cultural/spiritual practice

Discussion in 'Silat' started by ap Oweyn, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Let's see if we can get some activity on this forum. I'm wondering what cultural or spiritual practices people bring to their silat. By that, I mean that it's possible to practice the mechanics of silat independent of the various cultural trappings (e.g., uniforms and regalia, salutations, terminology, etc.). I've seen it happen with FMA as well. People can practice the knife skills, stick skills, etc. without necessarily embracing the culture.

    So how central do you think those things are to your practice of silat?
  2. Ular Sawa

    Ular Sawa Valued Member

    Well of course you can practice without trappings. They are just trappings after all (uniforms, salutations, etc.)

    That being said, there are parts of Silat practice that are spiritual in nature and these are not trappings. An appreciation of the animal basis if you are practicing tiger or snake for example. You can practice the mechanics without this part but you'll not have an understanding of the roots of the art and you will be limited to your mechanical practice. The movement in Silat is far from mechanical in my own experience.

    Mind you, I'm only speaking from my own practice and am compelled to point out once again that Silat is a generic term that describes hundreds of different systems from Indonesia & Malaysia.
  3. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Ular Sawa is correct.
    To add to his perspective, in my opinion there is some general misunderstanding arising from the language we think in. In the west particularly, silat is seen as a specific set of movement/martial skills from SE Asia. There are others who see silat as something quite static. These are the modern 'traditionalists' who play with an embalmed version of a sub-section of something that existed in a previous time & milieu. IMO what they zero in on is only a very small part of what silat culture originally was.
    From a Javanese (language) context, my family don't think twice about the word 'silat' meaning anything special that sets it apart from any other martial art per-se. To us silat is the sum total of our survival skills, which incorporates/includes movement skills. We call it silat because that is the descriptor in our language.
    My compass has been my father and grandmother, as I now take on that role for my children. However in the footsteps of my teachers, I have also actively absorbed from many sources through my life and I expect that of my children as well when their time comes to carry on the tradition.
    For us silat is a living framework similar to the idea of linux with it's many distros, there is core practice (mind, body-method & principle - the kernel) and then there are the various applications which can be expanded on, extended or even copied (stolen) from a huge variety of sources ... from the latest research in body science, diet, meditation techniques etc to extrapolating a hip throw. In this way on the surface of it the cultural and spiritual outlook of my family silat tradition hasn't changed, even while to some extent the nuts and bolts of it has i.e. I'm not animistic as my grandmother was.

    P.S. We don't dress up in 'traditional' garb either, except where (in the case of some in my family) that is the way they dress on a daily basis ;o).
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
  4. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Terrific posts, both of you! Thanks.

    I hope it's clear that when I said "trappings," I wasn't belittling those things. I only meant "things beyond the mechanical application of technique." I should have phrased that better. But I was on short time and wanted to generate some discussion. Mea culpa. ("My fault," in keeping with my recent post about foreign languages ;) )

    Personally, I'm a big advocate of those sorts of cultural insights. In the past, I've been one of those guys who tried to strip the technique from the source. And now, I've done a 180 on that count.
  5. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i was watching a documentary about some groups in [the Philippines] using talismans to increase their ability and invulnerability will practicing FMA
    i have read somewhere about people trying to get "animal possession" in silat styles.

    those are spiritual trapping though. some cultural trapping you cant strip away, e.g. if your strip the technique from the weapon it doesnt really work.
    certain weapons belong to certain cultures e.g. european broad sword or the sikh/hindu chakram or the various japanese weapons.
    those techniques and weapons come from specific cultures and there are certain traditions that follow them.

    so yeah 180
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2012
  6. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    The talisman is known as "anting anting" in the Philippines. "Orasyon" is another variation on the theme.
  7. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i've also heard that "gingering" is a spiritual practice connected to FMA and silat.

    interesting stuff this
  8. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Not familiar with that term, I'm afraid.
  9. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    From "Martial Arts of the World"
  10. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Let's move any further discussion of FMA over to the appropriate forum in deference to the silat posters. Sorry gang.

    I'd move the existing posts over, but I've got to get back to my real job for a bit. Bear with me.
  11. jpgayong

    jpgayong New Member

    I don't think you have to practice the art with the culture. BUT you should understand the culutre where your art came from. I personally do a Malaysian Style of Silat in the USA. I take what is adaptable to the USA but still maintain the cultural identity of the art of study. If you don't understand where the art comes from, I think you're missing a huge chunk of the understanding of the art no matter where it comes from.

    I've not heard of "gingering" before...
  12. waleedalmushara

    waleedalmushara New Member

    hey everyone,

    i was wondering what exactly is the ilmu batin side of silat about?

  13. taoizt

    taoizt Valued Member

    Hi Waleed,

    Since I understand you are relatively new in Silat, I would suggest to steer clear from subjects like 'Ilmu Batin' first. Better to get a better understanding of the technical and cultural aspects and prepare your body/mind for the other aspects. There are probably teachers in SEA that would not have any problem teaching you Ilmu Batin immediately, but I personally think that rarely something good comes out of that.

    Better stick to the technical areas first and learn what silat is about, before getting into invulnerabilty spells and other types of funky stuff. The technical/tactical aspects of silat should keep you busy for years to come...

  14. waleedalmushara

    waleedalmushara New Member

    i take your point, taoizt, thanks for the honest response. and yeah i think i'll take that advice.

  15. Narrue

    Narrue Valued Member

    Whilst I do believe that the energy given off by the nervous system of one person can effect the nervous system of another (by induction) I think that it is rare that a person can do this and rare that somebody who knows the science behind this will teach it. The result is that 99% of it is pure rubbish in my opinion. You get teachers who teach these jurus and then test them but it looks fake, fairly sure acting is involved or perhaps hypnotic suggestion.
  16. waleedalmushara

    waleedalmushara New Member

    taoizt and narrue,

    both those posts were interesting, and from a practical perspective (the most important in my opinion) spot on. i was really interested in the question though not from a practical perspective (how do i cast a spell type thing) and more from a theoretical perspective (what goes into it as a procedure: chanting, movement, religious texts, etc) generally. more like a general background on the subject, since i am a fan of at least knowing what the whole art looks like in theory and this is the most obscure bit in this particular art.
  17. kunderemp

    kunderemp New Member

    Uniforms, regalia, salutations is usually school policy.
    I have seen a lot of traditional schools which have none of those things. The uniforms only used when they performed in public.

    The terminology, most of them can be translated either to Indonesian language or English. However, some of the term are hardly replaced by word and need lengthy explanation and thus, it would be wise to be left as it is.

    The cultural trappings that usually put people off are the ceremony either initiation ceremony or the end-of-learning ceremony. It put people off mostly because either they misunderstood the ceremony or they disagreed the ceremony and mostly due to religious faith. Some school hide the existence of this initiation ceremonies from public and new student. Some of them, however, still teach outsider their silat except some advance technique which are kept hidden until the student have been pass initiation ceremony.

    The culture, in the traditional school, sometimes learnt by student indirectly and mostly because the relation between teacher and student in traditional school is like father and son. And through easy-discussion in the session break or through the concept being taught in the training session, the culture will be passed to the student. I will give three example how you can sense the culture of Silat.

    For example, I know a Betawi (Jakarta) school which are pragmatic. The teacher always emphasizes that his lineage doesn't use any magic or chant and everyone can learn the system. The teacher can also mentioned the number of technique he had and its curriculum. It seemed static but in the 'sambut' training, the teacher often deliberately add random factor, making student confuse and unable to execute the technique he previously learnt and then the teacher challenged the student to execute it and in the end, the student will understand that it is not about the technique didn't work but how his mind prevent the technique work. There was similar story from other Betawi school.

    Another example is the closed Sunda family style. It claimed to trace its lineage to ancient Sunda Kingdom. While every Silat school can claim the same thing, I believe the style was ancient because how the level was structured and how the knowledge was passed between generation and how the mechanics itself.

    The knowledge of the secret of this style was hidden in a collection of Sundanese-language Poem (siloka) and each verse has multiple meaning, from mechanical/body physics meaning to strategy of war. The level was structured to four level. The first level was similar to groundfighting technique. However, it was actually technique for shield and blade. The second level was stick fighting. However, it is different from FMA. It is slow and have weird training and in line with the family philosophy. Of course, in its application, the stick will be executed fast and strong and the stick can be replaced with sword. The third level use more complicated concept where he can move every single muscle and blood vein, probably like taichi but with ground application. When the practitioner demonstrate it to me, when he breath while crouching, his posture was like a tiger ready to attack (note that the legendary King of Sunda, Siliwangi was associated with tiger). There are some training in this level where his partner should bring knife so he can practice to evade without using too much movement. The last level will be like dance. In this level, the movement will look harmless and the practitioner sometimes use music to training.

    The last example is the Sufism-influenced Sunda silat. Every student will be told the legend how the founder learnt from at least 20 teachers and then he was interested to one tarekat (Islamic school of thought) and he wanted to find a way how to subdue opponent without killing him unnecessary. When the student first learnt, he will learnt ten simple jurus. And then, he will learnt the application of each jurus. But here is the interesting part, in controlled-sparring (called 'susun'), when the teacher believe they are ready to go to next level, the teacher will ask one of them to resist. And then, the student will learn to be fluid and finally after all the reflexes has been sharpened, the teacher will teach to manipulate the energy/pressure. To go to this level will need patience and resilience. Most of student think it is enough to know the application of jurus but the one which have more patience will finally reach this level. There are some key-phrase to keep the student understand the concept and yet it also can be interpreted of how the student behave in society. For example, one of the key phrase is 'teu numpangkeun rasa' (don't give rasa/feeling) which in this school, it can freely translated as 'don't provoke your opponents which will make him fight back'. It applied in the technique and it also applied in the daily life.

    In the daily life, the practitioner hide the fact that they know silat (as the principle of 'teu numpangkeun rasa'). It is uncommon in this school that a practitioner live as a common people and none of the neighbour know. Sometimes, the student got curious and ask questions like, "how we can fight an enraged goat using this style" and the teacher will smile and reply back, "why the goat became enraged? Why should we insist to fight the goat with bare hand while a rope can do a better job?". The teacher hope by that reply, student will understand that the teacher teach him humility and resist temptation to show-off.
  18. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Good post!
  19. Injurytime

    Injurytime New Member

    Hi Ap Oweyn and everyone,

    Here's how I feel about this: My silat is mine. But it comes from its history and mine, and to ignore either is to tell a lie. I'm not Malaysian, I'm not a Muslim, so I translate those parts of the training I do into terms that make sense to me. As every silat player always has, it seems. One of the things that attracted me to South-East Asian martial arts was that they seemed to be alive. People weren't afraid to teach by saying, 'I've seen this done like this, and like this. I like it like this, because...'

    At the same time although I'm not a religious believer and I'm deeply suspicious of people who say 'I'm not religious but I am spiritual,' since I've found it often means 'I am delusional/idle and self-regarding/a hippy,' my silat is intensely spiritual, in the sense that my training requires input from everything about me, including my soul, whatever and wherever that might be. I find silat difficult, embarrassing, uncomfortable, unsettling, and if I didn't I wouldn't be anything like as interested. I've had similar feelings climbing a huge crumbly cliff that I couldn't climb down and had to climb over instead, but I have no head for heights and I like fighting.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that the 'spiritual' or 'cultural' elements of silat must be 'always changing and yet [be] felt to be mystically the same,' as George Orwell wrote about English culture. Ideas about the relationship between the student and the teacher, or the importance of silat being a 'life art,' don't seem to be reliant on eating noodles, for instance. My teacher and I have discussed this several times and he has a unique perspective since he is ethnically half-Malaysian ('Malaysian' is not an ethnicity, but you know what I mean) and half-English and has a liminal perspective on his silat as a result; unwilling either to throw away its cultural elements or to kowtow to them, equally unattracted to a sylabus without the meaning he associates with it and to a basically racist exoticism that gives white boys headband fever (I'm white; full disclosure).

    I think silat must be changeable by us and we must be changeable by it. That's not even 2 pence' worth, is it?
  20. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Ret. Supporter

    Actually, that was fantastic. Many thanks to you and Kunderemp for joining in and making some very insightful contributions.

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