Written by: AJ Ruiz
Aside from the primary sword and shield, perhaps every warrior the world over has a smaller blade or a dagger concealed on his or her person. This blade serves as a means of insurance if their primary weapon gets destroyed or is separated from its owner. From a practical perspective, a smaller blade can prove to be more useful as a utility tool. For the Filipino warrior, this weapon is the gunong.
The gunong is commonly known as the Punal or Punal de Kris. It is believed to be dagger model of the Kris, bearing similarities such as the double-edged blade being either wavy or straight. However, despite the similarities, the gunong lacks a guard, a key part in the design of the Kris. Additionally, there is a single-edge blade that features more crescent shapes. Although it cannot be verified whether or not this claim is true, it is believed the gunong is a different weapon in of itself. From a cultural perspective, the gunong was known to be worn by males and females as well as the young and elderly. It was also a weapon that was to be worn in the back of one’s sash or hidden in various places. The physical characteristics of the gunong are as follows:
The original gunong featured a straight handle, however during the early 20th century the gunong changed to the “pistol grip” from which it is best recognized for. Furthermore, during this time the gunong began to have more extravagant fittings such as chased bands on scabbards, guards and belt clips. During the American colonization, the gunong became increasingly popular. Because of colonial restrictions on traditional Filipino weapons such as the barong and kris, the gunong became the only weapon Filipinos could legally carry. This allowed for trades exchanges between Filipino and Americans that desired souvenirs. Because of it’s small size and easy assembly, it became a commodity for tourist and maker alike. During World War II, use of German silver and aluminum became more common. Furthermore, soldering becomes more popular as metal tubing becomes abundant in certain areas via shell cases. Newer gunongs, which are targeted towards tourists, feature thinner blades containing copper, brass and nickel. In addition to this, they are also longer in length, reaching up to almost two feet long.
The gunong is just one piece of Filipino marital arts and culture that is unfortunately not well recognized. Despite the American influence on the weapon and restrictions on the art, the gunong as well as FMA is still very much alive. Despite colonization from both Spain and the US, FMA has persevered for over 2000 years and is thriving to this day.
*Picture courtesy of FMApulse.com
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