Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thanks - Pencak Silat Pesilat

Selamat All;

Occasionally as I cross paths of various people on the internet I run into a "bad apple" or at least someone that I rub wrong or that rubs me wrong. I've tried not to let bad vibes exist between myself and any other pesilat but every once in a while it seems unavoidable - in fact, it seems that some desperately seek to have conflict.

Despite those few, limited times, I am very grateful for the students, teachers, and friends I've met in Pencak Silat over the years and I am especially thankful for those I've gotten to know on a deeper level as students and friends. I count the majority of you as some of my closest friends. Yes, indeed, as family in some cases and people I can turn to talk about life, share about my family, and seek advice. It is my hope, that many more of you will grow into the family of PSP and really share in it fully. For those on the outside looking in, it may seem weird, but for those of this family, and those of other silat families, it is not so weird.

I just wanted to take a minute of your time and thank you all for enriching my life. For sure, pencak silat has enriched my life, but without fellow pesilat it would mean very little. Pencak silat is not simply about the "beat down."

With that in mind, I want to be specific. Do not take the order as relevant, only the words that are spoken - someone has to be first and someone else has to be last. Also, don't whine if I don't list your name, I know a LOT of people.

"Hugo" - Thanks brother. I consider you one of the primary reasons PSP ever came to be. I have enjoyed the years that we've known each other and I only wish that we had greater opportunity to be in closer proximity.

Bill - Brother I appreciate your hard work and energy. You are the first instructor I've named in the 7 or so years I've been sharing silat and the first instructor I've ever named in any martial art. Your diligence is encouraging.

Doug - Brother, you are without a doubt a blessing in my life. You've helped here and there with little projects and your willingness to mix it up a bit is always energizing. I love it.

"Numbers" - Brother, you are a total crack-up. I suspect, that when you die, you will bring a knife hand and an elbow any where you go.

Michele - Sister, your energy for training is awesome. Your sense of humor is great and I hope that someday you'll be able to really move into the family of PSP.

Sahnya - Sister you've continued to work at the arts even when they seemed to be giving nothing back. That's what a Martial Artist does!!

Phil - Brother, He is risen... I hope that you'll be able to someday soon bring yourself back to the family. You are missed. You're theological knowledge is always a help to me.

Matthew D - I've only just begun to get to know you but your energy and excitement are contagious! I hope someday you'll get to meet the other pesilat.

Mattew L - This is a ditto. Hours and hours of yapping and roosters crowing is a heck of a way to get to know someone and I can't wait to train with you again.

Eric and Ryan - My Filipino brothers. Thanks for the food! It was a real pleasure watching Ryan look like a deer in headlights %0 and I appreciate your willingness to try to do things that your knees say you shouldn't Eric. Energy output is energy received.

Jay and Tony - I'm so excited that you guys have joined. I kept waiting for several years for that to happen and I am thrilled you guys have jumped on. Now it's time to work brothers!!!

Nick - Your pursuit of pencak silat is craziness. I'm glad you have the energy and time do some of the things I've wanted to but been unable to get rolling. THANKS!

Aaron - Little brother you just keep chipping away. Sometimes a little too small of chips, but none-the-less chipping away. Sharpen your chisel man. The guys around here are still talking about your Cekik skills.

Sterling, Brian B, Doug B, Steve A, John B, Christina T, Chad, Enrico, Bill F, Mike G, Henry I, Mikal K, Joel R, Todd L, Brian L, Alan L, Carl M, Manuel R, Chuck S, Mario T, James F, Brian G, Jeanette D, Kevin W, Andrew K, Chris S, and Mark V

I've not gotten to know you guys as well but I do care about your progress in PSP and the things going on in your life. Some of you have shared very personal struggles and issues with me and I appreciate your willingness to stick with training and PSP even when life seems to kick when you are down. Others of you are newer and we just haven't had much time to get to know each other but I am willing.

This doesn't even begin to mention those outside of our camp from many different systems and countries who have been a blessing. People like Steve Perry, Nadzrin, 1D, Bayu W., Bruno, Roedy W., Robby Maulana, Daniel Prasetya, Ben Haryo, Galih, Mushtaq, Bobbe, Jerry, Gene, Bernard, Alessandro, Bill R, Tim, Tom, My brother Jude, and many others too numerous to list.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Devious Level Changing in Pencak Silat

This is a re-publishing of an article from the Silat Now! webzine. It is copyrighted and not for distribution.

Written by: Ben Haryo Himawanto
Editor: Sean Stark
© 2006 Silat Now! e-zine, Combat Silat

The Devious Level Changing of Pencak Silat Paseban Mutakhir

When we observe the formal exercises (Kembangan) of Pencak Silat Paseban, we often see some sequences where the Pesilat suddenly and quickly changes his head position from a stand-up straight stance to a low, ground-hugging stance. This is called Level Changing in the west, (and often termed “tinggi ke rendah”, literally “high to low” in Indonesian). Some casual observers may think that these techniques look “beautiful” or “movie-like” and as such, consider them “only suitable for the movies” and “not very useful in deadly confrontations,” or even that the technique “does not really serve a purpose but is only a part of the dance” for entertaining the audience.

What the casual observer often overlooks is the fact that these techniques are used in real combat and often with surprising results too. The low stances often lead into dreadful leg-scissors, which could break an opponent’s leg, or to quick takedowns, which could cause injuries to those who don’t know how to break fall and even lead to the most-useful-of-all techniques, the groin kick.

It is often said that the secret weapon of Paseban is not their punches or kicks, but rather, on their ability to put together “Tricks” and “Traps” (tipuan dan jebakan in Indonesian) to lure their opponent into making a mistake, which will make them prone to a Paseban takedown or vital point attack technique.

To counter the low level leg grabs and low kicks, Pesilat Paseban often uses the “angkat kaki” technique (literally, “lifting the leg”), which looks like a “Crane standing on the rock” or “gankaku” position in karate, where the Pesilat simply lifts his leg to avoid being swept, struck or grabbed. Another technique to be used against the low attack is “tangkisan bawah” (literally, “low block”), where the Pesilat meets the attacker in a low stance and blocks his attempt to take him down. Since all techniques have a counter, just like a joint lock has its “key,” Pesilat Paseban mainly rely on timing to catch the opponent off guard and execute techniques.

In any case, Pencak Silat Paseban Mutakhir’s low attacks can be very useful in real situations because they often surprise the attacker. This is especially true against people who may not study pencak silat. Until next time!

Ben Haryo is a Pelatih Muda (Junior Instructor) in Pencak Silat Paseban Mutakhir under Bapak Saleh Jusuf Sungkar in Jakarta, Indonesia. He is also an instructor in Japanese Karate (Wado-ryu) and Japanese Jujutsu (of the Dentokan version/sub-branch of Hakko-ryu Jujutsu). He also learned American style of Jujutsu under Professor Harold Brosious (Ketsugo Jujutsu). Ben Haryo can be reached at

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pencak Silat Pertempuran - Principle of the Thin Entering Wedge

A combat silat principle called the Thin Entering Wedge.

This principle is easy to understand if you think of it in terms of a wedge for splitting wood or a maul. If you’re not familiar with these items, they are essentially large (relatively speaking) pieces of metal that are thin on one end, usually having a sharp edge and the other end is quite thick and heavy. One, the maul, is essentially a very heavy axe and has a handle while the other, the wedge, is used with aid of a sledgehammer. They differ from an axe because they are much wider on one end (as a result typically much heavier) and an axe is typically rather thin by comparison and much lighter.

So what does the principle of the Thin Entering Wedge have to do with pencak silat? If you are a student of mine or have read some of the previous posts, you will have heard me talk of the most important aspect of any attack - the actual hitting of the target. Everything else is secondary to that single thing. Along that same discussion is the inclusion of this principle. It is an illustration and a continuation of that discussion.

The Thin Entering Wedge can be thought of like the wedge or the maul used for splitting wood by combining that with our previous discussion. The “Thin” aspect of it is that first hit – the most important part of any attack – the one that actually hits the target. That is developed through explosiveness or explosive entries or by drawing an attack utilizing Sikap Pasang or Welcoming Postures. Those are the two primary methods and from that point the options often begin to grow depending on our capabilities to capitalize on our first attack or the “Thin.”

Once we’ve entered, we must continue to attack and remain in control of our postures and positions, and just like the “Thin” follow it up with the heavier and wider or more destructive aspects of our attack, the “Wedge.”

The “Wedge” is only successful at splitting the wood once the “Thin” has begun the task already. If you were to flip the maul or wedge over and try to split the wood it wouldn’t work. It might smash it, dent it, damage it, but it wouldn’t split it.

To take this a bit further, even a wedge or a maul will not work well across the grain of the wood. That is, if the wedge or maul doesn’t split it along the grain of the wood it will not prove to be very successful. Eventually you would be able to work your way through the wood but it is not the intended use of the tools. In the same way, your Combat Silat or Pencak Silat Pertempuran should seek to exploit the vulnerabilities of your attacker by learning not to fight against the grain but to go with it. By doing so, you have a much greater chance of success with the least effort, risk, and time. That means, that if you have to “split” multiple pieces of wood, you will be able to move from one to the next much quicker.

The best pencak silat should become an art of assassination versus fighting at least as far as Combat Silat is concerned.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Perspectives, Potential, and MA (Pencak Silat)

This is a repost of an article I wrote a while back. It is copyrighted. Some disagree with my viewpoint of what Bruce Lee wrote, but in any case, the context of this article is really written with different intent. I will likely be adding to this starting point in the next post but time will tell for sure....

Written By Sean Stark
Editor: Sean Stark
© 2005 Silat Now! e-zine

Editors Note: Originally, my intent was to edit the article on Teaching Methodologies written by Bill Dwyer, but decided to take this in a slightly different direction altogether.

Perspectives, Potential, and Martial Arts

The study of jurus-jurus is often said to be a study of movement, and on an even lower level, upper body techniques. I have stated that jurus-jurus are movement studies myself, however, as I reflect more on the subject and other issues (read: root cause for thought) I would argue that the study of a jurus-jurus is more a study of perspectives than movement.

Bruce Lee once said: "When I started martial arts, a punch was just a punch. Then a punch became more than a punch. Now a punch is just a punch." (This is a paraphrase so don't get bothered if it doesn't match his words exactly.)

In any case, Bruce Lee's statement is an example of viewing movement from a given perspective, in fact, you can also see from his statement how perspectives change – time and influence of course being the necessary factors.

That said, though perspectives change – Truth does not. Our comfort with Truth may change or even our acceptance of something as truth may change, but Truth itself does not. Therefore, this statement by Bruce Lee is either true or it’s false – it is not both (in this context, Bruce was probably not even trying to elucidate Truth from his statement as much as share a perspective or the idea of perspective).

So what’s the point? From my perspective (sorry for the pun) as someone who studies silat, a punch is more than a punch. To reduce it to nothing more than a punch is to take away its mystery and to deny it’s potential and in fact its freedom. From my perspective, Bruce Lee took away the freedom of the Punch, much as religion or government can take away from the freedom of Truth. The punch can only be more than a punch when it is believed to be – then and only then will it produce the fruit that demonstrates it.

If you have children you may already understand this in a different context. For instance, generally, we tell our children that they can be astronauts and presidents and doctors – though we may not even believe this to be True (our perspective is already twisted by culture, society, religion, education, government, money, etc.). We want there to be freedom to pursue the potential. Yet, some parents including myself, will at times, deny their freedom by telling a child what they cannot do, in terms of potential. (Please don’t shift the context to discipline because that’s not what I am talking about here – though how we discipline could be the culprit that is shifting the perspective.) Through the process of time and influence our perspectives on potentiality shift. Rightly so, I might add since not all things with potential are true. As we all have discovered, not all of us are doctors, lawyers, presidents, and astronauts. As we grow up our perspectives change and perhaps our desires change as we discover Truth, yet what we are – is not necessarily an example or the fruit of our potential.

Many times we are directly and indirectly influenced to become less than our potential. This often happens within society, government, and religion as I have already pointed out, and if it is True in this context it is also true in other contexts as well. Sometimes it is our laziness that allows others (i.e., religion, society, peers, governments) to limit our potential and other times it is our lack of understanding or even the circumstances of our life. All can be overcome if we are introduced to our potential, whether it is again, or for the first time. Another way to say it might be, that life is either a matter of “training” or of “trying.” We can learn to view situations and the whole of life as though there is something to learn or we can view it as something we just sort of muddle through and don’t have any sort of ultimate purpose for other than getting through to the end with the least amount of wounds. One is a life full of potential and the other is a life where potential has boundaries and limitations that can be very restrictive. This can also be seen in the martial arts world. Throughout the course of my training I have had various instructors tell me what should never be done and yet I have had other teachers who do those very things with great success. How then do we understand these things?

It definitely requires a teacher, but not just any teacher, a teacher who is interested in helping you to find your potential and the Truth. Sometimes they are called guru, sometimes maestro, sometimes teacher, or even friend. You must be willing to accept their teaching and have faith in it fully. It must also be said that your teacher does not need to be alive or even a person for that matter. Authors from history are perfect examples and circumstances or nature might be another. This can be seen in the quantity of martial arts and religious practices that derive from the observation and knowledge of animals. It can also be demonstrated through our observation of our interactions with nature such as in the herbal medicines that have been developed throughout the ages.

In my spiritual beliefs, God is the creator of all Truth and He prepares us to receive that Truth in various ways. One method may be through the people we meet throughout life or even through circumstances not directly involving people. It certainly has happened to me in this way throughout my entire life. The difficulty or paradox with this type of learning is being able to sort through perspectives to find the potential for Truth. This is where having a perspective that is not developed or maintained strictly by self is necessary. For me personally, it is my belief in God that provides the perspective with which to “filter” these ideas, circumstances, and happenings.

Unfortunately, once our perspective is shifted and our potential is weakened or removed, we don’t need much more prodding or outside influence to continue to destroy our own potential. We do a pretty good job at it ourselves – in most cases for the rest of our lives. What can break the cycle of self-destructive behavior is awareness and the desire to change that part of us that continues to hold ourselves back. This is ultimately how the best teachers help us.

In this regard, as you probably know, a teacher can help but a teacher cannot force you to learn or understand. You must desire it – more than you believe yourself to be failed potential. This can be applied to any type of training, whether spiritual, martial, job skills, parenting, whatever! This can take place in many different ways some of which are outlined in today’s current teaching methodologies.

Unfortunately, many martial arts instructors utilize more negative methodologies for teaching. One such methodology is beating a potential student to see if they will return. Along those same lines, many instructors beat students regularly to “test” them (though I suspect that it is really more of an affirmation issue for the instructor themselves whose perspective has already been skewed). The idea being that you know you’re going to be beaten unless you defend yourself, you WILL desire to defend yourself. In that process, you can discover potential. Unfortunately, it is an unpleasant experience and you may ultimately decide that your desire to reach your potential is not high enough to withstand the negative reinforcement.

This same type of mentality or methodology can also be found within society, religion, family and friends of any background. The beatings aren’t necessarily physical in nature but emotional or psychological. It might be the attempt to use guilt to coerce, or a slanderous tongue to degrade, but it none-the-less exists outside of the martial arts. This method generally fails, because this is the very thing that has robbed all of us by changing our perspective and ultimately stealing our potential. Fortunately we have recognized this and formed institutions of various kinds to help us sort through all of it. This is one of the most basic values of most religions that I am familiar with. Christianity for example, invites you to start new by accepting your past, present, and future failures by making a concerted effort with the help of God Himself (your Teacher) to adjust your perspective and potential.

Ultimately we must be willing to accept something as True in order to adjust or align our perspective. This is true in all of life, even in simple things such as getting the wheels of your car aligned. There must first be a point of reference in which the mechanic must Trust to be true, then and only then can they adjust the wheels of the car appropriately. To varying degrees, this happens all areas of life including our spiritual and martial. The degree, to which they are True (or believed to be true) and can adjust your perspective, is the degree to which they will ultimately prove to be physically effective for you. That is if you study, but do not fully trust (rely on) the method or teacher whom you study with, you will fail more than succeed and stay trapped in your twisted perspective. Of course it is important that you have chosen a path that contains Truth to be your guidepost…

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pencak Silat Pamur

This is a re-post of an article I wrote a few years back about Pamur. It is copyrighted.

Written by Guru Stark
Editor: Sean Stark
© 2003 Silat Now! e-zine

In Silat Pamur there are four levels of learning. The most basic is Dasar, which are the basic strikes and kicks of the system. My Pamur teacher didn't consider it to even be the first level per se. The next level is the Huruf level which apparantly means alphabet. On this level a person is introduced to the 12 Jurus Tangan, 12 Jurus Harimau, 12 Jurus Celurit/Pedang, 12 Jurus Tongkat, 12 Masukan and 12 Ales.

However, the 12 Ales are not really 12 but actually more. For instance, the 12 Ales are:
Sata A, B, Dua A, B,
Tiga A, B, C, Empat A, B, C,
Lima A, B, Enam A, B,
Tujuh, A, B, Delepan A, B,
Sembilan, A, B, Sepuluh A, B,
Sebelas, A, B and Dua Belas A, B

These 12 Ales are types of Ales, each having a specific function or method of evasion. Though it appears that there are many more than 12, in actuality there is really only 13 and they are mirrored. So for instance, Satu A, B are mirrored in Dua A, B.

The 12 Masukan are of the Kaki type and relate to specific Ales. The first 8 of the Masukan are really a method of understanding zones of the lower body and the last 4 are continuations. Additionally, these 12 are really only 6 that are mirrored.

Notice that there are no Langkah. I was surprised by that. The only Langkah that my Guru Pamur mentioned are part of the Jurus-jurus. They are not taken out and separately trained. Additionally, the Sikap Pasang are also extracted and extrapolated from the Jurus-jurus tangan as well.

There is also a set of 12 Jurus Pecut, but they are not taught until much later in the system because of the danger of the use of pecut.

Something else that is interesting, is that there are no jurus pisau. I asked a lot of questions of my guru concerning this because some have insisted that Pamur is a big blade art. My Guru Pamur suggests otherwise. He said many pesilat will layer the pisau over the tangan but it is not taught officially as part of Pamur.

The Third level is the Isi level. This is where you begin to learn the applications of the system. There are basically 4 categories: Sambut Pukul, Timbilan, Tangkapan, and Pembasmian. The Sambut Pukul are essentially a combination of jurus tangan pecahan and the Masukan and Ales. Every component from the jurus is applied (as possible) via the Masukan and/or Ales. Primarily the Masukan but you are expected to also go back and perform the pecahan with the Ales as well. There are 138 Sambut Pukul. There are actually many more, but there is a reason that there are only 138 taught. After the initial run through the sambuts the pesilat is expected to develop a certain number of counters to the Sambut Pukul and then eventually, the training partner develops counters to the counters. (I cannot remember what the formal name of that is at the moment...)

Timbilan are throws and takedowns. There are 13 total timbal.

Tangkapan are the locks. There are 12 types of locks, i.e., Neck locks, wrist locks, ankle locks, elbow locks, shoulder locks, etc. What is interesting to note though, is that guru Pamur have there own set of locks they teach. They are not necessarily universal amongst all Pamur teachers.

There are 24 Pembasmian dengan kaki. These are eradication methods. The purpose is to make the attackers initial attack their last. These are not necessarily killing blows but they do incapacitate on some level.

The third level is the Pelengkap level. This is predominately spiritual training. This contains such things as Coba Bunuh.

Of course there is much more to Pamur than even I have mentioned since I am really just a babe in this art.

I hope that you found this interesting.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pencak Silat Pertempuran Seminar in San Diego

Selamat All;

Just wanted to take a minute of your time to announce a seminar that I will be doing in San Diego.

9a-1p at a local park.

Topics covered:
Pembasmian (just for fun)

This is my first time in San Diego so I will have to start with some foundation stuff and then work to doing some apps from there.

If you're interested write me and I'll get more specific details from the hosts.

Hormat saya,
Guru Stark