The play is the thing

Discussion in 'Filipino Martial Arts' started by pesilat, Mar 29, 2008.

  1. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    The terms "play" and "player" are used a lot in the Southeast Asian martial arts of Kali and Silat … but what do they really mean?

    If you walk up to an old-school Kali or Silat practitioner and ask to "play," you're likely to end up bruised and bloodied in short order. Most Americans don't think of this as "play." To the average American mindset, the term "play" is something that kids do and that adults don't have time for.

    Many Americans think that martial arts should be a "labor of love" … with an emphasis on "labor." They feel that it should be approached with the utmost seriousness. Is this wrong? Not as such. Many fine martial artists are very serious about their training. Many Kali and Silat practitioners (respectfully) view these folks as somewhat stuffy.
    A "player," in the mindset of many Kali and Silat practitioners, is one who practices, trains, and fights for no other reason that the sheer joy of it. It's not about trophies, ranks, money, or recognition.

    In our school's formal Kali salutation (from John Lacoste originally), there is a line that says, "I cherish the knowledge my instructor has given me for it is my life in combat." I think that this is the reason for the mindset in the old-school practitioners (or us new-school practitioners who try to carry on this spirit). They weren't training to win their next tournament. They were training to survive their next fight. Their view was that they could die any day or any moment … so they enjoyed what they are doing to its fullest.

    For many martial artists, training is something they see as a means to an end. Whether that end is a trophy or a rank or money, whatever, they see the training as something of a necessary evil. They may enjoy the training, but if they could achieve their goal without the training, they would.

    For a "player," the training and fighting are methods of relaxation. A player is never happier than when he's trying not to get hit by a stick. For a player, the training is about camaraderie and respect, but it's also about having fun. Most players are lighthearted and laid back in their training. They're more concerned with having fun in their training than they are in being formal.

    Many people get more concerned about whether a technique is done "properly" than whether or not it's effective. Guro Dan Inosanto says that one of the things he loved about training in the Filipino and Indonesian martial arts was that nothing was ever "wrong." The only criteria a player has to judge "right" and "wrong" techniques is whether or not the technique can be effectively applied. He tells a story about one of his instructors, Angel Cabales, the founder of Cabales Serrada Eskrima. Guro Dan would show Grandmaster Cabales a technique and ask if it was right. Angel would say, "You can do it that way." What was implied in this statement was, "I wouldn't do it that way … but if it works for you, use it … if it doesn't, don't."

    To be a "player" has nothing to do with aptitude … it's all about attitude. Players do take the art seriously … but they train in a lighthearted environment. I don't think this attitude is exclusive to the Southeast Asian martial arts … but that's where I first encountered it. I think there are "players" in every art.

    To continue this, Willem "Uncle Bill" de Thouars is fond of saying, "Play with children and play like children. It keeps you young." On one hand, he means, literally, to play with children when you have the chance and to play like children when you play. But he's also talking about the martial arts. When he teaches, he stresses this also. It should be play … not work. It should be something we work at … but not work. It should be a form of stress relief, not a source of stress. And, in his mid-60s, Uncle Bill is one of the oldest "kids" I know. He has more energy on his slow days than I, at 31, have on my best days.

    Guro Mike Casto -

    Texas Representative for Asian Fighting Arts -

    Guest Instructor (teaching Sikal) at Lansdale's Self-Defense in Nacogdoches, Texas -

    In October, I'll be moving to Louisville, Kentucky and opening my own school -
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2010
  2. AnxietyCoachJoh

    AnxietyCoachJoh Valued Member

    Agree! I think he's a very good guro. On the other hand, I think doing the technique properly and considering whether it is effective or not are two important factors that we should really consider.
  3. robertmap

    robertmap Valued Member

    I like the word 'play' for the vast majority of martial artists it is the appropriate one as they are not engaged in life and death battles on a daily basis and so training should be enjoyable - it may have serious application - but learning should be play.

    I remember about ten years ago at a seminar - I was wearing a plain black belt with no rank insignia - I was kidding around as we were standing about waiting for stuff to start - and another black belt said to me "When you have been in the arts for a while you will realise you need to be serious" - I asked him how long he had trained and he said "twenty years" - I commented that I had been training for thirty years - he just looked at me confused :)
  4. mani adams

    mani adams New Member

    I have my training ie. my tool training. Usual stuff, timing, distance, sensitivity drills etc. That part of training is better when one makes it fun because in isolation the drills are not directly practical or combative.

    Then there's the other part which is directly combative such as the occasional heavy spar (which is still training though unless you're mad enough to let someone bash you over the hands and your head with a real stick....OUCH!!!!) and also the mental training. The mental training is where I get serious but the day to day stuff is, as I said, tool development and one may as well enjoy it (so long as one's teacher is able to teach you the difference)
  5. Tarek M

    Tarek M New Member

    Thank you

    Womderful information
  6. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    I come from a traditional kung fu background and couldn't resist the tittle of this thread. For me it goes right to the heart of marital arts. There is a joy in learning, a joy in practicing. Play allows you to make something your own and it also lets you make mistakes in a situation where your opponent is not actually trying to kill you - always a good thing
  7. brisrocket

    brisrocket Taekwondo instructor in Brisbane Australia

    Good topic. I think many instructors can learn from this. I think this attitude of enjoying the art applies across a variety of martial art styles, a variety of sports - anything that requires your ongoing commitment and learning. If a students enjoys what they are doing, they will continue to not only do it, but be keenly interested in it.
  8. Lockjaw

    Lockjaw Killing you softly

    I come from a taijiquan background, and students of Tai Chi are referred to as Tai Chi "players"

    Because of the slowness and ease of the movements, it is often thought that Tai Chi is mainly for senior citizens, but that is a false assumption.
    It can benefit the fittest athlete just as much as the weekend golfer, the teenager, or the arthritis sufferer.
    It can also be practiced by those in wheelchairs.
    In fact, studies show that even watching others "play" Tai Chi can reduce blood pressure in the observer.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2013
  9. Rogoh Sukmah

    Rogoh Sukmah Valued Member

    I know the term 'play' or 'player' from another context. The "play" is something specific to your way of moving, and (for me) not necessarily associated with a style. At some point you are going to create specific movements, and character, slowly developing your own " play" . You create, as it were your own, perfectly fitting jacket.

    This is really only possible when you have mastered the basic techniques. Here you can not cling on to; you will get older, less flexible or maybe get health problems. This means that your "play" and therefore your silat, must be flexible. Your 'play' constantly changes according to your own circumstances. This is for me the "play". In other words, the "play", that's you!
  10. vian11

    vian11 New Member

    thanks for sharing this information with us
  11. SamuraiChrome

    SamuraiChrome New Member

    IN Filipino the world 'laro' means 'to play'. It is also interchangeable to the english word 'train'.

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