|Also known as||Pencak Silat, Pentjak Silat, Penchak Silat (among French practitioners)|
|Style||kicking, striking, locking, weapons|
|Country of origin||Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore|
Pencak Silat or Silat ("fighting by using techniques of self-defense") is a Southeast Asian martial art with roots in the culture of the Malay World. This art is widely known in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines but can also be found in varying degrees among the Malay-affiliated communities in Thailand and Cambodia. The art has also reached Europe, and is especially popular in the Netherlands, where it is as popular as karate is in the United States. It is estimated that there are hundreds of aliran (styles) and thousands of schools. Many of the aliran find their origin in the observation of wild animals fighting. "Harimau" (Tiger) and "Elang" (Eagle) are some examples.
There are four main aspects to pencak silat:
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- Mental and spiritual:
- Pencak silat aims to build and develop personality and noble character. One must use their training to focus their mental and spiritual energies during combat situations or dangerous emergencies.
- Self-confidence skills and perseverance skills are very important. Without them, your skills are reduced.
- Culture and art:
- Culture and performing the "art" of pencak silat is very important. This combines Pencak Silat with traditional music and costumes.
- This means that the physical aspect of pencak silat is important. We try to have a sound mind in a sound body. Competitions and intense training are part of this aspect.
- There are full-contact matches, as well as form demonstrations, for single, double or teamed.
To be simplified, seni silat or pencak silat are based on four parts:
- Self defense
The styles and schools of pencak silat differ from each other with regard to which aspects are emphasized. It is thanks to the sport and self-defense aspects that this sport has become popular in Europe (to give evidence of this, the character of Ulrich Stern from Code Lyoko practices the art on occasion, and utilizes his skills in battle). However, many believe the essence of pencak silat is lost, or watered down, when converted to a sport and therefore still focuses on traditional or spiritual forms of Silat, not strictly following the PERSILAT way.
Pencak silat is a system that consists of sikap-sikap or kuda-kuda (positions) and gerak-geri (movements). When pesilat (silat practitioners) are moving (when fighting) these sikap and gerak-geri change continuously. As soon as one finds an opening in their opponent's defense, they will try to finish the opponent with a fast serangan (attack).
Pencak silat has a wide variety of defense and attacking techniques. Practitioners may use hands, elbows, arms, legs, knees and feet in attacks. Common techniques include kicking, hitting, tripping, sweeps, locks, takedowns, throws, strangles, and joint breaking.
The pesilat, or silat practitioner, practices with djurus - a series of meta-movements for the upper body used as a guide to learn the applications, or buah, when done with a partner. The use of langkah (steps), or lower body meta movements teach the use of footwork. When combined, it is dasar pasang, or whole body flow. This is common to most Asian martial arts and called kata in Japanese.
Pencak silat has developed rapidly during the twentieth century and has become a competition sport under the PERSILAT rules and regulations. At the moment pencak silat is being promoted by PERSILAT in several countries. The goal of PERSILAT is to make pencak silat an olympic sport. Apart from the official PERSILAT line of making Pencak Silat a competition sport, there are still many traditional styles practicing old forms of Silek and Silat.
Weapons in silat
Along with the human body, silat employs the usage of several martial arts weapons. Among the hundreds of styles are dozens of weapons. Listed here are a few examples.
- Keris (dagger): The preferred weapon of most pesilat and found throughout the Malay archipelago. Some were said to grant the user supernatural powers. Ceremonial ones are still worn by politicians on certain occasions.
- Pedang (sword): The double-edged sword was probably based on the Chinese jian and is found around most of the archipelago. The single-edge is also used but not as often as similar styles like Krabi Krabong.
- Parang (broadsword/machete): With a design typical of Asian broadswords, it is one of the most common weapons in silat. Not only was the broadsword popular among the military but also with commoners who would wield machetes used for daily tasks as weapons.
- Lembing (spear): An old weapon which sometimes had red or white horse hair attached near the blade. Used similarly to yarijutsu.
- Stick: Easily accessible and usually about the same height as the user. Some Malaysian styles use strong wooden poles which were supposed to be harder to cut with a blade. Sticks could also be made of bamboo which allows faster movements.
- Chinese sword: An early Chinese import which could be used either singly or in a pair.
- Kipas (fan): The Chinese fan could be made of bamboo, wood or iron. Its use is similar to tessenjutsu.
- Tjabang (three-pronged fork): A farmer's implement popularly used as a weapon. It has been hypothesized that the fork originally came from India and that it spread to places like Okinawa through South-East Asian traders. This would explain silat's resemblance to saijutsu.
- Kelabit (claw): A small claw worn on the hand. Easily concealed and preferred by women.
- Japanese sword: Used in some Indonesian styles, it probably came to the South-East Asia in the 1700s or during an earlier period.
There are a number of legends of how silat was created but only one has any historical significance. The story tells of a Sumatran woman who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a very large bird while fetching water from a well. Both animals, unfortunately, died in the fight. The woman's angry husband came to scold her for her tardiness but she blocked all of his attacks, remembering the movements of the fighting animals that she saw earlier. The couple later formulized the art and founded the first style of silat (sometimes said to have been Silat Harimau). However true this story is, archeological evidence shows that silat was indeed created in Sumatra and flourished after it spread to Java.
Java was an important centre for education and religion, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. It attracted monks and learned men from various parts of South-East Asia. The influences from their martial arts can be seen in silat's similarity to Krabi Krabong from Thailand and Banshay from Myanmar. In addition to this, Southeast Asia has always been an important area for traders from India and China. People from these two lands had long been settled in the region and provided the basis for local culture, including martial arts. Indian martial arts had an impact on Southeast Asian styles, evident from the use of silambam staffs and the thigh-slapping found in many forms of silat which is reminiscent of Hindu wrestling for example. Bas-reliefs in Srivijaya which clearly illustrate warriors wielding weapons such as the Chinese double-edged sword also suggest a strong Chinese influence.
By the early 1300s, silat was already highly refined. Besides the similarities to martial arts from China, India and other Southeast Asian nations, silat also bears a resemblance to karate and Japanese weapon arts, such as tessenjutsu and bojutsu. This is a result of early Okinawan trade with Souteast Asia, especially Java and Melaka. It is possible that silat may have influenced karate. After Dutch colonization, silat was brought to Netherlands by Indonesian immigrants. From there it spread to other parts of Europe to eventually become as popular as it is today.
PERSILAT (Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa, the International Pencak Silat Federation) is promoting pencak silat as an international competition sport. Only members recognised by PERSILAT are allowed to participate at international competitions.
At the moment some European national pencak silat federations together with PERSILAT have founded a European Pencak Silat Federation.
In 1986, the first Pencak Silat World Championship outside of Asia took place in Vienna, Austria.
In 2002, pencak silat was introduced as part of the exhibition programme at the Asian Games in Busan Korea for the first time. However this was not a part of the official programm, 2 referee's from Europe (Remco Doorn and Eric Bovelander) are present on invitation by the organizing comitee. This was to show the level of quality outside the asian area, and also to show the globalisation of Pencak Silat as a sport.
The last World Championships took place in Singapore in December 2004.
Terms in pencak silat
- Bersilat is the word given to the act of practicing silat.
- Berpencak is the word given to the act of two pesilat in combat situation.
- Pentjak is the old Indonesian spelling of the word pencak.
- Another alternate spelling of pencak is the phonetic penchak (commonly used by French practitioners).
Silat in popular culture
- Ulrich Stern (Code Lyoko)
- Yumi Ishiyama (Code Lyoko)
- Elisabeth Delmas (Code Lyoko)
- Commander Alex Michaels and Toni Fiorelli/Michaels, both characters from Net Force, by Tom Clancy.
- Baraka (Mortal Kombat)
- Jetta Maxx (Eternal Champions)
- Foxy Roxy (Brutal: Paws of Fury)
- Prometheus (DC Comics)
- Scout Cassie Suthorn (Battletech seventeenth Recon Regiment)
- King Mob (comics) (Invisibles)
- Jolly Roger (Invisibles)
- The fictional martial art Teräs Käsi from the Star Wars Expanded Universe is based on silat. Teräs Käsi was created by author Steve Perry, who is a practitioner of Silat.
- The fictional martial art Sumito from The Matador book series was based on silat. Like Teräs Käsi above, Sumito was created by Steve Perry.
- Indonesia Pencak Silat Community
- Silat in Malaysia
- Pencak Silat Malaysia- Clubs, Events, News, forums and directories
- Pentjak Silat
- Suwanda Academy in Indonesia
- Silat Kuntau Tekpi
- Dharma Nusantara Silat Australia