Preserving the dying art of ‘kuntau’

By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
[email protected]



Iban ‘kuntau’ learners practicing the martial art at Kampong Bayor, Balai Ringin.


In an effort to revive and preserve the dying martial art of ‘kuntau’ in Sarawak, concerned members of Dayak associations formed the National Iban Kuntau Association (Nika) which focuses solely on promoting kuntau.

“The objective of the association, besides spreading awareness on this martial art to the public is to call on all the Iban kuntau experts to come forward and pass their knowledge to the youth to prevent this art form from dying out,” said Nika pro-tem chairman Churchill Edward Drem during a recent interview in Kuching on September 23rd.

Nika’s co-founders are Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) youth chief Churchill, Academy Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Asadia) head Mabong Unggang and Sarawak Dayak Martial Art Association (SDMAA) deputy president Dom Silang.

Besides conservation and awareness, the association also aims to set up a standardised grading system and skills criteria to regulate the discipline.

“It is also good for the youth in terms of character development,” said Nika pro-tem secretary Mabong, who hopes kuntau will be well-received among the youths.


NIKA founders20150923_151514

(from left) Co founders of NIKA: Dom, Mabong and Churchill


Nika deputy chairman Dom Silang said that SDMAA is looking to become the umbrella body for all Dayak martial art associations.

The newly registered association will be working on history, research and documenting the martial art and is currently in the midst of registering to become a member of the World Martial Art Union (WoMau) under the patronage of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

“I was in Chungju, South Korea, invited by WoMau on August 21st to 23rd. SDMAA was invited to attend the 14th annual meeting of WoMau, participated by 47 international clubs from 39 countries. We are committed to register ourselves as a member of WoMau and our first aim is to introduce kuntau,” said Dom.

As of now, kuntau classes by Asadia are conducted at Kampong Bayor, Balai Ringin. The class which is participated by 32 students is taught by Tuai Rumah Solomon Achu.

In the near future, Nika hopes to be involved in the Kuching Festival as of next year and hopefully be part of the exhibition for Sukma.

More traditional classes

On September 27th, ngajat (traditional Iban dancing) classes will be conducted for two months at Sadia headquarters in Kota Sentosa. Classes for male dances will be conducted on Monday and Tuesdays while classed for female dance is on Wednesday and Thursday from 7.30 to 9.30 pm. Those interested can contact Joe Kemping at 016- 8589364.

Aside from that, ‘bertabuh’ classes (traditional Iban music) will be conducted on October 4th at ASADIA center at Bintawa for two months. Those interested may contact 017 8537147.

Other activities organised by Asadia are ‘leka main’ (Iban oral tradition) classes which are jointly organised with Association for the Educational Development Development of Iban Language (AEDIL) on November 1st at Jalan Stutong for two months every Friday night from 7.30 until 10 pm.

The classes which consisted of ‘leka main’ will be taught by Nicholl Ragai Lang and ‘berpantun’ by Roselind Mintai as well as Len Usit. The class is limited to 40 people per class and those interested can contact Mabong at 012-6925562

For more info on Nika, contact Churchill (017-8081485), Dom (011-25011800) and Mabong (012-6925562).


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