Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Silat Pertempuran

Recently on a forum I was asked some questions regarding pencak silat Pertempuran. Below are the questions and the answers. Some of this has been posted before but bear with me...

I like your definitions of what silat should be and how to achieve that. To achieve good silat you must train while seeking to accomplish the involvement of Rasa? What about intention? Should one not concentrate on intention too, to get to the rasa?

An other question your response makes me ask is: are there any techniques that are difinitely silat, and not something else? I ask this as during the Japanese occupation here and after it, some karate moves, like the forward thrust kick, was adopted by many silat styles. An other interesting phenomena was when in the 1970s-80s Central Jawa tenaga dalam schools wanted to become silat schools, they had to invent and standardize jurus, and some took movement from other arts, including non Indonesian arts. And what about arts like Tarung Drajad / Boxer?

RE: pencak silat
Well, this topic comes up from time to time. The first time I brought it up was about three years ago. The point in bringing it up was simply to dialogue with people and try to get people talking about it but no one wanted to get involved. I personally thought it would be a fascinating discussion but instead I immediately got the “pencak silat is too varied and too big and too this and too that to define.” Yet, in my own experience, when I have met guru silat, they have asked me to “move” for them. Clearly they are looking for pencak silat. If I did Jiu Jitsu I don’t think they would have responded with the same enthusiasm as they did when I performed pencak silat. To that end then, I think they saw something manifested in the movement that made them think they had seen pencak silat. If that is the case, then it must be definable on some level.

Because of that, I have set out to define it as best as I am able, knowing that I:
A. Don’t know much about silat
B. Don’t know much about Indonesia
C. Don’t know much about the languages of Indonesia
D. Don’t know much about the culture and people

With all of that against me, here is my basic response to what I think pencak silat is:

Time and time again I have watched people who are studying pencak silat and yet they don't move well. They can apply the techniques, but they don’t seem to move like a pencak silat player. IMO this is an epidemic within pencak silat here in the U.S. (not that I’ve got it figured out either), but too much time seems to be spent trying to reduce pencak silat to formulas, principles, patterns, techniques, (science if you will) and not enough time is spent enjoying the movement, exploring the movement, feeling the movement, putting intention into your movement (art if you will). Rasa! Not just punching harder, intention is not about that.

Good pencak silat movement is filled with deception.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with variations in timing.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with a wave-like energy.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with balance.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with level changes.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with intention.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with explosiveness.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with application.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with awareness.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with fluidity.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with angles, circles, and lines.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with responsiveness.
Good pencak silat movement is filled with aesthetic beauty.


GREAT pencak silat movement is filled with all of these things at the same time. This is the Rahasia of great pencak silat movement.

As students of pencak silat we should seek to accomplish these things even when performing application, even when performing a jurus, even when doing a basic strike or kick.

The most difficult thing for students of PSP to learn is this combination of attributes. As a system we start with psuedo applications but in truth, they are not entirely valuable in and of themselves. It is within the context of the attributes above that real value, real skill, becomes known.

We tend to look at the application as the goal, but it is only one facet of the whole. A valuable piece to be sure, but to do pencak silat completely you must combine the attributes above. When you begin to do that your technique will naturally improve. Each piece feeds off of the other pieces. There is no pencak silat without the entire list. You can have either pencak or silat but not both.

For sure pencak silat has had many influences. Some from Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino sources. Each as left it’s mark. Combine that with religion and you’ve got an even wider variety, so I see the temptation to leave what is and what is not pencak silat undefined. In fact, out of the call to brotherhood it makes perfect sense. Yet, it doesn’t seem to be a good thing for pencak silat in the long run in my opinion. Quite the opposite in fact because if we cannot define what pencak silat is, how can we ever hope to inform the general populace about the true beauty of pencak silat. How can Indonesians claim that someone in America who has experience only in JKD and who now claims to be teaching silat, have any basis for saying that it doesn’t fully reflect the best of what pencak silat can be? How can any of us tell interested party’s that something is jiu jitsu and not Harimau for example?

I know very little about the whole of pencak silat. I am sure I don’t even fully understand what I currently teach. It is still teaching me regularly. So I am sure that I am not qualified to define pencak silat for the entire world but I will at least attempt to define it for my students so that they can at least start to realize that not all things are pencak silat and perhaps in the future we can work together to create something that is a bit more specific and targeted. In any case, it is my obligation as a teacher and practitioner.

Language acts as a good analogy. English is a language that has many influences and contributors to its foundation. They are wide ranging. Yet, today, we don’t say those other contributing languages are English. That is because English has sufficiently evolved to the point where it is unique and carries its own set of rules and words. It is no longer really what it came from but rather it is English. Of course, we can see that there are two forms of English. There is British English and American English. Both are similar, yet both are unique. Each has it’s own differences and obviously a good portion of similarities. They would be a family of related languages. To use this analogy with pencak silat, I would answer that the degree to which the influences from other cultures have been absorbed and probably modified to something that is uniquely identifiable as Indonesian (using Indonesian just to simplify) is the degree to which it would be considered to be pencak silat and not another form of martial art.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not really looking for debate on the topic, I’m more interested in what others have to say.

Regarding Christian beliefs and PSP.
I’m in the process of writing the third primary book on the topic of PSP and this particular book is all about that subject. I wish I could summarize it but honestly I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I will pull out some specific elements for you.

The berhormatan is a prayer. Each movement is tied to specific parts of the prayer.

The jurus-jurus are about potential. The point of Christianity is to find potential for a new life in Christ. It is about putting aside the old and adopting the new pattern of living. Jurus-jurus are about patterning your movements and building the potential attributes required for success in response to the moment. They are about potential. There is no specific correlation to the actual movements of the jurus-jurus.

Martial arts without faith are worthless. If you don’t trust your martial art to work when you need it, then at the first sign of trouble, you will abandon it and move to something else - anything else. This is a real spiritual issue for the believer of any faith. When you get struck or stabbed or slashed, how are you going to respond? Will you have that faith in your martial art to continue to use it? To that end, it is important to build faith by being continuously challenged over time to the boundaries of your skill so that you will increase the boundaries and thereby reduce what could cause you doubt. It is not “blind faith” as so many believe, but faith that is built up over time by continuous works in even the smallest areas of training (spiritual or martial).

Another example. I don’t really believe in the carrying of a weapon. Many of my silat brothers throughout the U.S. believe in carrying a knife it seems. It has been my own personal experience that carrying a knife can cause you to have a sense of safety that is not always appropriate and it can cause you to be bolder than you would otherwise. No different than walking around with six of your best saudara silat. You might be tempted to go places where you know it is not really safe but because you have this tool, or these friends, you have created a situation that could be potentially dangerous. Spiritually, you could equate this to putting yourself into a place of temptation or you could event take it to the area of ego and escalation. The best form of Ales or avoidance is not being around things that could cause problems to begin with.

Hopefully this is enough of an example because I’m going on 2.5 hours of writing a response and I’m getting tired….

To answer the question of “turning the other cheek” though, (since this one comes up quite frequently) I would respond that we must be careful not to take a single verse of Scripture outside of the intended context of the entire writing and audience it was intended for. (We can see this in many religions today.) Many people have seen this verse as referring to the physical aspect but in reality, it is much more about the idea of ego and humility. We are not to be pressed into combat because of some perceived wrong to our ego but instead we are to remain humble. Christ was certainly an advocate for those who could not help themselves and would readily step in to save someone if necessary. We must learn to love our neighbors as ourselves but that doesn’t mean that we are not to protect ourselves or be prepared, the issues at stake are more about self-discipline and self-control not passivity.

Hope this gives you some idea.

Hormat saya,


abgzul said...

Salam Perkenalan (greetings) from Perguruan Seni Silat Macan Pasrah...

Well, I agree with most of your posting. For me the silat Macan Pasrah that I am pursuing definitely has its unique attributes but presently I am developing it into a sports silat tanding. Our approach is to be able to employ every jurusan of silat into the sport.

Yes... faith in your art will define whether you are a master or otherwise. Agree totally with you that we have to be able to push our skill and technique to the edge in order to realise its benefit...

Hope to hear from you...
My name is Zul. email me at

SilatBlogger said...

Selamat Zul

Thank you for your comments.

Pushing the art to the edge is a dangerous act and requires a guru silat that knows when you're at the edge because you can also be easily pushed over the edge if you are very close :0

Hormat saya,