toughness one gains through that hard training, being able to generate tons of power, along with footwork, head movement and speed. So why do anything else? Well, one of the reasons why boxers wear gloves is to protect their hands. It’s not to protect the opponent! If that were the case there would be no knockouts! No, gloves simply protect the boxers hands, that’s it. What happens when a boxer gets in a fight on the street and hits someone without a glove? Ask Iron Mike! Every fight he got into on the street, he broke his hand. Why? Because boxers generate so much power with each punch that the human hand can’t withstand the force, so when smashed against a head, it breaks. Now of course the head gets smashed too! So yes, they might knock him out, but now what? You got a broken hand, one bad guy down and two to go! Hard to keep fighting with a broken hand, or draw a weapon or dial for 911 or stop bleeding from a wound. If that boxer would have slapped him, he’d still be KO’d but his hand wouldn’t be broken! So what we want is to have the modern benefits of a boxer, fast, tough, great shape, great footwork and body mechanics, head movement, etc. but also have the versatility of the old Panantukan style, hitting in clinch, elbows, headbutts, forearms strikes, knees, thumbing the eyes, that kind of fighting will be much more useful, keep you in the fight longer and you will be able to to it even if your sick, old or injured.
So, if your looking for a practical martial art, a great phyical fitness program, a cultural aspect of the Philippines or something that’s just fun to do, Panantukan is a great art that can fill those needs. I have found it to be very rewarding and it has helped my skill level to raise consistantly over the years.