Despite the fact that the sport now has roots in 40 countries around the world, pencak silat, a traditional martial art, is dying a slow death in its homeland: Indonesia.
Eddie Marzoeki Nalapraya, known as the country’s father of pencak silat development, expressed hope that the government would provide financial support to rejuvenate the neglected discipline.
“It is about time we received support as we’ve been building padepokan [pencak silat facilities] for the past 30 years without any assistance from the government,” Eddie said at a media conference to announce the 14th Pencak Silat World Championship to be hosted from Dec. 12 to 17 at Padepokan Pencak Silat Indonesia in East Jakarta.
There are hundreds of pencak silat schools scattered around the archipelago, but less than 30 padepokan are qualified to hold training sessions.
“Supporting pencak silat means both developing the sport and also preserving our culture,” Eddie said, adding that he was concerned about the Korean government’s involvement in developing taekwondo in Indonesia.
“The Korean government and Korean companies are involved in building a taekwondo hall at an Islamic boarding school in Sawangan [West Java]. They even hired a Korean taekwondo coach,” he said.
Eddie retired as chairman position of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI) in 2003, after 22 years at the helm. Although not an athlete himself, Eddie was the founder of PERSILAT — the International Pencak Silat Federation —in 1981. It now has 40 countries as members.
Through the federation, Eddie popularized pencak silat at the international level by sending pencak silat coaches to teach in places such as Vietnam, Iran, Yemen, Turkey and Russia.
As countries such as Vietnam begin to master the sport, Indonesian fighters are starting to perform poorly in international competitions. At the 2009 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Laos, Indonesian pencak silat fighters bagged only two gold medals, while Vietnam pocketed six. Pencak silat has featured at the SEA Games since 1987.
IPSI chairman Prabowo Subianto acknowledged that despite Indonesia’s hopes of becoming overall champions at the upcoming World Championship, their chances would be slimmer than in 2000, when the event was last hosted here.
Indonesia will have 28 fighters in the championships, which will feature a total of 425 athletes from 32 countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, India, Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, Russia, Germany, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
“We still wish be overall champions, but it is not a rigid target as other countries are also highly motivated [to win this event],” Prabowo said.
By AGNES WINARTI
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