JAKARTA (JP): Spain is known in athletic circles for its soccer team and tennis players, so it is a bit strange to see the country competing in the 2000 Pencak Silat World Championship being held at the Pencak Silat Center in Taman Mini Indonesian Indah in East Jakarta.
However, Spain has set a target of bringing home a gold medal from the biennial event, being held from Tuesday to Monday.
"Txema Goiri Sanchoyerto and Ibon Perez Fernandez are expected to grab gold in the men's martial arts doubles event. We also hope for another gold, but I'm still not sure from which event," Spain's team manager, Hector Bordegarai, told The Jakarta Post.
"We are concentrating more on the martial arts because we rarely practice the fighting events back home. However, we are expecting one bronze from the fighting events."
Spain has sent 18 athletes and three officials to the championship.
Bordegarai said Spain first encountered pencak silat some 20 years ago.
"Pencak silat was brought to Spain by Bapak Juan some 20 years ago. He is a master of the Pendekar Suci school who learned silat some 40 years ago," he said, referring to Juan Ignacio Barrenechea, the current president of the Spanish Pencak Silat Federation.
"Currently we have about 2,000 people practicing pencak silat and the number is increasing every day. Most of our members are university students, and mainly are in northern Spain," he said.
Bordegarai said most people in Spain who encountered pencak silat ended up as long-term adherents of the discipline.
"For us, pencak silat is more than just a sport. It's more like a cultural movement where we can develop not only our physical, but also our spiritual sides.
"That's why we concentrate on martial arts because we can fully explore the skills and techniques of pencak silat," he said.
For the Spaniards, coming to Indonesia is an achievement as the trip allows them to practice pencak silat in the sport's home.
"Pencak silat allows us to have a cultural exchange by practicing it together with people here. We trained together with local fighters in Surakarta and Yogyakarta before the championship.
"We even visited Prince Mangkunegoro X because his father, Mangkunegoro IX, was a friend of Bapak Juan," Bordegarai said.
In a country known for soccer, bull fighting and the flamenco, pencak silat is less well known, but the federation has taken up a campaign to spread the word about the sport.
"The team had a television interview before coming here and are slated for radio talk shows upon its return home. We hope it will boost the popularity of pencak silat back home," Bordegarai said.
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