In ancient times, Silat was as much a part of Melayu culture as any other form of education and prepared young men for adulthood. Because of this, there is a strong emphasis in this art on self-defence. However, war was not always on the Melayu mind.
Silat sits at the nexus between all aspect of Melayu culture. A true pendekar (warrior) will often have an artistic soul and cultivate interests in cultural fields such as keris metalwork, woodcraft, traditional dancing, Melayu dress, medicine, music and many more. Because of this, Silat still plays an important role in the lives of thousands of people across the Melayu world particularly with the rural village dwellers practising and making it part of their daily routines.
These pendekar were synonymous with the local medicine man, religious teacher or blacksmith, indicating society’s regard for such people of knowledge. Usually, a pendekar can also play traditional musical instruments such as the serunai, gendang ibu, gendang anak and gong, which normally accompanies silat dance performances.
Performances are still held during wedding ceremonies, festivals, or official celebrations. In such occasions, it is known as Pulut, referring to the sticky, glutinous rice that is often eaten at Melayu parties and wedding receptions.
Silat has a strong influence of learning from the environment. Many of the movements will reflect animals that you will find in nature more so than some of the other martial arts. One of the most important animals to them was the tiger, being seen by the culture as a symbol of strength and power. Thus, one will find movements in Silat to be explosive and aggressive bursts of attacks.
Outside factors that influenced the growth of Silat Melayu in Malaysia includes those from the islands of Sumatera and Jawa. Aspects of this can be seen in the clothing fashions, terminology of the movements, spiritual practises and the music that accompanies the wardances. In spite of this, the traditional concept of Silat Melayu remains unique and preserved.
Although silat techniques vary between one style and another, the cultural reality remains, that the applications of the body such as the fist, feet, knees, elbows and traditional weaponplay were similar if not identical. A particular style could be identified from their salutations and wardances.
Personal Development & Spirituality
Silat exponents are trained from a tender age to take advantage of the agility and 'moldability' of a young body and mind. Trainees are whipped into shape through several years of tough training. The rigorous and back-breaking routine ensures physical resilience, stamina and agility.
To complete the balance, mental and spiritual self-discipline, based on Islamic teachings, is developed. You might ask what martial art has in common with spirituality, and the answer is simple - the stronger you are, the more peaceful and the better you know how to gain freedom and maintain it.
Most probably, other then the practice of spiritual matters, it is their inherent and intimate knowledge of the body structure and parts, veins and arteries, the body movements, even psychology, and to use all this knowledge in perfecting their art of self-defence, which made them invincible.
Every pesilat nurtures a similar ambition, to one day become a Pendekar. A Pendekar is not simply an expert in the combat arts of silat, but is also able to master its spiritual and medicinal aspects. The mind of a Pendekar is like the wind. Its presence can be detected, but cannot be directly observed. His wisdom creates situations that makes his opponents lose their focus, thus incapable of anticipating his actions.
A pendekar is like a teacher. He is qualified to teach his students and may authorise any loyal disciples in the various branches of knowledge that he had acquired during his lifetime.
However, to achieve the status of the Pendekar requires perseverance. Without years of immense courage and incalculable effort, all his works could be for naught. Alternatively, this could also depend on their talents of mastery. Last to master means last to succeed.
This article was edited by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab from various internet sources for publication in the World Silat Championship 2007 souvenir book. For a full list of the above sources, please email webmaster [at] silatmelayu.com