Silat-400x537Silat - Malaysia: meaning "to fight or to fight in self-defense" said to have developed based on human observation and imitation of animals including the monkey, eagle and tiger. Silat is a collective word for indigenous martial arts of the Indonesian Archipelago and Malay Peninsula of Southeast Asia. Originally developed in what are now Indonesia, peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand and Singapore, it is also traditionally practiced in Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.

There are hundreds of different styles but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, throws, bladed weaponry, or some combination thereof. Silat is one of the sports included in the Southeast Asian Games and other region-wide competitions. Training halls are overseen by separate national organizations in each of the main countries the art is practiced. These are Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (IPSI) from Indonesia, Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia (PESAKA) from Malaysia, Persekutuan Silat Brunei Darussalam (PERSIB) from Brunei and Persekutuan Silat Singapura (PERSISI) from Singapore.

Silat practitioners begin and end each routine and practice session by saluting their teacher, partner or any spectators as a show of respect. The handsign used is dependent on style and lineage. The vast majority of silat exponents use the Hindu-Buddhist namaste in which the palms are pressed together at chest level. This represents the balance of two opposing forces such as light and dark or hard and soft. The head or upper body is usually bowed as a sign of humility. This was used as a greeting in ancient times, as can still be seen throughout much of Indochina, and until recent decades it was also a form of apology among Malays. The practical purpose of the salute is to trigger the proper state of mind for training or fighting. Additionally, it serves as a technique in itself to block attacks aimed at the face.

Some traditional Javanese schools use another handsign apparently borrowed from the Chinese in which the left hand clasps the right fist. In the context of silat, the fist symbolises martial skill while the opposite hand is a sign of courtesy and camaraderie. This is meant to convey mutual respect and shows that the fighters are willing to learn from each other. Like the namaste, it recalls the idea of duality. This concept is referred to as jantan betina (male-female) and is equivalent to the Chinese yin and yang. A few styles, such as silat Pattani, may have their own salutation unique to that particular system.

Every style of silat incorporates multi-level fighting stances (sikap pasang), or preset postures meant to provide the foundation for remaining stable while in motion. The horse stance (kekuda) is the most essential posture, common to many Asian martial arts. Beginners once had to practice this stance for long periods of time, sometimes as many as four hours, but today's practitioners train until it can be easily held for at least ten minutes. Stances are taught in tandem with langkah (lit. "step"), a set of structured steps. Langkah consist of basic footwork and kicks made to teach how best to move in a fight. The langkah kuching (cat step) and langkah lawan (warrior step) are among the more prominent examples of langkah. After becoming proficient at langkah, students learn footwork patterns or tapak ("sole") from which to apply fighting techniques. Each tapak takes account of not only the particular move being used but also the potential for change in each movement and action. Among the most common formations are tapak tiga, tapak empat and tapak lima. All together, the stances, langkah and tapak act as a basis for forms-training.

Forms or jurus are a series of prearranged meta-movements practiced as a single set. Their main function is to pass down all of a style's techniques and combat applications in an organised manner, as well as being a method of physical conditioning and public demonstration. While demonstrating a form, silat practitioners often use the open hand to slap parts of their own body such the shoulder, elbow, thigh or knee. This reminds the pesilat that when an opponent comes close there may be an opportunity to trap their attacking limbs. Aside from solo forms, they may also be performed with one or more partners. Choreographed forms pitting one fighter against several opponents are common in silat. Partnered forms are useful for teaching the application of techniques, particularly those attacks which are too dangerous to be used in a sparring match.

Tari ("dance") are freestyle forms which haven't been arranged beforehand but are created spontaneously. With a partner, tari is used as a way of sensitivity training similar to Chinese chi sao. The aesthetic aspect of forms is called flower (bunga) or art (seni) forms. They are performed in slow, graceful movements with a dance-like quality. Once the student has learned basic techniques, forms, and footwork, they are taught how to attack before being attacked, in self preservation. Silat exponents are entrusted to use their knowledge confidently in its rightful place and to ensure that their knowledge does not fall into the hands of the irresponsible.

Along with the human body, silat employs a wide variety of weapons. Prior to the introduction of firearms, weapons training was actually considered to be of greater value than unarmed techniques and even today many masters consider a student's training incomplete if they have not learned the use of weapons. Except for some weapon-based styles, students must generally achieve a certain degree of skill before being presented with a weapon which is traditionally made by the guru. This signifies the beginning of weapons-training. Among the hundreds of styles are dozens of weapons. The most commonly used are the kris (dagger), parang (machete), tongkat (walking stick) and sarong. The kris is accorded legendary status in Indon-Malay culture and is the primary weapon of most silat systems, although some styles prefer the stick for its versatility. Silat's traditional arsenal is largely made up of objects designed for domestic purposes such as the flute (seruling), rope (tali), sickle (sabit) and chain (rantai).

In silat culture, the energetic body consists of interlocking circles called cakera. The cakera's energy rotates outwards along diagonal lines. Energy that emits outwards from the centre line is defensive while offensive energy moves inwards from the sides of the body. By being aware of this, the silat practitioner can harmonise their movements with the cakera, thereby increasing the power and effectiveness of attacks. Energy could also be used for healing or focused into a single point when applied to sentuhan, the art of attacking an opponent's pressure points.


Below is a video about Silat from The History Channel TV Series Human Weapon  


Please refer to our references as we have used a few different sources for the basic explanation of each martial art discipline. Many of our direct links, images and text will be from the site Wikipedia which is not known for the most accurate information when it comes to doing a thesis or studying for ones P.H.D. but does have a large collection of data that is well organized. Much of the text regarding martial arts styles on Wikipedia seems to generally sum up each discipline as good as many other sources. We do not intend to re-invent the wheel, but we do want to roll you in a good direction in order to get a glimps of each style.