Saturday, February 24, 2007

Once again...

The scourge of the earth. Spammers. Once again, these &^%*^%#@$&*& have posted on the blog so from this point on no anonymous posts will be allowed and comments are going to be moderated.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Pencak Silat Pertempuran - Celing

Last night we had boar private lessons again for Rocco and Doug. We worked on putting some pieces of explosive hand entries, zoning with the hands, and boar style kick entries, into one flow. Gives a bit more of a context to the training we've been doing and they can begin to see the pieces put together.

In one particular series, we started with an explosive hand entry that covered the opponent's lead hand (their left in this case - our right) as we performed sepak bulat to the outer thigh (right leg). Then, we set down with the right leg (the one kicking), on an angle to the right and struck the neck with the other forearm (our left one). This helped to cover us from a rear hand strike. As that movement finished we drove our left thigh into the left thigh of the opponent as we simultaneously pulled their head forward with our left hand. This caused them to fall forward. As they were still yet bent over, the left leg performed a Sepak Ayam to the face.

See if you can figure out what I'm talking about on this one. It's kind of fun and should be rather easy to do (not requiring a lot of strength that is).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nafas - Part 5

This method of breathing directly correlates to the basic premise of fighting within Pencak Silat Pertempuran, which is not to attack with a tool utilizing 100% of our power potential, but rather to rely on a structure based power that utilizes around 70-80% of our power potential. By doing so, you are naturally more in control of your body (and mind) and more likely to actually hit the person. In contrast to some arts, the goal is not to focus on relaxation as much as to focus on posture and alignment for the development of power and through that learn to relax.

By shifting the focus from relaxation, which is difficult to obtain in combat, to one of structure it is hoped that you will be able to build mechanics that do no require relaxation to be effective, and which therefore, can produce more power.

As with any aspect of the martial arts, it is about the totality of your training. There is no ONE THING that is going to be the SECRET to invincibility. Combat is a process, it’s a relationship, and every moment of it is going to be changing. We must change accordingly to have success. For some, learning to breathe in this way may just be the thing that helps them, for others, it may not make a bit of difference.

It is my personal recommendation that you consider breathing to be a small component to your martial arts training and rather than strictly adhere to any method, become aware of your body’s natural responses to fear and adrenaline and inclinations under stress. Through that, begin to develop your own understanding of the breath combined with rhythm of movement and power, then breathe accordingly.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nafas - Part 4

As for the breathing itself, combat style breathing should be shallow and relatively quick.

This allows for a few advantages: First, it keeps your lungs relatively empty of large volumes of air, which could be expelled forcefully if struck hard. This is one of the areas that give rise to concern for those who utilize the Exhale Method primarily. The basic concern is that if your lungs are full of air when struck that you will be more likely to have the air forced from them painfully (have the “wind knocked out of you”). (I think this may be true, though I personally haven’t seen or felt any specific evidence to support this… but let’s assume it is true since the idea at least seems logical enough.) In this regard, you can address it by keeping your breathing relatively shallow.

Second, by keeping our breathing relatively shallow and quick, you are mimicking the body’s normal response to fear, rather than attempting to retrain your body’s instinctual behavior. This response is autonomic. We can’t control it. In this regard, the best course of action then is to train to use this type of instinctual behavior.

In so doing, when we are training, if we utilize this type of breathing and the contraction of our abdomen when striking, we will be focusing on a methodology that mimics our body’s normal behaviors when under stress and will increase our ability to fight under those circumstances. Additionally, by breathing in this manner even when training, you will train your body to work with an oxygen level that more closely mirrors this state.

To take that further, you can practice this type of breathing even during times of exercise and conditioning to further prepare you for it’s use in combat.

Be mindful that you do not hold your breath forever. You are only holding it as long as is necessary to transfer the energy of your strike. After that moment is passed you can exhale or inhale and either begin anew or adapt to what is happening in the conflict.

That said, with this relaxed tension in your abdomen and torso, your body has the ability to breath for you in essence. You will notice over time, that you will find a balance between being overly tense in the abdomen and being too loose. This should also lead you to ultimately notice that every time your waste shakes or turns forcibly you are inhaling and exhaling. This is perfectly acceptable. You will find that normally what happens at the end of this “forced breath,” in conjunction with your movement, is a slight holding of the breath. This is perfect. This “forced breathing” is the way to “hold your breath” during a long series of attacks (5 or 6 attacks in length let’s say).

Additionally, with longer series of attacks (those over 5 or 6) you will find that the opponent that is changing, moving, countering, and it is not easy to do “jack-hammer” style attacks, so there will typically be short intervals of time in between attacks to inhale or exhale briefly depending on your own cycle of breathing. You should definitely use those opportunities.

more to come....

Monday, February 19, 2007

Nafas - Part 3

In a method, which I will call the Hold Method, it doesn’t matter if you are inhaling or exhaling, you simply hold your breath, tightening your stomach muscles. This allows you a certain amount of freedom in your ability to attack in a timely manner. That said the idea is not to harden or tighten your stomach muscles unnaturally, but if you imagine pushing or pulling something with about 80% of your strength you will naturally tighten your stomach muscles to help.

It is the natural tightening of the muscles that is used to increase strength over short durations. This is opposed to the idea of an exhaling breath, which is designed (it seems) to keep your body tight and increase strength over slightly longer durations typically. (Unfortunately, this is unnatural and must be learned over a great deal of time, with ever increasing levels of stress to be even slightly productive. Of course, it’s no enough that a person have greater and greater planned stress because it must also involve the element of fear and the adrenaline dump that comes with it to be truly reminiscent of combat.)

In addition, it is not the type of stomach contraction that you might produce as if trying to push or pull something with all your might, but rather to have a sort of “relaxed tension.” That is, that your core is strong but not absolutely tightened. By holding your breath this way during your attack, it can be used to for continuous attacks rather than one single one.

More to come...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Nafas - Part 2

In addition, what most people don’t know is humans and some other organisms have the ability to “breath” in two different ways. The first, and most known is called aerobic breathing and consists of the lungs inflating to draw in air and deflating to push air out. However, in times of exercise when our oxygen intake is not “normal”, we begin to “breath” through our muscle tissue. Basically, we use the oxygen stores within our muscles to keep our blood oxygenated. This is called anaerobic breathing. Both forms of breathing have waste by-product. The aerobic form creates Carbon Dioxide, which is exchanged through the lungs. The anaerobic form creates lactic acid, which is temporarily stored in the muscle tissue until it can ultimately be flushed away.

With the basics of breathing and oxygen use out of the way, we can begin to address the method of holding our breath within Pencak Silat Pertempuran.

As stated, the basic method is to hold our breath on impact and release immediately after. From an Indonesian pernafasan perspective the idea is this, if I fill a ball full of air for energy, I do not want to release the air just before it hits the ground. To do so, would decrease the value of filling it with air to begin with. This is the basic argument as it was presented to me. Later, after additional discussions and much contemplation, this is what I have come to know about this method. The idea centers on tightening the muscles of the core and in doing so, we create a unified structure that transmits power more effectively. In this way, it is similar to the method of exhaling during a strike as most other martial arts do.

If that were the end, it would probably be sufficient, but there is more to it and this is the area that it most diverges from the more common method of exhaling as you strike. To expand upon it (pun intended), let’s first revisit the more commonly known method, which I will refer to as the Exhale Method.

In the Exhale Method, the basic premise is to exhale when attacking. Of course, to do this you must also be inhaling prior to the attack right? Because of this there is an aspect of timing that must take place. This can inhibit your freedom to attack when opportunity exists if taken to the extreme. That said most of us probably would forgo having the perfect breathing pattern in favor of getting a timely attack made. If we didn’t, as a fighter we would be stuck to using breathing patterns to determine our fighting rhythm. This means that we could be “timed” by an opponent simply because of our breathing. Likewise, if two people faced off and their breathing patterns were directly opposite, they would likewise have no recourse but to alternate between attacking and defending. Make sense so far? (It’s not rocket surgery but there is a path here.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nafas - Part 1

Nafas is the term “to breath” in Indonesian. Sometimes specific breathing methods are termed Pernafasan. (The pre and post “nafas” letters are what convert the verb to a noun in Indonesian.)

Most breathing patterns found within the martial arts, focus around the idea of having the practitioner exhaling upon impact, sometimes accompanied by a short yell or scream often called a “kiai” in Japanese Martial Arts. However, this type of breathing is not exclusive to Japanese arts and can be found in many martial disciplines throughout the world.

The main purpose of the exhaling/yell approach, when performed explosively, is to tighten the abdomen of the person performing the strike, kick or other technique. When done well, this will coordinate the contraction of many of your body’s core muscles when striking and increase your power, however, unless you exhale/yell explosively, no contraction of the abdomen takes place and no power is developed.

As well, there are additional effects of this type of methodology that are also touted such as the ability to distract the attacker, weaken their resolve and even their strength, and provide courage to you and those who might be engaged in battle alongside of you.

In Pencak Silat Pertempuran we are not overly concerned with spending a lot of time training the specific topic of breathing, especially as it concerns our martial practice. The basic premise can be summed up in this: When striking, hold your breath, and upon contact, release your breath. This is sometimes confusing to people who have studied other arts prior to studying pencak silat Pertempuran.

As a result, it raises questions in the minds of the practitioner as to why we do it essentially the opposite of everyone else. It’s a good question and one that needs to be addressed in depth so here then is my attempt to do just that.

Let’s start with some fundamentals. Air is comprised of 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen, and 1% of several other gases including Argon, Helium, Carbon Dioxide, etcetera, when it goes into our lungs and contains about 14-16% oxygen when it is exhaled. On average, every time we breathe we are using only about 1/3 of the oxygen that we inhale.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Coming Soon....

I just wanted to post something out here to let people know that I haven't forgotten about the blog. I will be posting something about a common topic for PSP members concerning Nafas or breathing. Especially as it relates to combat within pencak silat pertempuran.

It's a relatively large topic but I am working on making it presentable and easy to understand.

Hormat saya
Guru Stark

Friday, February 09, 2007

REVIEW: Pencak Silat Through My Eyes

Reviews aren't something I normally do, but I felt that this was a topic I could adress relatively quickly.

I recently purchased the new book by Pak Herman Suwanda entitled Pencak Silat Through My Eyes. Though Pak Herman died several years ago, this book was already in the works so a student of his, Tony Somera (sp?) recently compiled the book and got it published (I presume). Maybe self-published?

First, let me say that I have enjoyed much of Pak Herman's silat (though I've not seen much). He has shared much with us in a way that really established pencak silat in the U.S. much more widely than it had been prior. He worked hard to spread Pencak Silat Mande Muda in a way that American's would be interested and he worked hard to understand our culture and our language. In many ways, his understanding and communication in English was a remarkable achievement by itself because I've seen immigrants to the US that after 40 or 50 years still are unable to communicate well in English but that's an entirely different rant.... So Kudo's for even writing a book in English!!

What I liked about the book:
The book gave some history of Mande Muda and introduced the main players within his family. It also gave a pretty good introduction into the structure of kembangan and it's necessity within pencak silat Sunda. There were some basic techniques and names of the various movements which is always interesting to me especially from the standpoint of comparitive silat.

Also, because of the way Mande Muda was structured, there was a large section that attempted to put into words and accompanying photos, the differences between the various systems that made up Mande Muda at the time it was written.

The book also showed Pak's love of pencak silat Sunda and his desire to see pencak silat Sunda preserved.

There was also a few sections of Q&A about specific silat systems such as the Harimau and Sabetan. These were pretty interesting.

Finally, it was good to hear the personal experiences of a few of Pak Herman's students and to get a sense of what these students learned and experienced training and traveling with him.

What I disliked about the book:
Though it is titled "Silat Through My Eyes" a portion of it seemed to focus on Pak's struggles with introducing pencak silat to the U.S. and some of the issues of culture and the way that Pak has been burned. I'm not sure, but I definitely got the vibe that Pak Herman had been burned a few times by people who claimed things they shouldn't have and he was trying to set things straight in a typically Indonesian way - from the side.

Though some of PS MM was introduced, the depth was pretty light. I guess I was hoping to learn a bit more about how MM holds all these systems together or something. How do they come to be called MM if they are taught as separate systems and that sort of thing... Maybe that was answered, but it didn't seem to be. It seems, after reading it, that MM is acting as a blanket name for pencak silat Sunda and a person can basically study any system they want within that blanket. Again, I could be confused since my dealings with Mande Muda are very limited.

There were many many typos. I can appreciate the difficulty of editing a book, especially your own book (if that's what happened) but it seemed as though Tony Somera could have edited it. It was distracting to me because sometimes the wrong word was used that sounds like another word with different meanings. There wasn't a ton of that, but it was in there. It could be that Tony S. wanted to preserve the original writings of Pak as a sort of tribute to him, and that would be fine but I didn't really see a statement to that effect (though I am notorious for skipping introductions and that sort of thing and just getting to the point).

I learned some things, but overall I would say that I had higher hopes than the book delivered. I hate to say it because I know how much Pak Herman was loved, and honestly because I really enjoyed the little bit of Mande Muda that I've had a chance to learn 3rd hand. For those who are followers of Mande Muda, it is a final glimpse at their teacher and friend and his love of pencak silat Sunda, a last chance to hear his voice so-to-speak, but from an outsider perspective it left me a little bit neutral.

3 out of 5 stars

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hit or miss

Sorry all. I was out of town for a few days and on top of that, I'm a bit pressed at work and at home with freelance work so I've not been a very good blogger of late... I'll try to remain faithful to it and you.

I am beginning to organize notes, ideas, half-written things for book 3. It would be totally cool to have it done by the end of the year and that may be possible but since it's a part-time thing for me, it's hard to say. The third book will be a bit harder to write. It will be getting the ideas that helped in the original formation of PSP, out on paper and getting the ideas that have since formed, out on paper. It will be primarily about conditioning. That is not to say simply exercise but conditioning in all areas:

Muscular and Skeletal Training
Mental and Reflexive Training
Spiritual and Moral Training

I don't anticipate that it will be a huge book, but I didn't anticipate that book 2 was going to be as large as it was either...

It is my hope to be able to provide, in written form, thoughts about the "glue" of Pencak Silat Pertempuran so that the teacher of PSP will be able to understand more completely how the various pieces can be fit together, how they interact when together, and where they might take you.

In many ways I anticipate that this will be the most difficult book to write. I also intend to put a section in there of stories and training methods that I've heard, read, and found that concern Indonesian Ilmu, Kebatinan, and Tenaga Dalam. This section will depend on the size of the book and my ability to obtain permissions, etc. so it may not happen even though I have a pile of research.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Pencak Silat Celing

Pencak: A way of movement
Silat: Using that movement in self-defense
Celing: Boar
Pencak Silat Celing: A way of moving like a boar for self-defense

(Yes, I know it's a somewhat redundant start to this post but sometimes doing these things is necessary. I just don't know why.... :)

Rocco and Doug had a private lesson last night and Celing was the topic. Doug has committed to 5 private lessons to understand Pencak Silat Celing better. So I thought I would bring up the topic again but try to fill it out a bit and to introduce it to those who didn't catch it last time. We did do some simple, basic, elementary, Celing at last year's Keluarga for those who were able to attend. We didn't get into very much application. Hopefully this year we will be able to do more, building off of last year and getting people excited about the usefulness of Celing.

The basic principle of the boar:

  1. Get the opponent on the ground by destroying the structure of their legs. It's a pretty broad principle with a relatively specific methodology and freedom to add as necessary to accomplish the principle. As with all things that I teach - Langkah dari batu ke batu.

Though the basic principle is simple. It comprises a fairly wide quantity of techniques that can be used to accomplish it. The techniques themselves are fairly simple in structure but combine together in myriad ways to create a matrix for accomplishing pencak silat Celing in relationship to the opponent. In addition some basic strategies exist to make the techniques more successful for the specific purposes of accomplishing the basic principle of Celing.


  1. Determined

  2. Aggressive

  3. Destructive

Some of the techniques that comprise the Celing system are things that as PSP students you may have learned already on a limited level. With a little change in intention and targeting you can utilize these elements as methods for accomplishing pencak silat celing.

Here is a listing off the top of my head:

  1. All Ales

  2. All Lutut

  3. All Tapak

  4. All Masukan Sepak

  5. All Masukan Lutut

  6. All Timbilan Kaki (Secondary to destroying whenever possible)

  7. Celing Taring

  8. Sepak Bulat

  9. Sepak Rusuk

  10. Sepak Naga and it's variations

  11. Tendangan Rusuk Bawa

  12. Sepak Menyendok

  13. Sliwa - A type of stance which is normally referred to as sikap pasang in this system. This would be Sikap Pasang Tiga or Empat. The hand positions can vary depending on your purpose. (Some specific hand positions are used in certain regions of Indonesia.)

Celing Strategies:

  1. It is essential to use surprise.

  2. It is essential to attack as though the opponent will move away.

  3. It is essential to constantly prepare for the next attack. It is not a one shot, one kill style art.

  4. It is essential to use the hands (Celing Taring) to distract, control, strike vulnerable points, and generally keep the opponent busy on the upper level.

  5. It is essential to use angular stepping. It is not a direct system per se. The angles of stepping and alignment allow you to be able to launch direct and efficient attacks at the primary targets - even when using "circular" kicking such as Sepak Bulat.

  6. It is essential that your attacks be vicious and decidely destructive in nature. The point isn't to be gentle. If you consider a board shredding your legs with their tusks you will get the concept.

  7. It is essential to use methods that destroy structure. There are many ways to do this. Pain is probably the least of these - though pain can be an outcome.

Primary Targets of the legs:

  1. Upper knee

  2. Lower knee

  3. Inner thigh

  4. Outer thigh

  5. Front of Shin

  6. Back of calf

  7. Top of Foot

  8. Inner Ankle

  9. Outer Ankle (lesser target - but can be used)

Primary targets of the head and torso: (Which are all attacked with Celing Taring to be pure Celing)

  1. Eyes

  2. Throat

  3. Sternomastoid

  4. Behind the Mandible

  5. Under the chin and along the Mandible rim

  6. Hyoid Bone

  7. Suprasternal Notch

  8. Clavicular Notch

  9. Below the nipples

  10. Xyphoid Process

  11. Armpit

  12. Lower Abdominal Crease

  13. Groin

The method is simple, the mastery is not.

Training Methods:

Training in Celing is normally comprised of the basic attack by the trainer and the trainee performing various combinations of the basic methods in response, targeting the vulnerable points outlined above in a fluid way. Adding more methods as you get comfortable. It is absolutely essential to step into Suliwa or Sikap Pasang Tiga and Empat upon the completion of the majority of the basic methods. This will set up subsequent attacks to the base of the opponent.

Later, as you begin to get comfortable with Sikap Pasang and Suliwa you can begin working with an opponent who moves similarly on various angles, constantly repositioning yourself to counter their position or attack and setting yourself up to perform the next attack.

Another great method is to work at "Cutting" the angle. In this method you learn how to use the system against a person who moves a lot. You learn to cut the angle, setting yourself up to attack them instantly, and of course, continue to attack.

Once you begin to do this fluidly, you can begin to work on the methods in such a way as to get the opponent on to the ground, following up with various stomping attacks, kicks, etc. If a person puts their hand down on the ground to hold themselves up, it is appropriate to attack that arm with kicks and stomping as well. It does not stop necessarily, just because a person falls down. The point is to remove the threat.


If you're so inclined to use the system as a primary method (it could be and is able to be) for your PSP, you can take this a step further and get into the conditioning aspect.

  1. One conditioning method is to start by sitting comfortably in a chair and gently dropping your forearms onto your shins. This will condition both your forearms and your shins simultaneously and can be very good. Do this gently and over many months you will be able to add more and more power to the process. Be sure not to just do it in spots but to do it up and down the entirety of the forearm and shin. Especially the outer forearm. If your shins are very sensitive you can start with palm slapping. Apply Balur if possible, massaging out any bruises. (Our PSP brother Jay sells Balur).

  2. Another method is not to use pads during your training. The basic hitting and kicking over and over will ultimately condition portions of your legs, build determination in your spirit, and get you used to being attacked. It is important that you supplement this method with the method above to enure that you are getting a complete conditioning since not all areas on the legs are targeted.

  3. You can also strike your forearms together, alternating inside and outside in order to harden both sides of the forearms. Be sure to move up and down the forearms.

In PSP I tend to prefer methods that utilize ourselves versus outside equipment for the conditioning for two main reasons. One, everywhere I go, there I am. Two, it's a bit easier to control the conditioning because one part or another will feel a bit of pain and that bit of pain is a clue that we need to be considerate of our bodies and gradual with our conditioning. Too many people jump into conditioning with a 2 month mind set and it's really the process of many many months that is best. Conditioning too hard, too fast, will get you health problems in the long run and since the majority of us are part-time warriors, the trade off for your health is not worth it.

Additionally, for me at least, the idea of MA is about preservation of life and to me that also means the quality of my own life and if I destroy myself to do it, then I'm missing the point. I have too many life-long injuries that I have sustained from martial arts. They will never go away and in fact, as I get older, they may get worse. Don't do that to yourselves.

Hope this was interesting.

Hormat saya,
Guru Stark