Pencak Silat

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Del indonesio Pencak ("ataque eficaz") y Silat ("movimiento artístico").

El Pencak Silat es un arte marcial de origen indonesio practicado actualmente en Indonesia, Singapur, Malasia, Tailandia, Vietnam y en prácticamente todo el sudeste asiático. También es practicado en varios países de Europa como España, Holanda y Francia. Estados Unidos, Australia o Perú son países fuera del continente eurasiático donde también se practica el Pencak Silat.


Descripción y filosofía

Pencak Silat

Pencak Silat es el término empleado para describir los miles de estilos de lucha indígenas que existen a lo largo del Archipiélago Malayo, el cual incluye Indonesia, Malasia, Singapur, Brunei Darussalam, Tailandia del Sur y Filipinas del Sur.

The Art may also be referred to by different terms, but in the interests of simplicity I’ll refer to it as ‘Pencak Silat’, its official name in the Republic of Indonesia. The official dictionary of the Indonesian language published by ‘Balai Pustaka’ defines Pencak Silat as “a performance (skill) of self-defence which employs the ability to defend oneself, fend off an attack, and eventually attack the enemy, with or without weapons” (Kamus Besar Indonesia: Balai Pustaka; Pencak Silat in the Malay Archipelago’, author: Bapak O’ong Maryono )

However this definition varies across the many regions and within the many ethnic groups in which Pencak Silat is practiced. For example the renowned Bugis-Makassar people of South Sulawesi in Indonesia define “‘Pencak’ as the artistic aspect, encompassing stylized movements and footwork, and ‘Silat’ as the self-defence aspect, incorporating the various forms of fighting an opponent”(Bapak Aidinal Alrashid, Grandmaster of Pencak Silat Bugis-Makassar Gerak Ilham ).

Although only known in small pockets of the western world, Silat has played a significant role in the history of South East Asia for centuries; from the need for a community to defend itself, to the most sophisticated military strategies of the armies which expanded and defended the vast empires that existed across the Archipelago in pre-colonial times.

Pencak Silat has often been shrouded in mystery and secrecy, particularly in the west where it is less visible than its cousin martial art styles from the east and far east. Although in the west it has yet to reach the level of prominence of such styles as Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, Karate or Ju Jitsu, its apparent humility is contrary to the immense depth and great history bound up with this collection of fighting arts. It is a reflection of the respectful manner in which it is taught by the majority of traditional masters, who don’t seek fame and fortune, but concentrate on selecting students with integrity and the correct intentions. Having been honoured to both train under and encounter traditional Indonesian masters, I have noticed that Pencak Silat is to them a way of life inseparable from every action that they take. In keeping with this, they are entirely modest and prize this quality highly in their teachings. A Silat teacher is not merely a teacher of physical movements and techniques but also acts - at the least - as a valued mentor to his or her students, and often a father/mother figure. A true master will develop his or her students as human beings and not only as fighters, and the relationship between student and master is not confined to the training arena.

Alongside this however is Donn F Draegar’s book, written in the 1970’s (at the beginning of Pencak Silat’s exposure to the west) ‘Weapons and Fighting Arts of the Indonesian Archipelago’, in which he states that “In Indonesia, weapons and fighting arts are as old as the history of man…For Indonesians, weapons and fighting arts are life itself. The external importance can readily be seen to be practical, but it is the inner meanings, the spiritual relationships, which are most closely tied to the cultural achievements of the nation”.

Los cuatro aspectos del Pencak Silat

Aspecto artístico

Artistic aspect (Seni)

It is important for a Silat practitioner or ‘pesilat', to not only be proficient in the physical aspects of the martial art, but also to appreciate its aesthetic value, and the beauty in many different Arts. It is common for a pesilat to be an accomplished musician with instruments such as the traditional drums or flute. Music often accompanies Silat practice, especially in traditional training and performances. It is understood that to be a warrior, one must be a complete individual, and the artistic aspects of Silat and of life, are an integral part of this.

Aspecto de Auto-Defensa

La parte de auto-defensa, o defensa personal (llamada Bela Diri)

The self-defence aspect of Pencak Silat stems from its origins as an ancient warrior art form, used to defend individuals or tribes from the threat of attack. This aspect still holds true today. The techniques used are very much applicable in the modern self-defence scenario, although many are ‘diluted’ in order to avoid causing serious injuries to assailants. Being born of war, many of the techniques are highly dangerous, designed to cause maximum destruction to an enemy.

Aspecto deportivo

Sports aspect (Olahraga)

Sports Silat is a relatively modern concept. The international governing body for Pencak Silat (PERSILAT) introduced the sports competition aspect in the 1970’s. This was created in order to establish a forum for all the different styles to be able to compete with one another under uniform rules, with the objective of reducing the fatalities and serious injuries which had occurred in more traditional contests. A system was developed allowing punches and kicks to the chest and torso. Silat’s unique sweeps and scissor kicks, as well as catching kicks in order to take an opponent down, were among the competition techniques permitted. Competition referees (‘Wasit Juri’) were trained to observe and score accurately, and especially to ensure that the essential good sportsmanship of Silat practice was carried forward to the sports arena.

The development of Sports Silat was intended to encourage a sense of brotherhood, friendship and sportsmanship; and despite a healthy competitive streak, Silat athletes do enjoy a remarkable sense of camaraderie among international teams. In this respect PERSILAT’s efforts have been hugely successful in establishing an international Pencak Silat community. The sports aspect has helped the increasing awareness of Silat on national and international levels, through national teams competing in major sporting events such as the SEA (South-East Asia) games, the World and European Pencak Silat Championships, and the continuous lobbying for Pencak Silat to be an official Olympic sport.

Aspecto mental-espiritual

Mental-Spiritual aspect (Ilmu Batin)

Grandmaster Bapak Haji Zakaria (right) demonstrates weapons skillsThis aspect of Pencak Silat has contributed to its reputation for mysteriousness and secrecy. With its internal forms of exercise, such as breathing techniques, meditation etc., and reputed ability to protect a pesilat against otherwise lethal situations, weapons, poisons etc., it’s not surprising that ‘ilmu batin’ knowledge always was, and remains closely guarded, and only passed on with great care. Silat techniques can be both life saving and deadly in a real life situation, and in a similar way, spiritual knowledge is taught and learnt with humility and respect, often to an even greater extent than other practices or traditions within Pencak Silat.

It would be wrong to think of Pencak Silat as a single martial art. Throughout the many thousands of islands and the varied peoples of the Malay archipelago different Silat schools may be totally different in structure, technical movements and even ethos, although it would still be recognised as Pencak Silat. The difference in styles of Silat is truly astounding. For example, some styles can be categorised as ‘attacking’ whilst others, mostly evasive or counter attacking. Styles might be practised by millions of pesilat, as in the cases of Tapak Suci and Setia Hati, or could be practised within just one family or village. Some styles had become famous for their fighting skills, such as those of the Bugis-Makassar people of South Sulawesi, who were sought after as warriors; and while secrecy was maintained within some Perguruan (Silat schools), numerous Silat masters also benefited from sharing skills with other schools. Many styles were named after their place of origin, as in the case of Silat Cimande, from the village of Cimande in West Java, and of Mustika Kwitang, from the Kwitang district of Jakarta, both renowned for their effectiveness.

Many forms would employ striking as the primary mechanism for destroying an enemy, whereas other styles would be expert at applying various locks and holds. Having listened to talks by Bapak Aidinal Al Rashid, a Silat scholar and Grandmaster of Bugis-Makassar Gerak Ilham, and by Bapak Haji Zakaria, Grandmaster of Mustika Kwitang, I’ve learnt that a style of Silat was often born and shaped by a myriad of cultural, geographic and even anthropological factors. A style developed in a coastal region would be different in essence to a style developed in a land-locked region, due to the physical difference in the land; - techniques used in fighting on sandy beaches and on ships would be very different to those used in dense jungle, or mountainous areas.

Tribal and cultural characteristics seem to find their way into the various styles, as all martial arts are fundamentally an expression of the inner self. Certain styles would become adept at combating the styles of their local enemies; it is this natural kaleidoscope of fighting styles, which makes Pencak Silat such an intriguing martial art.

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