Commonalitites and a General Definition

Discussion in 'Silat' started by Monyet Nakal, Apr 13, 2007.

  1. Monyet Nakal

    Monyet Nakal Valued Member

    A couple of threads recently have contained comments that has brought this question up in my mind and I thought that this place was as great a location as any to get some good ideas and maybe even a consensus since it is generally the most diverse, knowledgeable and open minded forum on the subject that I have access to.

    I'm sure we've all been asked "What is silat?" many times by folks and stumbled and fumbled for a concise, easily-grasped descriptive explanation. While "Pencak Silat is a generalized term for the indigenous martial arts of the Indonesian archipelago and Malaysian peninsula" works for some people, the vast majority of people I say that to just get more confused and want more specific answers, especially if they are fellow martial artists (non-martial artist usually just walk away shaking their head.)

    Can we, as a group, come up with a simple definition that we can give to other martial artists and non-martial artists (we may need to come up with two separate definitions) describe what makes pencak silat identifiably so? Is there some commonality between all of the styles that we can point people to in order to give them a clearer understanding of what it is we collectively do without having to get into a description of individual styles? Or are we just stuck with vague generalizations?

    (I hope I am making myself clear enough)
  2. gungfujoe

    gungfujoe Please, call me Erik. :)

    I think we're stuck with the generalizations. ;) It's kind of like asking "What is gungfu?" People give fairly specific answers, but for each specific answer, you can probably find dozens of styles that contradict it, because the spectrum of Chinese martial arts is so broad. That seems to be similarly true of Pentjak Silat, though perhaps not quite to that extent (Indonesia and Malaysia are quite a bit smaller than China). If they really want to know, I'll suggest they check out Donn F. Draeger's Weapons and Fighting Arts of the Indonesian Archipelago, or even Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts' section on Indonesian martial arts. They're a bit "dated," and I've heard arguments that aspects of both works are inaccurate, but even the "detractors" seem to agree that they're the best overviews out there. They give the reader a decent understanding of what makes Silat unique, while also providing an appreciation of its breadth.
  3. Monyet Nakal

    Monyet Nakal Valued Member

    Good point Gungfujoe and sadly the same one that I was afraid that we may be stuck with. I was just hoping that we might be able to come to some kind of consensus on a fairly descriptive explanation for unfamiliar people without having to resort to long diatribes and book recommendations, but maybe you are right.

    I was hoping with such a broad spectrum of styles and experience in this forum that we might be able to. I was assuming that others might have similar hopes bu maybe not. Or maybe everyone has just arrived at the conclusion that its a futile quest.
  4. gungfujoe

    gungfujoe Please, call me Erik. :)

    I don't doubt there are some commonalities, but at a level that would mean anything to a layman? Usually, a layman's way of differentiating arts are "is that a kicking and punching art, or a grappling art?" (if not something even more vague). Discussing common threads (none of which are unique to silat, even if they're relatively common threads) like an emphasis on angular movement, striking with structure instead of strength, deception/confusion through movement or apparent focus, etc, will make a non-martial artist's eyes glaze over almost as quickly as one of Draeger's books will. :)
  5. sulaiman

    sulaiman Valued Member

    Salaams all,
    two generalisations which hold for me are that silat is
    1) a malay art
    2) a warrior art - eg comprehensive , teaching fighting at all ranges and levels and always preferring weapons for the advantages they confer.
    Furthermore as a comprehensive art it also deals with all levels of the Human Experience , physical , mental , emotional and spiritual

    aside from that, all the bunga , kembangan , etc are just window dressing
  6. Ular Sawa

    Ular Sawa Valued Member

    The tough part is making a blanket generalization. I think you could say often characterized by flowing movements. Often practiced to music. Often heavily concentrated with different forms of cutlery as weapon work.
  7. Wali

    Wali Valued Member

    The Kembangan can be perceived as just this if not really understood (no offence meant). In reality it is the culmination of your silat, and I don't just mean to show people how pretty or artistic your silar can be.

    It raises awareness, openes up your field of vision, enhances your connection with the Creator, relaxes your body for better movement... the list goes on. "window dressing" is a huge disparity as a label.

    The question is, how good is the Kembangan that is generally out there?
  8. Monyet Nakal

    Monyet Nakal Valued Member

    How about strong footwork utilization of angles? I seem to see that in most of the systems I've come across. Some more than others but they've all seemed to have a bit. I mean even systems that don't utilize a pantjar diagram in the training still have fairly complex langkah to angle out and back.

    Also attacking at multiple vertical levels seems fairly commonplace. (Head to toe as it were)

    Yes? No? Any others?
  9. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Kembangan ...

    Yes, this is excellent Wali.

    The Kembangan is the expression through the vehicle of silat of a warrior.

    What does it mean to be a warrior? A warrior is a person who is involved in the life and death struggle to understand their true reality, the true nature of oneself.
    What is the true nature of "I"?
    When we know that, we have no further use of silat, Internet forums, clubs or teachers. Otherwise, we continue our struggle ... that is what it means to be a warrior.

    Warm salams,
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2007
  10. sulaiman

    sulaiman Valued Member

    salams Mas Krisno,

    Very good question.
    What is a warrior ? A warrior is NOT a fighter.
    A warrior is one in service .
    In service to whom ?
    Traditionally it would be to the King / Sultan or other noble family, that still remains , but nowadays most warriors fight for countries or nations.

    If you are not in service then you are not a warrior/pendekar

    As students of the martial arts we serve our master, but who does our master serve ?
    You must follow the connections upwards, and see where they lead.
    A pendekar cannot serve his own ego. He MUST have an authority over him.

    In temporal terms the highest authority is the Sultan or king .
    For countries not blessed enough to have that, it is the government or council or whatever.

    if you do not have connection with that then call yourself a martial artist , a fighter, whatever you like , but in traditional terminology you are NOT a warrior.

  11. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    With respect my friend, I reject your definition.
    Mine has far more depth and is in tune with the philosophy of manunggaling kawula gusti :D .

    However I agree that a soldier (in service to his country) indeed may not be a warrior. He or she may be a destroying thug!

    Last edited: Apr 23, 2007
  12. sulaiman

    sulaiman Valued Member

    Salams Mas Krisno,
    Indeed your answer has far more depth, as your reference is to the level of warrior as taken to the station of perfection or excellence ( ihsan )

    Mine was to the lower outward level.

    It is this lowest level of warrior , lacking in the higher attributes of justice and mercy that we would both call thugs.

    For me , silat is beautiful because a warrior is not complete until he reaches the level of perfection.
    It is only then , at that stage , that he can render REAL service..
  13. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Salams kembali diMas Sulaiman, in my humble opinion completion is the point when one realizes the true nature of one's self, :).


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