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Indonesian Pencak Silat

Pencak Silat is the official name used it to describe more than 800 styles of martial arts from various schools in the 13,000 islands around Indonesia. The main styles of Silat came from West Sumatra and West Java. from there they spread throughout the rest of the islands.

In the island of Java especially in west Java and in central Java you can find hundreds of styles. Among them the most popular are Betawee (a very aggressive style based on striking) from Jakarta and from west and central Java the styles of Cimande (a flowing hard, fast hand style) , Cikalon and Sambot.

In Sumatra you can find many styles, a large number of which are based on ground fighting due to the mountainous nature of the terrain; The most important area for martial arts is West Sumatra where the Minangkabao warriors lived. The most famous style by far is the Harimau or tiger style.

Within the Harimau style there are 5 different sub-systems:

  • Harimau Pasaman (Bariguin Sakti is one of the most famous Harimau Pasaman styles)
  • Harimau Singgalang (a blend of Harimau Pariyaman and Harimau Pesisir)
  • Harimau Solok
  • Harimau Pesisir
  • Harimau Pariyaman

Other ground styles are Cuchin(cat), Ulua(sneak)and the rare Buayo style (crocodile) from the Bayong village in the Painan region of Pesesir Other famous styles in West Sumatra are Silek Duo, Sunua and Bayang among many others. In the island of Bali you can find the Bakti Negara style created by four Pendekars who were veterans of the struggle against the Dutch for Indonesian freedom.

Another aspect of Silat is the development of inner power and magic. Each Pendekar knows a number of different secret skills and some of these are very deadly.

Pencak Silat is considered a hybrid martial art. Each style contains different techniques with emphasis on different fighting strategies; The richness of the hundreds of styles make the art full of tricks and each style has unique footwork. Many times some styles are kept secret and only passed on to family members.

Silat is an important part of the lives of Indonesian people. Weapons or empty hand techniques are practiced by the Pendekars every day. Music is another important part of Silat. Pendakars show villagers their fighting skills in a fluid, rhythmic dance accompanied by native instruments. Normally they practice outside, in contact with nature and this is the reason why many styles mimic and learn from wild animals.

The most amazing part of Pencak Silat is its philosophy. Respect is one of the most important qualities among practitioners. Each Pendekar knows what he knows and from this point learns and tries to develop further. When I was there I didn’t hear a bad word from any of my teachers towards other teachers. It is great to see that the human spirit still alive inside of the ancient art of Silat.