Studying Silat in non-Malay land

Discussion in 'Silat' started by Taker, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. Taker

    Taker Valued Member

    Hi everyone,

    Silat is the term used for martial arts originating from the Malay Archipelago, mainly Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Brunei and Singapore. I was born and live in Malaysia, so everywhere I go, there's silat school and the art of silat is still the favourable choice of self defence than foreign martial arts.

    But now it's been known that many Silat styles has flourished in faraway land, as far as the UK and USA. I'm very proud of it, even tough my style wasn't one of those styles. I haven't actually visit any silat classes in any other countries except my own, so I just want anyone studying this art outside the Malay Archipelago to share thier experience.

    1. Have you ever met the guru from the Malay Archipelago him/herself before/after studying the Silat style? (Or maybe the gurus themselves travel to your place to teach?) Or you didn't even know there's a Silat guru for your style?

    2. Did the Silat class in your country also teaches the Adat and Adab of the Malays? Or did it only teach the blocks and punches without any Malay manners insights? If so, that's where the comments on "I'm going to go BSing" comes.

    3. Does being far from the Malay Archipelago meant that the Silat had been changed or modified to suit the culture in your country? Does it stil preseve the actual technique that was created eons ago by the Malay warriors of old?

    I hope to get your views on this topic. Just want to see how's the art live and bloom in your place. Thanks.
  2. Pekir

    Pekir Valued Member

    Hi Taker,

    in response to:

    1. No we never met an Indonesian teacher for our fighting art because we don't even know if there is still a Indonesian guru alive for our art. Our first teacher in the Netherlands was probably the single surviving teacher of our very small and modest fighting art. It is one of my future goals to search for Indonesian arts that have great resemblance with ours.

    In the Netherlands there happen to be quite some styles that have emerged since the1950 and 60-ies with the repatriation of the dutch-indo's to the Netherlands. Some of the early guru's have created their own campur style, others were able to offer one of the main styles and have maintained contacts with the representatives in the native country. Some were taught an art without any historic reference to the more well-known arts. The latter could very well be local expressions (like ours)

    2. In regard to Adat I think most Ducth-Indo expressions carry a great deal of malay adat but influenced by the Dutch-Indo, Dutch and European cultural aspects.

    3. This is probably not the same for all the perguruan and styles in the Netherlands. It will depend on the individual guru.... I think that worldwide the expression of silat is changing depending on the knowledge of the guru but also because of the influence of Persilat rules on Olah Raga. If students are focusing on Olah Raga their focus on bela diri might (at least temporarily) be subdued????

    regards, Pekir
  3. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Yes. My instructor spent years training with Pak Herman Suwanda (from Bandung, Indonesia) and has traveled to and trained in Indonesia. I also trained with Pak Herman at many seminars before he died. My instructor also spent many years training with members of the de Thoaurs family and I trained with Willem de Thouars for 8 years myself. I'm not sure if the de Thoaurs qualify fully by your definition of being "from the Malay Archipelago" since - depending on which specific one you're talking about - they only spent their childhood and, in a couple of cases, teen years there.

    It's not usually taught formally that I've seen but all of the Silat instructors I've trained with do address it to some extent or another.

    That's pretty hard to answer. As my old Karate instructor once said, "Do you know what Karate is? No. From your perspective, Karate is what I teach you that it is. But what if I'm wrong? What if I'm making stuff up or was taught poorly or incorrectly myself? If you only train with me, then you have no way of knowing one way or the other. So when you meet other people at tournaments or you see video or read articles about Karate, keep your mind open. Even if I'm being completely honest with you, I may have been misinformed or I may have misunderstood something along the way."

    With that in mind, all I can say about the Silat I've trained in and been exposed to is this: The Silat I've been taught jibes with what I've seen from other sources. And, more importantly for me, it has worked for me in various hairy situations - a couple of which were life threatening.

  4. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Local culture always has influence!

    Good answer Mike.

    Bang Taker, I think local culture will always become part of the silat ... and silat will always become part of the local culture it grows in.

    Adat is the cultural way of a place ... it can be said that silat will always have adat ... just not necessarily Malay or Indonesian adat. That is OK & to be expected because not all pesilat are Malay or Indonesian :).

    Salam and cheers,
  5. Jebat

    Jebat Valued Member


    I can see from you logo that you practice Cekak.
    With all respect:
    There are a few things you need to know being a Malaysian.
    In other Malay countries like Indonesia not everybody is a muslim,
    therefore Silat is being taught traditionally for 100s of years to people from
    other religions and backgrounds. In Malaysia not every Malay was
    a muslim either. Most became muslim just before and after Merdeka.
    Now people are claiming that all Malays in Malaysia have always
    been muslim and only taught their silat to muslims. This is not true.
    But Malaysia is trying to rewrite history and becoming very rasist
    and seperatist recently.
    Do people in other countries learn Adat and Adab? Yes, however....
    Malaysian Adat and Adab is different from Indonesian Adat and Adab.
    The Netherlands has more silat styles than Malaysia and also has
    different Adat and Adab. Malaysia is now claiming to have the perfect
    Malay culture which is not true. Malaysian Malay culture has lost most of its
    Malay ways like you can still find in Indonesia. Malaysian Malay culture is
    now very modern mixed with Arab infuences. Most of the old Malay
    ways are now seen as Haram and bad by the Malaysian Malays.
    But I know you are being told otherwise by your teachers.
    The image of the Malaysian Malay they teach you never existed.
    Most people up to a few decades ago were wearing sarong and showed bare skin.
    Woman and men were half naked. Also non muslims practiced
    silat and taught silat. Nowadays if your not a muslim you are not allowed
    to join certain silat schools. That hardly existed in the past.
    In Indonesia and The Netherlands it still isn't a problem.

    Another problem is that the Malaysian Muslims thinks that they are perfect,
    without knowing that in other countries Muslims are totally different.
    So often they meet an Arab, Ottoman or Persian tourist and have no idea
    what makes the guy's clock tik. A European then tuns out to be closer to
    understanding their culture (a lot of the Europeans have middle eastern blood)
    than the Malaysian who thinks he is perfect. The Malaysian then doesn't know
    what to say while the European then chats politely with the guy.....

    Have techniques changed? Yes and no. Just like in Malaysia people keep
    changing things. Your own Cekak has been invented, changed and modified
    during the 60s. Borrowed techniques from older styles, but changed to
    create something new. No ancient warrior techniques there.

    I'm not trying to be nasty here. But the Malaysian Malays have to open
    their minds and start doubting the recent stories of being superior
    that are spoon fed to them now. We are all equal, nobody is better or wiser.

    People who suffer most under this new Malaysian way of thinking
    are the Indonesian labourers and nannies working in Malaysia.
    They are bing treated like inferior beings..... Such a shame....
    Also tourists are staying away after their first visit because
    they feel unappreciated.


    Last edited: May 17, 2008
  6. adouglasmhor

    adouglasmhor Not an Objectivist

    Good post Jebat, well thought out and reasoned, I salute you for it. Thank you.
  7. Gajah Silat

    Gajah Silat Ayo berantam!

    Salam Jebat,

    Indeed, silat seems to be portrayed as a muslim art, rather than an art mostly practiced by muslims. Silat is not 'owned' by muslims, just mainly practiced by them. Silat certainly existed in the Malay archipelago long before Islam anyway.

    I can fully understand how silat is portrayed as part of the Malay identity, however perhaps the uniqueness of the Malay identity is being sacrificed to become generic muslims. Just because Islam originated in the Arab peninsula does not mean having to aspire to be more Arabic. Infact I often think Islam as practiced in the Malay world is more authentic than post Wahabist Islam. Anyway:confused:

    I wasn't even asked my religion by my Indonesian teachers.........

    Believe me Jebat, they are treated much much worse in the Middle East, especially the women who work as maids:mad:

    Salam hormat
  8. Rebo Paing

    Rebo Paing Pigs and fishes ...

    Good posts Jebat & Gajah Silat!

    I concur wholeheartedly. Silat is an approach that can be made to suit many environments.
    Adat exists in many forms in all places ... if a person is not Malay or Indonesian, why follow an alien adat just for the sake of it?
    No one adat is superior to another ... we are all different human beings .. that is what makes the world interesting and makes it go round!
    I think that silat follows the person as well as the person following the ways of silat.

  9. Jebat

    Jebat Valued Member

    Very impressed!


    I'm very impressed!
    Impressed that people here are open minded and not immediately
    arguing. That is very good indeed! There is hope for us all, lol...
    I wish everybody here in Malaysia would be the same.
    It's quite the opposite here. Lot's of insults and shouting even
    before you even criticize. One big rasist mess.......

    Kind regards,

  10. Saiful Azraq

    Saiful Azraq Valued Member

    Salam hormat Jebat and all,

    This is an interesting conversation and I'm kind of late in giving my opinions on it (yet again).

    There are some things Taker has stated that doesn't sit well with me, and i know where the sentiments come from. I've already addressed that in another post on another topic.

    However, I'd like to comment on some of the statements that Jebat has made. I'd especially like to know his sources.

    "In Malaysia not every Malay was a muslim either. Most became muslim just before and after Merdeka."

    If you mean in terms of conversion to Islam, the majority of the citizens od Melaka, Kedah, Fatani, Kelantan, Johor and Pahang were Muslims when their kings converted. Were they Muslim in name only but non-Muslim in practise? It is possible. If this is what you mean, then there is some truth to it. However, there is no notation I know of that states that 'most' converted circa Merdeka.

    "Now people are claiming that all Malays in Malaysia have always
    been muslim and only taught their silat to muslims. This is not true."

    The trend towards Islamisation is one that has begun a long time ago, ever since Islam came to our shores. During its tumultuous course, this process has been hijacked by people with self-interests and hidden agenda. The latest hijackers are ultra-Melayu political parties who think Malaysia is Allah's gift to them. Please don't confuse them (even if they wear silat garb) with true silat practitioners.

    Melayu in Malaysia have not always been Muslim and silat has not always been taught to Muslims but they are now and have been for quite a while. Their desire to teach only Muslims is not born of separatism but of something else other.

    "Your own Cekak has been invented, changed and modified
    during the 60s. Borrowed techniques from older styles, but changed to
    create something new. No ancient warrior techniques there."

    Silat Cekak was founded from something far older but retains much of the ancient warrior techniques you claim don't exist there. Unfortunately, all either of us have are the words of the people we trust who have given us this information.

    "People who suffer most under this new Malaysian way of thinking
    are the Indonesian labourers and nannies working in Malaysia.
    They are bing treated like inferior beings"

    Sad, but true. Other than the above, I'm embarrassed to say that Jebat's observations often hit very close to home. However, Malaysia post March-8 has shown great strides and we may very well have something left to save.

    Salam persilatan,
  11. Raden-Rahmat

    Raden-Rahmat Valued Member

    im from south africa and proud to be here

    salam all. interesting topics i should say. 1stly on adat i was taught by 2 gurus, 1 from Melaka who remains my Head Guru, Haji Mokhtar bin Yahya and then i trained very briefly with Guru Azlan of Lok9. very different approaches to Silat but both were enlightening in every regard. I prefer not subject silat to anything but in the end everything has its end and origin so does silat. and we all know that. When the mention of adat came, i recall him saying that the adat and adab would mould character and the malays of old were deeply influenced not by islam, but by the essence of islam. Silat originally had very heathen origins and fighting styles were brutal and ruthless. Islam did not claim Silat nor did it claim the origin of it nor did it claim the ppl. Islam merely came to address the spiritual needs and address the moral nature of beings wherever they may be. Islam is therefore a positive influence and this would generally show a different flavour as opposed to persons not adhering to the islamic code. Silat schools that prohibit non-islamic adherents have their reasons and this should be probed rather than slander. the Schools i have trained from do not prohibit any non islamic persons, however, we are here to promote understanding and foster good relations. as ive learnt through the Senaman Tua, the body has many ways of adapting and this must be filtered through into life situations as Silat is a life enhancing system. like my teacher Haji Mokhtar of Melaka says that you can change the technique if you want as it was designed by someone so it can be changed too. but its better to understand the method of the way it was invented and then to practice it. once you understand and perfect it you will understand the way of the warrior. i agree that change must be made if it cannot be adapted completely but there must be retention of the original charateristcs of the art. Silat has very high moral values and like my teacher said that through the bunga silat, this is how you should act always...anything you do must always be covered in beauty...although danger lurks behind that bunga lol just my little still very empty in silat but i treasure the little i have and im honoured by it...

    like i said, happy and proud to be here with you guys
  12. Jebat

    Jebat Valued Member

    Good people...

    Saiful, you're a good man. Pleased to meet you....

    Raden-Rahmat, yes:
    Islam has been a good influence, is a good influence and will always be a good influence on most. It is just the rotten apples that ruin things for the rest of us. I hope, insyaallah, that the silent majority will finally start speaking out and control the rotten apples. At the moment it looks like that day is still far in the future. I'm affraid it will get worse first, before it will get better.

    I love the expression 'danger lurking behind the bunga'.....
    That made me laugh..... lol...
  13. Gajah Silat

    Gajah Silat Ayo berantam!

    Rightly said Jebat. Perhaps the peaceful majority should not be so silent?

    Anyway I've been trying to stay out of these types of discussions but I think it's important for people to be educated as to the difference of 'traditional' Islam, Wahhabism and Neo-Wahhabism.

    Anyway I'll paraphrase Steven Schwartz(a Sufi) and have provided an interesting link.

    Salam Hormat
  14. tellner

    tellner Valued Member

    • There were people doing martial arts in Indonesia and Malaysia long before there were Muslims.
    • Two out of the three Great Cultures that had the most profound influence on Silat were India and China which are not Muslim.
    • There have always been Silat players who were not Muslim. The island of Bali comes to mind along with any number of Christians and Animists.
  15. Raden-Rahmat

    Raden-Rahmat Valued Member

    the claim wasnt about silat being muslim

    salam and goodday all
    just a clarification that in no way did i mean that silat was an islamic franchise but merely that silat was used by the ppl to promote the islamic identity as was the approach used by Raden Rahmat and other Wali Songo when islam was brought to the archipelago. Today, id say id go with the legitimate islamic based sialt as the others have the "powers" obtained from "other" sources which are not acceptable since the element of deception with these "other" sources are from their signature traits which normally devaites man from his natural good nature. Reffering here to the always full blown retalliation option when encoutered by an opponent. Anger is never part of silat and this is why the bunga is paracticed in my passify your being but being fatal simultaneously at your discretion....basically always maintaining the dignity humans should possess. Since Islam has purified Silat from negative element. I say that Silat has progressed and degressed, if thats a word, in both cases...but better for progress in the past 3 decades especially in the case of malaysia putting a hold on "other" powers Silats so that ppl can actually be safer in public from such evil...btw, in South Africa we are still focussed on the spiritual aspect but moreso on the pure traditional side being transmitted by Sufi lines...
    so proud not being the wahabi ... i feel its a soul-less path...their acts define this feeling of mine
  16. Gajah Silat

    Gajah Silat Ayo berantam!

    Salam Raden-Rahmat,

    Don't worry, I understood what you were implying-silat and Islam as an expression of Indo-Malay culture.

    I was trying to make a point that 'Muslim' or 'Islamic' should not be used as a generic term. Unfortunately, the extreme Wahhabist school of thought is the one that most Westerners believe to be Islam. It is also infiltrating and radicalising many of the traditional forms of Islam. This is becomming very apparent in Malaysia, and now Indonesia.

    I had the misfortune of working with, and having to train a member of the Saudi royal family about ten years ago. Under the condescending pious veneer lurked a man who spent most of his 'oil money' on champagne, whiskey and call girls...even though he boasted about being a married family man. Good Wahhabi Muslim indeed:rolleyes: I'm afraid I have seen a lot of this behaviour and it's double standards.

    Conversely, I have found with very little exception, the Muslims of the Malay world to be warm, welcoming and tolerant.

    Please forgive my lapse into controversy, but I speak from experience rather than the distorions of the world media.

    Salam Hormat

  17. Raden-Rahmat

    Raden-Rahmat Valued Member


    wslm so much for pure islam hey Gajah...why gajah btw...are u big lol
    but its good to know your findings with the malays ...glad to know my nation upholds some good things. but like i say, silat as we know today mostly is governed or altered through the islamic reality. not to own like someone misunderstood but rather to adapt the muslim adherents to it so that foreign philosophy would not compromise their new found faith. The islamic way of thinking, if we considered the Sufi Way, then Silat had the best of alterations then. Saying this as Sufi aid always beautifies things, brings own the spiritual force in things, the natural aspect, the higher aspirations and safety security and well being of all. So there there shouldnt be any negativity about the transfer of Silat franchise to the Islamic was only our way of suiting ourselves...and in no way am i being self-centred on behalf a nation...sounds ridiculous lol
  18. Gajah Silat

    Gajah Silat Ayo berantam!

    LOL, I would rather say sturdy or perhaps solid:) More a gajah than a harimau anyway hehehe.

    Anyway, I'll duck out of the religion debate now as I don't want to re-open any of those cans of worms.

    peace to all:)
  19. Saiful Azraq

    Saiful Azraq Valued Member

    Raden Rahmat
    We share one same teacher! Most of my initial conceptions of adat and adab were gained from Silat Cekak Hanafi and Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9. However, much later, I took a closer look at my family's involvement in sufism and found that much of Melayu adat and adab (not all, though) were either very compatible with, or were influenced by Islam.

    According to Al-Habib Syed Naquib Al-Attas in his talk on Islam in the Malay World, he elucidates on the impact that Islam has had on the personality and culture of the Melayu.

    I have a simple article on these concepts here . I'd appreciate some comments, good or otherwise.

    I agree 100% with Haji Mokhtar's explanation that the Melayu were converted the same way the Prophet did his brethren, by aqidah first and syariat second. However, the whole objective of the ulama who came here were to eventually transform the Melayu mind to be become good Muslims, in akhlak and in law. This process was, unfortunately, halted, by external and immoral internal forces. Now, the Melayu are slowly losing their adat and adab (some say we've lost it completely) and as Jebat claims, becoming increasingly racist.

    "Like my teacher Haji Mokhtar of Melaka says that you can change the technique if you want as it was designed by someone so it can be changed too. But its better to understand the method of the way it was invented and then to practice it. once you understand and perfect it you will understand the way of the warrior".
    Wise words, my friend.

    Jebat, pleased to meet you too :)

    "There were people doing martial arts in Indonesia and Malaysia long before there were Muslims."

    I agree.

    "Two out of the three Great Cultures that had the most profound influence on Silat were India and China which are not Muslim."

    I agree.

    "There have always been Silat players who were not Muslim. The island of Bali comes to mind along with any number of Christians and Animists."

    I agree.
  20. Raden-Rahmat

    Raden-Rahmat Valued Member

    every Teacher must have wisdom isnt it

    according to the character of malays, even those who came here to south africa, had very distinct ways as compared to those of arab, indian or african origin. the way tasawwuf affected them was tremendous and as result of this, islam was projected much more effective. but back to the topic. actually this is the topic lol. as was said by tellner, that the history of silat is not with islam, quite correct, but as silat is today, it is from islam... im definitely not interested in a silat that would not compatible to my character and moral aspiriations of my religion.

    Ive found much wisdom with Haji Mokhtar, i just need to obey him and be a better student. we always regret later. sad. Haji also readjusted my belief the islam has positively affected silat and everything that was in silat is either maintained or replaced by positive change and alteration. so nothing lost, just adjusted...remember islam came to address the belief and morality of humankind...not stop them from doing everything and restart new things...islam did not invent adjusted into society and altered things that should be altered for human talkign too much

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