Every so often, it's important to evaluate what you're doing and where it fits in relationship to where you started, considering where you want to go.
I have personally made a habit of this. Pencak Silat Pertempuran has been taught for nearly 15 years. During that time, there has been some changes to the system, to my practice, to my teaching, etc. but generally speaking it's pretty much the same.
So the time has come to and I'm reflecting on Pencak Silat Pertempuran and the people who have stuck with it. There are only a few really. I had hoped that at this point in the journey I would be further along than I am, establishing Pencak Silat Pertempuran as a mainstay within a níche community of martial artists. As a result, I've begun to reflect on what I was trying to do to begin with and ask myself if I've been successful, and if so, how—and if not, why?
Pencak Silat Pertempuran has been life-changing for me. I've been involved in martial arts about 20 years now and it's fair to say that martial arts has been life-changing generally, but Pencak Silat Pertempuran has taught me much more. I don't want to digress to much down that path, but I've studied several arts nearing 10 years individually but they haven't compared to Pencak Silat Pertempuran for what they offered me.
I want others to experience it that way too. I always have. So I thought I would take a moment to share some of what I consider to be the values of Pencak Silat Pertempuran or Combat Silat.
Community and Family
For years I have been trying to get martial artists who want to come alongside and share and grow with each other. It started with an idea that I had a long time ago.
KELUARGA - For silat I started an event called Keluarga that was held yearly, with the hopes it would become quarterly or at least bi-annually. It's basically extinct at this point. The idea is still an ember but... The hope with Keluarga was that the community of pencak silat enthusiasts and Pencak Silat Pertempuran participants would partake. People of different disciplines of pencak silat, would gather to share and build community, supporting each other. Basically, to do what no other silat teachers in the U.S. have done, or even tried to do. This has not been successful—Mostly, I think, because of how it was initially conceived. I am looking at ways to make this happen again.
SILATNOW! ezine was another attempt I took to develop community within pencak silat, create awareness of other systems that exist within the US and elsewhere, and generally start silat community. It worked for awhile but was not sustainable long-term by myself, and the community didn't seem all that interested so, though I've gotten lots of positive feedback on it, people generally thought it was good but not worth contributing to. That makes for a pretty rapid decline of good articles.
Pencak Silat Pertempuran (PSP)—Even PSP itself was meant to be community led and community developed. Something where the leaders of PSP would meet to discuss methods of teaching, drills, techniques, etc. whatever makes it better, in an open forum scenario. I had always thought that Keluarga would be that place where the leaders would gather as part of the whole thing, but that requires leaders/teachers. I only have three at this point. It's a start but it's not there yet.
I have not been good at fostering this. My own life is chaotic at best and I haven't been able to invest the time into making this happen. I threaten to but haven't yet been very successful at it despite my best threats to the contrary.
The primary reason that I make DVD's, Books, and the distance program is to give everyone who is interested, an opportunity to learn pencak silat. It has changed my life and given me so much that it seemed like the obvious right thing to do—to give it back.
This also hasn’t been extremely successful.
Unfortunately, this has been misread by a lot of people as being a business. A money making venture. Let me assure you that’s not the case. Even after years of DVD, book sales, and sixty or seventy people who have joined the distance program, it hasn’t even begun to pan out financially for all of the investment of time, energy and money—Not to mention the impact and time away from family, friends, etc. Even so, I’ll continue to make it available in the hopes that someday I’ll reach the few who truly understand this effective, personal, and simple system.
Even my best efforts at this are criticized by people. That's unfortunate and honestly, a little annoying given what I know I’ve given to make the material available. The countless nights staying up until one or two a.m. and then turning around and going to my full time job.
All that said, I would do it over if I thought people were getting value from it—even a glimpse of what I have seen.
It has long been my goal to train and teach martial arts that are effective for personal safety and the safety of my loved ones and those unable to protect themselves. In that regard, I've hoped to pass that effectiveness to my students. To make it effective, it has long been my experience that less is more. Especially after having studied many different systems of martial arts to include some of Malay, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Korean heritage along with military combatives. I’ve worked hard to reduce Pencak Silat Pertempuran to the universal elements of combat and ensure that those elements are effective for everybody that studies. Of course, these are my personal interpretations of what they are but it falls to the individual to pursue them.
PSP is founded on the idea that silat and martial arts does not need to be complex or complicated. In fact, the best and most efficient things are often the most simple. As a result, PSP was created out of that idea. Unfortunately, evidence that the simplicity of PSP has been communicated adequately doesn't exist.
I created the books and DVD’s with the intent of teaching lower level silat skills in a methodical way so that a person could easily learn if they used both together. Combined with periodic in person training they could move reasonably well through the system. I know it can be done. It requires regular training partners and a commitment to learning and seeking out answers rather than accepting doubts. People have, in turn, mistook the simple presentation and simple ideas on the DVD’s as the end result—thereby overlooking the beauty of the system.
PSP is literally seven gerak and one langkah presented over and over to produce a system of great depth for a student to include empty-hand, ground fighting, and various weapons. In fact, the weapons the individual finds interesting.
Pencak Silat Pertempuran was created with the intention that ALL people could be challenged by the study of it and that they could find their own path from within the study. Unfortunately, many who have studied have misunderstood this aspect and felt that they should mimmic the fundamentals of the system. For personal study a consistent foundation is necessary, but only if it provides you a personal system that you can adopt and adapt as your own.
Understanding the Combat Relationship
To me, this is the difference between a martial artist who can be adaptable and those who get stuck as soon as what’s happening doesn’t match their technique training. This is why so many people feel that sparring is the answer and that if it doesn’t work in sparring—then it doesn’t work. The reality is, that in most systems, there is a sizable gap between the techniques and training in class, the drills they may learn, and the actual application.
The goal then of PSP has been to teach that relationship component from the start. There is very little solo practice within PSP as a result. However, the basic level of the drills demonstrated on the DVD’s has led people to assume, those basic drills were as deep or as wide as they got. That’s not even remotely true. This is where time with me as an instructor is most valuable.
Understanding Attribute Development
Again, one of the primary differences of viewpoint within PSP from many other arts, in my opinion at least, is that I really want people to exam themselves, their abilities, etc. and determine what they naturally have to offer. Don’t look to me or PSP to make you taller or smarter but I can teach you to have better reach and be more wise, if you are willing.
Attributes can often be the game changer in combat or fighting and you must be able to evaluate quickly and assess tactically what your options are. You cannot formulate a game plan against someone else, whether it be based on their physical attributes, mental attributes, spiritual attributes, or environmental attributes if you don't train yourself to recognize them in you and around you on a day to day basis.
PSP is designed so that you can develop some attributes like timing, balance, grace, quickness, reach, offensive mindset, adaptability, coordination, targeting, relaxation, etc.
PSP does not want you to think about developing equal skills for left and right sides. That’s not what it’s about. We do things on left and right sides so that people who are left handed or right handed can have a home in PSP. In reality, what you are most comfortable with is going to be more easily learned, practiced and employed. You are most likely to put the knife in your right hand if you are right handed. Don’t waste time trying to become a left handed knife fighter! Embrace yourself and exploit your natural talent above all else.
A lot of martial artists don't understand this. They think the “pencak” is a waste of time. Yet 90% or more have never even been in a fight of any kind. Furthermore, they don't understand the value of developing beauty. In PSP, I hope that eventually people will begin to see that value of developing the pencak side of silat. It is such a good way to develop attributes of body awareness, of finesse, and of fine motor control. To me, there is no silat without pencak.
As a result, the Pencak Silat Pertempuran teaching of the past 15 years is being revised. New materials are on their way but more specifically a new method of teaching much of the same material.
So ask yourself is the system of martial art you train effective, simple, and personal? I'd be happy to hear your thoughts.