While it’s a relatively obscure martial-art in Australia, “Pencak-Silat” has gradually risen in popularity in recent years, due in part to Director Gareth Evans’ movies “The Raid (2011)”, and the earlier “Merantau (2009)”. These movies intentionally demonstrated the diverse range of techniques available in “Silat”, including the use of both improvised and actual weapons.
“Silat” aims to employ everything the individual has available to them – from the use of weaponry including knives, or even machetes, to unarmed combat with knees and elbows – all of which are demonstrated in “The Raid”.
Etymology and principles
While “Pencak-Silat” is both a practical and deadly martial art, it is more than simply a self-defence or fighting-art. Rather, it is a complete system of physical and spiritual development, with a complex history, philosophy and code of ethics. The demonstration of these principles is evident through its combination of diverse techniques, from methods as seen in forms like judo and aikido, where the principle is to use your opponent’s balance and momentum to overcome them. To aggressive and strategic techniques, all designed to mindfully overcome an adversary, all of which make for a deceptively complex and effective martial-art.
“Pencak” is generally defined as “skillful and refined movements”, a term that can refer equally to gymnastic movement, or dance – as it is both traditionally and professionally represented.
“Silat” translates as “hit” and/or “defend”. Combined “Pencak-Silat” translates to something akin to “skillful and refined movements for attack or defence”.
Indonesia was formerly known as the Dutch East Indies, with Indonesia gaining independence from Holland only after the Second World War when “Silat” was fundamental in the resistance of both the Dutch and the Japanese invaders.
Today “Pencak Silat” is the official martial art of Indonesia, with some 16 million people practising one of approximately 800 different styles.
While Indonesia has a population of 200 million (the 4th most populous nation worldwide) wherein 90% of inhabitants identify as Muslims, it’s important to note the myriad languages and cultures therein. With over 300 different ethnic groups it has approximately 250 different languages, with its official common language is Bahasa Indonesia, which is closely associated with the ideology of “Pancasila” – the 5 principles: belief in one God, national unity, humanitarianism, democracy, and social justice, the self-same principles that underlie and are the foundation of “Pencak-Silat”.