Saturday, January 30, 2010

Piper Concepts -- Not Pencak Silat

Recently, (this past Thursday evening at TLM in Orlando, FL) I had the opportunity to taste a small bit of Piper, a South African Street Knifing System.

I had heard of it, seen clips and read a bit about it but this was my first chance to ever experience it so I jumped at the chance.

It was only a 2 hour seminar so I can hardly write anything about the system other than to say that i enjoyed it and that I know nothing about it. Take all of this with a large container of salt.

What I appreciated about the Piper System were some of the basic principles that I was able to see. It is clearly a system based on movement and not on technique. I REALLY like that - primarily because that's what PSP is about - though most people never seem to pick up on that - even when I say it over and over.

The evening started with a basic exercise that i would call developing your "snake body." It was all about learning to move your body for purposes of evasion, parrying, deception and overall aggression. For those part of PSP, if you can imagine taking the Ales and making them one giant, fluid, movement, you'd be getting close (and if you haven't yet figured this out about PSP you will).

I thought the structure of the feet being close together was uncomfortable and prohibitive but I am assuming that it is in part a basic training method that you will later get away from somewhat. If not, I would be concerned about the lack of mobility.

We primarily focused on the reverse or ice pick grip for the evening. No concerns there, other than I like the fluidity of the PSP grip changes personally.

We also touched on a few methods of changing from hand to hand. Some of which are part of PSP and one in particular, that was unique and involved a method of passing the knife along the chest. I thought that was an interesting and potentially valuable method and involved a sort of slapping the chest with the hand carrying the knife so that it rolled along the chest, into the other hand.

The twitchy knife hand thing, again, is not something new, but as with most things, the expression of it is unique. The idea of keeping energy in a hand, arm, body by essentially keeping it alive through movement is a really good principle - not new, but good and valuable. The Hummingbird is along this same line. Not new per se, but very valuable.

We did some structure and balance drills using the snake body premise and I thought those were good. The difficulty with all of those drills is ensuring that your partner is a good one and is truly understanding the drill, not just competing with you.

The elements of footwork were the most interesting and fun to me. It was cool to see a fluid dance like body connect with the basic kick destructions of PSP. In addition, to see that fluid dance like body also contain the explosive footwork, stomping, snapping of fingers and other aspects that are done in pencak silat but with a different framework of movement was fun and expansive.

In addition, we also trained to music, which, as a silat exponent is not new, but the cool part was being able to do it to metal or hip hop or whatever.

Not sure what to say other than to check it out if you get the chance. I have not walked away from a seminar in the past 10 years and thought - Cool! This was the first time and mostly I appreciated getting "new" perspectives and "new" movements for the same principles.

Hopefully this article won't upset any Piper guys - I'm not a Piper expert by any means and this is my silat blog so I'm just trying to relate to it in a way that makes sense to me and perhaps people training with me. Piper is NOT silat, though there are cross-overs in many of the basic principles that I was able to learn in my one exposure.

Thanks for reading.


Sterling said...

How do you think this Piper experience will influence your PSP? I got to dabble a little with Piper as well, by my experience was much less about over all body movement and much more about the chaotic knife hand movements and energy. It reminded me of how I felt when I first saw the odd angles that Silat uses when compared to many westernized martial arts.

Sean Stark said...

Hey Sterling; Well... I'm not sure it will much at this point. It was so brief that I need to just look at it and consider it more. I would like to continue to pursue some understanding of it as I can but there were so many similarities conceptually that I'm hoping it will percolate for a while and give me some insight.

A few areas that immediately come to mind -- when looking at Ales, how do I get people to make their Ales fluid, connected and more combative? Right now it's done through some "off the maps" drills that I use with my local guys. It may add some new perspectives on ways to get there, but in the end, I just need to get those "off the maps" drills more available for instructors and group leaders.

The trembling hand for instance is something that I have taught my local guys but haven't bothered to teach outside yet, but is related to the wrist movement of the Piper. For us it's a silat twitch. It's not as pronounced as the Piper but has some relationship to keeping an "alive" energy.

I don't think I'm communicating well, what I'm thinking but what I am hoping is to be more deliberate about teaching my personal discoveries beyond my local guys. In that regard, Piper has re-ignited that fire to share and in some ways validated my direction, which often seems counter to most accepted and well received martial arts.

banyaksoal said...

Just wondering, whether the piper system had anything to do with the Cape Malay community in South Africa who were translocated there there by the Dutch hundreds of years ago? Hence the resemblance?

Sean Stark said...

I have no idea about the history of Piper or the Malay community of SA. I wouldn't even speculate bc it's been my personal experience that discussions of history in martial arts often end up without any resolution bc we simply don't have the answers.

banyaksoal said...

Couldn't agree with you more, thanks nevertheless.

banyaksoal said...

Salam, Here's something I found on you tube that might give a clue to my questions. (see "Piper Knife Technique - The Slipstream" )in the discussion ensued,it was mentioned that the founder, is of Malay ancestry, and the players mentioned that the system is Malay silat influenced. I think this answer my question.