Pentjak Silat

What is Pentjak Silat?

Bukti Negara

A modified variation of the Sera style, designed by the current lineage holder Paul de Thouars.

Pencak silat is an umbrella term used for the variant styles of silat from Indonesia to differentiate Indonesian styles from Malaysian Silat Melayu. It is also spelled penchak silat or pentjak silat.

Silat is a collective word for indigenous martial arts of the Malay Archipelago of Southeast Asia. Originally created and developed in Sumatera Island and Java in what is now Indonesia, then spread to peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand and Singapore, silat was also traditionally practiced in Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines. As a result, it is closely related to other Southeast Asian martial arts including krabi krabong and eskrima. Practitioners are called pesilat. The Chinese fusion of silat is known as kuntao.

There are hundreds of different styles but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, bladed weapons, throws, animal-based techniques, or some combination thereof.


A silat exponent in Indonesia.

Fighting arts in the Malay Peninsula and Malay Archipelago arose out of hunting methods and military training by the region’s native inhabitants. The descendents of former headhunters still perform ancient wardances which are considered the precursor of the freestyle form in silat. While these aborigines retained their tribal way of life, the Indon-Malay diaspora instead based their culture on China and India. By adopting the Indian faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism, their social structure became more organised. Evidence shows that silat was influenced by both Chinese and Indian martial arts. Many of the region’s medicinal practices and weapons originated in either India or China, and silat’s thigh-slapping actions are reminiscent of Hindu wrestling. The Chinese community also practiced their own localised martial arts known as kuntao, which both influenced and borrowed from silat.

Although numerous myths attempt to explain the institutionalisation of silat, most of them concern only a specific style. The earliest evidence of silat taught in its present form is found in Sumatra where, according to local legend, a woman based her combat system on the movements of animals that she had seen fighting. Masters still believe that the first styles of silat were created by observing animals, and these styles were probably derived from animal-based Indian martial arts.

In the fifth or 6th century, pre-determined sets are said to have been introduced by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who came from India to Southeast Asia via the Sumatra-based kingdom of Srivijaya in Palembang. Through this connection, silat is also used as a method of spiritual training in addition to self-defense.

Silat was eventually used by the defence forces of Langkasuka, Champa, Srivijaya, Beruas, Melaka, Makasar, Aceh, Majapahit, Gangga Negara, Pattani and other kingdoms in Southeast Asia Except for generals and royalty, Indonesia-Malay warriors wore minimal armour, if any at all. A rattan shield, or a breastplate at most, was the only protective gear available to the average soldier. This may have been one of the reasons why the older styles relied more on agility than they do today. Despite the Hindu caste system which held sway in ancient times, silat was never confined to any particular social class or gender but was practiced by all without restrictions. Even today, it is often taught in families who have inherited cultural traditions such as woodcarving, dance, herbalism or the playing of musical instruments.

Southeast Asian trade had already extended into Okinawa and Japan by the 15th century. The number of Japanese people travelling the region increased after the Battle Of Sekigahara. By the early 17th century there were small Japanese communities living and trading in Indochina. Some arrived with the official red seal ships while others were warriors and pirates from the losing side of the Sekigahara war. Although mostly confined to Siam, some Japanese escaped to Cambodia and Indonesia after Ayutthaya was attacked by the Burmese. Silat shares many similarities with Okinawan karate as well as the throws and stances of weapon-based Japanese martial arts which probably date back to this time. Trade with Japan ended when the country went into self-imposed isolation but resumed during the Meiji era, during which time certain areas of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore became home to a small Japanese population. After the Japanese Occupation, some silat masters incorporated the katana into their styles.

Since the Islamisation movement of the 1980s and 90s, there have been attempts to make silat more compliant with Islamic principles. It is now illegal for Muslim practitioners in Malaysia to chant mantera, bow to idols, practice traditional meditation, or attempt to acquire supernatural powers. This has given rise to various misconceptions that silat is inherently Muslim or can only be practiced by followers of the Islamic faith. In actuality silat has existed long before Islam was introduced to Southeast Asia and is still practiced by non-Muslims. The Hindu-Buddhist and animistic roots of the art were never eradicated, and remain very evident even among Muslim practitioners of traditional styles. Some of these old methods have been lost after silat masters in pre-dominantly Muslim areas could no longer teach them, but others still endure among conservative training schools in Indonesia and Thailand.

Pentjak Silat is the romanized form of the concept for “stylized lightning motion.” At its roots are the preservation of the self through the harmonious movements of redirection and deflection of movement, force and energy.
A true master of Pentjak Silat practices the ability to ward-off attack through the redirection of energy in and around his/her immediate environment. This takes a few years to develop and requires the help of a master. An apprentice is usually brought into the fold and taught as a member of the family. In this manner the information and training is passed on from generation to generation. Entire Pentjak Silat societies were formed and from these societies a culture was developed. It is accepted that the West Javanese Pentjak Silat style reached a level unsurpassed in the islands and became the model for other styles to mold themselves after.

Pentjak Silat Serak

 ”Pentjak” roughly translates as, “choreographed movement.” “Silat” means, “fight.” Pentjak Silat, then, means, “choreography for fighting.”

Pentjak without the Silat would be dancing. Silat without the Pentjak would be brawling.

Pentjak Silat comes from Indonesia, home to 4000 islands, the world’s fourth largest population (200 million), 300 dialects, all major religions, and a rich history of high culture and constant tumult.

Indonesia has long been a proving ground for many of the prominent Indian, Chinese, and Indonesian systems that have survived the test of conflict. The island of Java is home to over 120 million people. This region has been a terrific breeding ground for realistic combative systems since pre-history. There are over 400 styles of Pentjak Silat currently practiced, and many of the earliest and most sophisticated come from Java.

Pentjak Silat Serak

The founder/creator of this formidable system was nicknamed “Pak Sera,” and had the unique attributes of one arm ending at the elbow, and a clubbed foot. Versed in 9 different arts, 3 Chinese, 3 Indian, and 3 Indonesian, he created a system with a technical base tuned to his unique physiology that allowed him, and later his students, to effectively counter the dominant combatives of the region. The result was a system that allowed for maximal effectiveness with minimal athleticism. Serak? was formulated in the early 1800′s in West Java, and was selectively taught to Dutch Indonesian people of privilege prior to WWII.

Our curriculum consists of the following:

  • History & Culture
  • Martial Philosophy
  • jurus – Upper Body Forms
  • Langkas – Footwork Patterns
  • Tendjeks – Striking Techniques
  • Sambuts – Take Down Techniques
  • Sambutan – Technique Counters
  • Sensory Training

A great deal of what we do can be practiced almost anywhere as solo activity. These develop muscle memory, correct body mechanics, strength, breathing, and visualization skills.

Our class environment is somewhat academic. We focus on the understanding of movement and development of muscle memory first, and develop sensory training separately. For this reason, and because our techniques can be very dangerous, we do not spar. The degree of physical exertion varies based on the goals and capability of each individual. Our classes do not demand high physical exertion, which makes us ideal for anyone. In fact, we believe that this is an art that will grow with you as you age.

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