Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Passion of Pencak Silat Pertempuran

Why do I write books?
Why do I make videos?
Why do I offer seminars cheap and even free sometimes?
Why do I train a small group of people?
Why do I offer distance learning?

Let me say, it's not the money - I'm basically broke.
It's not the fame - nobody knows who I am.
It's not a power trip - nobody has to listen to me and even those who probably should - don't necessarily.

No really. I make all this stuff, spend hundreds of hours writing, doing videos, teaching, training, etc. because I want to give others the opportunity to get involved with a martial art that I think is phenomenal. Something that has benefited me enormously. Not just in the realm of fighting but also in the realm of mental and spiritual growth. Yes, there are other good martial arts out there to be sure, but not many that are great and that have the potential to make great martial artists. Pencak silat does have great potential, and specifically Pencak Silat Pertempuran, to make great martial artists.

I keep teaching, sharing, writing, recording, editing, training, and studying because I believe it's true. I've seen people develop over the course of time - into silat players. There may be better arts out there at specific facets of fighting, but as an overall system that allows it's practitioners the widest opportunity to pursue what works for them within a context or system that is widely functional, I don't know of a better art. Believe me - I've looked around. I've tested things.

My journey started in Tae Kwon Do as a teen. I didn't do much in it because my parents couldn't afford it. Actually, I'm not sure if that's true or not. I didn't even ask because it always seemed like money was "tight" to be sure. My Mother and father were divorced when I was young. My mother re-married to someone who was sickly - diabetic, dialysis, and eventually had kidney transplants. Lots of medications to keep him tickin'. In any case, this always seemed to have a dampening affect on our finances. My stepfather was basically unable to work (or at least played the part) and so we lived on my mothers income. All that to say, that things were always financially difficult it seemed so I didn't even ask about MA training. However, I had a friend who studied and was a Black belt who used to teach me. It was informal of course, but I knew I liked it.

From this humble start I had the opportunity to study a little here and there while I served in the Army as an M.P. Nothing crazy, but of course your standard military style combatives and then in Germany I got exposure to some Judo and Aikido. Very small exposure but it helped me see that this is what I wanted to do someday...

After a brief stint into the working class blue collar life I decided I wanted something else and I decided on going to school. Through that process I was introduced to the first person who I was able to really study martial arts from. It was a kung fu style. Essentially a "cotton fist" style that relied heavily on relaxation. With that I also began studying Wu and Yang Tai Chi. I did these for about 8 years and taught for 4 or 5 of those. I was also introduced to some Judo and Aikido again in an art called Budo Aikido. Most of this studying was done with Sifu Ron O. Skipper and a little with his Sifu.

Around '92, when I got married, we moved back to Wisconsin and I began studying Wing Chun off and on with a few different people, JKD, Kali, Arnis, Hok Kuntao and smatterings of Maphilindo and Mande Muda starting around '94. I was still teaching Kung fu and Tai Chi more so that I could keep learning and growing. In college I also did a few semesters of Judo.

In '94 I got introduced to Sifu-Guro Dan Molash. He really turned me on to the Kali, JKD, Silat, and Hok Kuntao. His primary art was the Hok Kuen which is very similar to Ngo Cho Kuen - though a smaller system overall. It seems that many of the forms that we share in common are similar in structure and style - not identical by any means, but similar. It's a good system and one that I have enjoyed. My sights began shifting from the Kung fu I was doing to the Hok Kuen (Hok Kuntao), Kali & Arnis, as well as Silat. At this stage silat was interesting but I didn't have enough information but Kali and Arnis and the Hok Kuen were being hotley pursued (just to clarify, when I say Kali AND Arnis it's because I was practicing with a few different instructors in different systems that went by different names).

By '98 I had shifted through 4 years of Arnis, Hok Kuen, and Silat and I decided that I needed to just drop the kung fu and tai chi. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. In '98 I began studying Silat as a primary art in Raja Sterlak Silat with Guru Cruicchi. I also began studying Garrote Larense (a Venezuelan Machete art).

During this stage my Kali and Arnis training began to decline. I was still actively pursuing Hok Kuen but I was devoting as much or more energy to my pursuit of Raja Sterlak Silat as taught to me by Guru Cruicchi, and to him by Guru Muthalief. In '99 I began studying Pamur Silat and got introduced to Jati Wisesa Silat and Serak Silat. I quickly dropped Serak Silat because of the enormity of extra baggage that comes with studying that system here in America. I pursued Pamur silat regularly for the next 4 years as well as Raja Sterlak and Garrote. To this day I still practice portions of Pamur. Less of Raja Sterlak and little or no Garrote. It's just a matter of available time in life... recognizing that the best I can ever be will happen by focused pursuit of a single thing.

By '96 or '97 Hugo and I were on the same path, with similar questions concerning martial arts and possibilities, etc. It was always amazing to me how we would get together after a 6 month hiatus from killing each other and we would find ourselves asking similar questions and pursuing similar topics. Almost always in differing ways :) Often appearing as polar extremes.

In '98 when I began pursuing pencak silat fully, a transformation began to take place in my martial arts and by '99 when I began really studying Pamur some interesting questions were in my head. By mid to late '99 those questions had been given answers. I can still remember that it was fall of that year and where it happened. I remember walking home from a class or something and having the beginnings of an epihpany that would last around 2 weeks in length. Within that two week time, the majority of PSP was laid out and born.

I attribute it to God. Of course, it was the product of many, many, different experiences, teachers, trainings, thrashings, etc. that I received. All were strategically provided as though the timing was planned in all cases. (This is a much longer story but I would be willing to try and explain what I can at another time.)

In any case, With the base from my previous years of training, the combination of questions in my head that I had been mulling over for years, the teachers I had met, the losses I had dealt with, and the introduction of me to Pamur, PSP seemed to magically appear. No really, it still feels (literally) like magic to me how it all came to be. When I think of the art as it stands today and its history, I still get butterflies in my stomach and feel the adrenaline and excitement that I had when the first moment of insight came and others immediately followed. It was outside of me - as though I was looking in on it all. I know it sounds weird and hokey probably but that's exactly how it felt.

I haven't looked back since. It became clear almost immediately that something unique had happened and the material that came from it made more sense than I've ever seen another martial art make. I'm not bragging - just saying that to me, I felt like I finally had found THE ART. Some of the material came directly from the silat systems I was studying but some of the materials were the obvious next steps in that original material and were developed as a core to answer those questions that had been bouncing around in my head.

The really cool part to me, is that I'm still studying the system. I founded it --- I still study it --- is anyone else getting that? It is not MY system. It is a system that was given to me. I still learn and grow from it. I'm still challenged by it. I still pursue it's understanding. I've tried to explain that to people but most don't get it. THey figure that because I founded it, that I have thought through every conceivable question and answered them already. That I'm a master of the system. Sorry guys, that hasn't happened. I'm still very much a student of my own art. Each passing year, now going on 8 years of focused learning on PSP and I'm still stunned by how much I learn, how much I am challenged, how much there is.

Along the way, a few silat players that I respect deeply have given me acknowledgement on my skill as a pencak silat player. They've also recognized a student or two, who I've had the priveledge of helping raise up and influence their movement. Some of these are Indonesians who have been my teachers at one time or another, some have been Americans. All have been pencak silat players and for me that says something. A few have even said that my skill and movement as a pesilat is some of the highest found in the U.S. While that is embarassing to me to even say, it should be encouraging for you as students to hear.

So why do I write, make videos, teach, train? Well it should be obvious by now, but if not... It continually deepens my understanding and re-invigorates me to share with passion this art that I love. I hope that someday a few others will come along that love it to. That can help bring this art into view. It is after all, YOUR art. The material I create, the time I give to it, the devotion I have is for YOUR benefit, to help YOU become a recognized, highly skilled, pencak silat player. Not someone who disguises their Kali, Arnis, kung fu, or blends a little silat with it and tries to sell it as pencak silat.

If YOU are disciplined I can help you achieve your absolute best in pencak silat Pertempuran.

I have so much more to share with you but for the time, this will have to be enough. Starting a new year, I wanted to share with many of you who've not heard the story of PSP. Hopefully it will inspire you to pursue this art passionately.

5 comments:

ksmaguro said...

Wow! I actually got goosebumps reading this.
I agree with you on so many levels here to say; I hope I can help you discover something new from within or with out while I work to improve my own be-ing.
Take care,
Jay

PSP Maryland said...

I met Guru back in Jan. '04. I thought I was a hot shot senior student in a local Kali class. I had five years of Pekiti Tirsia under my belt and I thought I was ten feet tall and bullet proof.
Guru humbled me in our first meeting. He had a disconcerting ability to place his knife where ever he wished despite any effort on my defense.
After a few weeks of humiliating defeats at the hands of Guru, I realized that this guy has something worth learning. I have never regreted making that decision. As you all have experienced Guru's methodology, principles of practice, humor and generosity of knowledge have formed a martial art that betters the practioner beyond their believed capability. I have not in my experience found a martial art that is as complete as PSP. The "stand up", harimau/monyet-groundfighting, senjata-weapons are all available fairly quickly. All of this in a environment free of politics. Just my humble opinion.

Hormat saya,
Bill

SilatBlogger said...

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Of course there's more to be said, but I felt it was enough to get the point across to those who don't really know me or have the opportunity to train with me directly. This is one of the reasons that attending Keluarga is so important.

I appreciate your comments Pelatih Bill and I look forward to a long and fruitful future with you as a guru pencak silat Pertempuran.

Hugo said...

Sean,
As I read this, a tear formed in my eye. Seriously! The part about being a student of your own art is, imo, the essence of Mastery. God bless you (and yours), Brother!

SilatBlogger said...

Hi Hugo

Thanks for visiting. Thanks also for your part in this thing. PSP would not be what it is without our constant sharing, beating, etcetera.

My hope is that one day you will find the passion again that you once had and that you will pursue PSP as it is.

Sean