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

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