16 September 2009

Lightning fast, bone crushing Malay art of war!

Silat is often misunderstood as the Indonesian Martial Art. Maybe this is because most styles of Silat that reached the foreign shores are from Indonesia. We have the old styles like Harimau Minangkabau from Sumatra , Cimande from Java. American-based Silat bodies or styles like Serak from the De Thouars family and Mande Muda by the late Guru Herman Suwanda who had taken elements from more then 20 Indonesian Silat styles into his system. We have Maphilindo Silat by Guru Dan Inosanto combining Madjapahit, Indonesia and Philippines Silat styles into his system. The styles mentioned above are among the famous ones outside the countries of origin for Silat.

Looking at the countries of origin for Silat in South East Asia, Indonesia has more than 400 styles of Silat registered with the Indonesian Silat Federation (Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia), more than 250 styles likewise in Malaysia (Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia), 20 styles in Brunei (Persekutuan Silat Brunei) and 25 styles in Singapore (Persekutuan Silat Singapura). There are also Silat governing body in Mindanao, Philippines and Patani , Southern Thailand which can also be categorised as countries of origin.

The four National Silat Federation from the countries of origin formed the International Silat Federation (Persekutuan Silat Antarabangsa) or PERSILAT for short. Now Silat bodies from more than 25 countries around the World are affiliated to PERSILAT. Silat is not only Indonesian, but also belong to the Melayu in South East Asia. As a matter of fact, Silat is the art of war of the ancient Melayu empires.

The first Melayu empire was Kedah which was situated north on the west coast of the Melayu Peninsula (West Malaysia). The downfall of this first great Melayu empire saw the rise of the Sri Vijaya in Sumatera. Next was the Madjapahit empire in Jawa. After Madjapahit was Melaka which was also situated on the west coast of the Melayu Peninsula. Madjapahit and Melaka empires were so strong that the ancient nations of Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines and southern Thailand were under them.

Being the main centre of trade for the old India and China route has made the ancient Melayu empires the melting pots of Asian cultures. We have Indian , Chinese, Persians, Okinawans, Japanese and all South East Asian traders coming to the main cities of our ancient empires to trade their goods.

Being popular and rich also made the Melayu empires constant targets to foreign forces attacks. Melaka fought the Portuguese, Dutch and English for more than 150 years. The Indonesian faced the Dutch until the day of independence. The Southern Philippines fought the Spaniards and Americans in some great wars. These foreign forces were well equipped with sophisticated weapons and vehicles of war.

Despite of all these advantages, they had their biggest nightmares when they faced the pendekar (Malay warriors) .The pendekar fought the invaders using the ancient Malay art of war called SILAT!

The deadliest martial art?
Silat is often related to words like deadly , devastating or even savage by some people. But if you refer to history of the ancient Melayu empires which were under constant attack by the foreign forces, you will be able to understand why Silat were described using these extreme words!

When foreign forces attack your country, I am sure you will fight all out to defend your family and country honour! And this mean the fight to the death ! AMUK ! (The American army had to use bigger guns in the Philippines !)

The ancient Kedah empire were under constant attack from Siam (Thai). We fought them for more than 200 years. The arrivals of the Chinese and Indian traders brought along their martial arts together with the trading goods. Of course we had a fair amount of combat with these foreigners those days. We might have borrowed some of their fighting elements from them and vice versa.

Some Chinese arts were modified with Silat elements to be come South East Asian Arts and today are well known as Kuntau or Kuntaw. There are also claims that the Kuntaw is deadlier than Kung Fu!

In Malaysia Kuntaw is usually kown as SILAT KUNTAU. Popular Malaysian Kuntau styles are Kuntau Jawa, Kuntau tekpi and Kuntau Sendeng Silat.

The ancient Melaka empire fought the Portuguese, Dutch and English Armadas. The Dutch had bad times with the pendekars of Indonesia. Next came the Japanese in 1940's. We fought them in World War II together with the army of the Great British Empire. Unfortunately, fighting is the only way to solve problem does days and the Pendekars had a lot of practise throughout the centuries.

In modern times , we had genuine martial artists like the late Shihan Donn F. Draeger who travelled around the world to do research and write books on Asian martial arts. He came to Indonesia and Malaysia to meet and trained under several Silat Guru. With an impressive records of achievements in Japanese martial arts under his belt, Shihan Draeger considered Silat as one of world's deadliest fighting arts. We also have world famous martial artist like Guru Dan Inosanto making positive comments about Silat. Many are impressed with the nature of combat of this ancient Melayu art.

As a practitioner, I believe Silat is one of the world's most complete fighting art. It may not be the most effective martial art for all, but it is best for me. (I am short , fat and slow). It is a complete art. It is flexible, like air or water. Silat will fit into all combat environments and situations. Silat combat strategies and techniques are all about adaptations. Adapting to the surrounding environment and fight the opponents using concepts and techniques which is unusual or alien (if possible) to him.

Using the floor, the walls and whatever existing things around or with you to your opponent's disadvantage. When this happens, it is like having a live shark struggling to breath on land fighting you armed with one of the best weapons ever created by man!

Pentjak, Pencak, Seni or kali Silat?
The late Bruce Lee once said, "It is just a name. Don't fuss over it!" Don't get mixed up or confused with the four terms used before the word Silat. The word Pentjak and Pencak is the same. Pentjak is the spelling written by Shihan Draeger in his books. The Dutch Indonesian Silat practitioners also used this spelling for writing the name of their styles. Pencak is the actual spelling used by the Melayu language in Indonesia, Malaysia and the rest of the Silat world today.

Sometimes you can also find spelling like Penchak in old texts. Pencak, Penchak or Pentjak are the same. I don't blame the shihan at all for his spelling. He was foreigner trying his best to explore the art. I always give him credits for his effort. Pencak can be referred as combat strategies, philosophies , methods or even special tips to do Silat. It could be classified as the way or the art of.

Seni is the art of. Seni Silat is the art of Silat , which carries the same meaning as Pencak Silat. Seni is used by many practitioners in Malaysia, Singapura and Brunei to describe their versions of Silat. Pencak Silat is actually Indonesian. However, Pencak and seni reflects the same thing.

Kali is referred to as the Filipino version of Silat from the island of Mindanao, Philippines by American Martial arts experts. I do not know the meaning of Kali in Filipino language, but in the Melayu language Kali means river (flowing like a river). This is a unique concept of fighting! To flow like a river when you fight. Remember as mention earlier Silat is like air or water. It will adapt or take shape into whatever container or environment at that particular time and situation.

During my last visit to Mindanao, I found out that the native martial arts is called Silat , not Kali silat. When I mentioned Arnis or Eskrima, they know it. Unfortunately, when I mentioned Kali nobody knows! They call their martial arts Silat . However , it was a very short visit for any quality research.

Another term used by several martial arts writers is Bersilat for Malaysian Silat. Sorry , I must highlight that this is a mini mistake. Bersilat is to do Silat . It can also be used as Berseni silat or berpencak Silat which can roughly be translated as to do the art of Silat! Please stop using Bersilat to describe Malaysian Silat.

Silat is the combative characteristics of fighting (Melayu version of course). There are many theories about the origin of this word. However, I find one most popular among the old gurus which I have been with. Silat is short for SIKILAT or THE LIGHTNING! The Silat practitioner must be bright (smart). Beautiful and graceful movements like the lightning in the sky. His moves must be fast , deadly and elusive like the lightning! You can feel it's presence, but you do not know where it comes from.

Lightning is so fast and once struck an object it destroys. Since majority Silat style are taught by Muslim Gurus, the lightning is believe to be the angels weapon to punish the Satan. So Silat is against evil!

Jak, Silat, UK & Ireland
Silat has been in the UK for more than 15 years . I am sure there are more Gurus before me teaching in this country behind close doors. A good example will be the Guru of Nottingham's journalist/ silat practitioner Chris Parker. During the 80's , I was promoting a style of Silat from Kedah origin called Pancasila Gayong Harimau Silat. The art of war of the pendekar from the ancient Kedah empire was used for more than 200 years to fight Siam (Thailand). This Keris (Melayu dagger) based art has my qualified representatives / instructors in England and Ireland. Jurulatih (Instructor) Clive Larnder, Richard Lloyd and Alex Tarling are qualified instructors in England. Jurulatih Liam MacDonald is the man in Ireland.

I am now promoting my family system called Harimau Berantai Pencak Silat throughout the country. By March 2002, United Kingdom and Ireland will have it's own representatives of this Jawa Silat style.

I am a bit concern about an article by Mr. Glenn Lobo's student in Fighters January 2001. The writer claimed that his Guru (Mr Lobo) is teaching knife fighting techniques from Seni Silat Gayong as taught by me. Actually, I never thought Mr. Lobo Seni Silat Gayong, but Pancasila Gayong Harimau Silat. Seni Gayong is another famous silat style from Malaysia. Mr. Lobo was one of my Pancasila Gayong Harimau Silat students , but not a qualified representative or instructor. He is a qualified instructor of another famous Malaysian Silat style called Seni Silat Lincah. Guru Lobo is now heading the Seni Silat Lincah for UK and Europe for the Mahaguru (grandmaster) in Malaysia.

We also have Ajar ajar (Guru) Megat Ainuddin teaching his family system called Silat Penjurit in Manchester. Sifu Steve Powell of Jeet Kune Do and Sifu Karl Tanswell of Defence Unlimited are among experts who helped promote this style of silat during the late 80's. This is the style practised by one of most respected pendekar of the past Pendekar Megat Terawis.

Pendekar Richard De Bordes of Palero Beringin Sakti Pencak Silat has his own organisation in the UK and Ireland. Pendekar William Saunders of Pukulan Cimande Pusaka Pencak Silat from the USA has a representative in Ireland. Guru Liam Mac Donald is his representative in Ireland and Europe.

Another Malaysian silat master, Guru Yeop Ariffin is in London teaching Silat Haqq Melayu. We have the British Silat organisation and Silat Association of United Kingdom with several silat styles in it. The most recent introductorion of silat into the UK was by Sifu Nigel Sutton of Zhong Ding traditional Chinese Martial Arts Association who is now a qualified instructor in Lian Padukan Silat and Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 from Malaysia.

And of course we have the Jeet Kune Do groups in the UK and Ireland which practise Silat styles like Serak, Bukti Negara, Mande Muda, Buka Jalan and Maphilindo Silat direct from the USA.

If I missed out some names, no hard feelings please. Anyway, you readers can browse the internet for more information on silat styles and Gurus in the UK and Ireland. You can visit me at www.jakothmansilat.com.

For those who has been working so hard to promote Silat in the UK and Ireland, I salute them. Lets drop the politics, cut the crap and be a true silat practitioners. Brotherhood is most important in Silat.

For those who came to my seminars this July 2001, I wish everyone good luck and enjoy exploring Silat. For those taking up the apprentice instructor's course work hard because you must be up to standard to qualify in March 2002. For those who missed the seminar, we had a great time working on Pukulan (striking arts) and Kuncian (grappling arts) of Harimau Berantai Pencak Silat. Knife fighting and sarong tie up and manipulations were also introduced in these seminars.

The next seminar tour will be more exciting, I look forward to see more British and Irish people in October 2001. I shall be promoting Silat in Cardif , Wales for the first time this October. Other confirmed locations will be Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton, Essex, Dublin and Glasgow.

By Jak Othman
Sourced from


jin cheng said...

Silat is just a copycat of Kung Fu. Period. Bunch of Malay copycats who can only steal other people's culture. Fucking Malays fuck off.

Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

All modern knowledge is dependent upon prior knowledge for its existence. As such, to claim that one's knowledge is unique and was born of no beginning is foolish.

Karate was born of Shaolin arts, which in turn was born of Indian arts. Have the Indians claimed Kung Fu as their own then?

Silat, too have been influenced by other martial cultures, 'Kung Fu' included. In Malaysia, according to Sifu Nigel Sutton, some Chinese styles have also been influenced by Silat.

I have approved your comment because (even though your nickname does not exist) I want everyone who has the same opinion to know that it has very little basis.