Pencak Silat (Penjak Silat) is a Southeast Asian martial art consisting of two parts – hand-to-hand combat and armed combat. It is not just a martial art but also a part of the culture of the Malay World having a long history. This art is widely known in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and among the Malay-affiliated communities in Thailand. The art has also reached Europe, and is especially popular in the Netherlands and Belgium. Due to its self-defense application and gracefulness, women willingly practice Silat.
The word-combination “Pencak Silat” has an ambiguous meaning. Probably, the best translation is the following: “Pencak” is skillful body movements for self-defense; “Silat” is a combat application of Pencak. Masters say: “No Silat without Pencak but Pencak without Silat is useless.” In other words, Silat is, in fact, a fighting style. The best cultural achievements of South-Eastern Asia, India, China and Japan have been accumulated, polished and worked into the large variety of Pencak Silat forms.
Pencak Silat has developed rapidly during the twentieth century and has become a competition sport under the rules and regulations of the International Pencak Silat Federation – PERSILAT) *). Currently, Pencak Silat is being promoted by PERSILAT in several countries. Pencak Silat has become so popular international sport for men and women that international tournaments, World and European championships are held as well as championships of South-Eastern Asia. Besides physical competitions, each Silat tournament includes artistic exercises – Seni. Besides the official Silat sport, there are still many traditional styles practicing old forms of Silat.
Pencak Silat is a fighting system that consists of Sikap (positions) and Gerak-gerak (movements). When pesilats (silat practitioners) are moving (when fighting) these sikaps and gerak-geraks change continuously. As soon as one finds an opening in the opponent's defense, he/she tries to finish the opponent with a fast Serangan (attack).
There are four aspects of Pencak Silat:
Mental-spiritual Pencak Silat or self-controlled Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to strengthen the ability of self control and therefore emphasizes mental-spiritual aspect more strongly. Pencak Silat aims to build and develop personality, noble character, and honor, just like all other martial arts.
Художественный Пенкак Силат (Сени Будая) уделяет внимание красоте движений; упор здесь делается на художественные аспекты. Важнейшим здесь является культура и исполнительское мастерство. В этом виде сочетается пенкак силат с традиционной музыкой и костюмами.
Artistic Pencak Silat (Seni Budaya), whose performance has the purpose to show the beauty of movement and therefore it emphasizes artistic aspect more strongly. Culture and performing the "art" of Pencak Silat is very important. This combines Pencak Silat with traditional music and costumes.
Self defensive Pencak Silat (Bela-Diri), whose performance has the purpose to defend oneself effectively and therefore it emphasizes self defensive aspect more strongly. Self-confidence skills and perseverance skills are very important. Without them, skills are compromised significantly.
Sports Pencak Silat (Olah Raga), whose performance has the purpose to gain physical fitness and sports achievement, therefore it emphasizes sports aspect more strongly. Practitioners strive to achieve the goal of a "sound mind in a sound body." Frequent competitions and intense training help to keep practitioners' skills sharp. There are full-contact matches, as well as form demonstrations, for single, double or teamed.
Pencak Silat began originally as a weapons style of combat. It has borrowed much from its nearby neighbors of India and China, blending those fighting styles into their own. The result was a style containing kicking and striking techniques mixed with a variety of weapons techniques.
Pencak Silat systems include variety of weaponry. Listed here are a few examples.
Keris. Dagger, the most popular and well known weapon in Silat with either a straight or wavy blade.
Pedang. Sword, either double or single-edged and sometimes paired with a rattan buckler.
Parang/Golok. Machete/broadsword, a popular weapon also used for domesticities.
Lembing/Seligi. Spear/javelin made of either wood or bamboo and often with horse hair attached near the blade.
Kayu/Tongkat. Stick/walking staff made of either bamboo or wood.
Kipas. The traditional Asian folding fan preferably made of wood or iron when fighting.
Чабанг/Текпи. Three-pronged knife thought to be derived from the Indian tri-sula (trident).
Kerambit. A small claw worn on the hand, easily concealed and preferred by women.
Pencak Silat has a wide variety of defense and attacking techniques. Practitioners may use hands, elbows, arms, legs, knees and feet in attacks. Common techniques include kicking, hitting, tripping, sweeps, locks, takedowns, throws, strangles, and joint breaking.
The pesilat, or Silat practitioner, practices with jurus - a series of meta-movements for the upper body used as a guide to learn the applications, or buah, when done with a partner. The use of langkah (steps) or lower body meta movements teach the use of footwork. When combined, it is dasar pasang, or "flow of the whole body". This is common to most Asian martial arts and called kata in Japanese.
There are many disagreements among the leading practitioners about historical items, no consensus on dates. There are hundreds of aliran (styles) and thousands of schools, each with its own identity. Some of them also teach the arts of magic, healing and mystic powers.
According to a legend, Silat was invented by an observant woman. The story tells of a Sumatran woman who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a very large bird while fetching water from a well. Both animals died in the fight. The woman's angry husband came to scold her for her tardiness. He even attempted to beat her but she blocked all of his attacks, remembering the movements of the fighting animals that she saw earlier. The couple later formulized the art and founded the first style of Silat. However true this story is, archeological evidence shows that Silat was indeed created in the Sumatra-based empire of Srivijaya and flourished after it spread to Java. Java was home to the Mataram Kingdom and, together with Srivijaya, was an important centre for education and religion, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. It attracted monks and learned men from various parts of South-East Asia. This allowed Silat to influence and be influenced by other styles from nearby countries such as Krabi Krabong from Thailand and Banshay from Myanmar. Trade with Okinawa also brought about the similarities between silat and karate as well as various Japanese weapon-arts like tessenjutsu and bojutsu. By the early 1300s, Silat was already highly refined, much like its present form. After Dutch colonization, silat was brought to Netherlands by Indonesian immigrants. From there it spread to other parts of Europe to eventually become as popular as it is today.
All international Pencak Silat competitions are organized in regard to the rules of PERSILAT. On a tournament, a pesilat can participate in any of 4 events:
- Jurus Tanding: match (fighting) category (olah raga)
- Jurus Tunggal: single seni category. One pesilat shows skills in the Jurus Wajib Tunggal (single compulsory jurus). This exercise consists of 14 jurus (7 jurus unarmed, 3 jurus armed with a machete (golok) and 4 jurus armed with a staff (tongkat). During competition one participant has to accomplish these 14 jurus in exactly 3
- Durus Ganda: double seni category. Two pesilats of the same team show their skills in attacking and defensive jurus with empty hands or with weapon. This exercise takes exactly 3 minutes.
- Regu: team seni category. Three pesilats of the same team show their skills in the Jurus Wajib Regu (team compulsory jurus). This exercise is performed unarmed and takes exactly 5 minutes.
The arena ground for tanding (fighting) match is a square of 10m X 10m. The match ground is a circle with 8m diameter inside the arena. The arena has a red and a blue corner for the pesilats. The other (white) corners are the neutral corners.
A pesilat of either gender can participate in international competition from age 14 till 35. Competition for adult male and female from age 17 till 40. Competition for junior male and female from age 14 till 17.
In official tournaments adult females compete in seven weight categories:
Class A - 45-50 kg
Class B - 50-55 kg
Class C - 55-60 kg
Class D - 60-65 kg
Class E - 65-70 kg
Class F - 70-75 kg
Оpen - 75-90 kg
- An attack with the hand, arm or elbow (1).
- Parrying, dodging or evading an attack followed by an attack with the hand, arm or elbow (1+1).
- An attack with the foot, leg or knee (2).
- Parrying, dodging or evading an attack followed by an attack with the foot, leg or knee (1+2).
- An attack that results in the opponent falling on the ground (sweep, throwing, lifting, etc.) (3).
- Parrying, dodging or evading an attack followed by an attack that results in the opponent falling on the ground (1+3).
A pesilat can only score with a powerful attack that is not intercepted or evaded by the opponent.
Targets (to make a scoring) are: chest, belly, ribs, back (but attacking the spine is NOT allowed).
- Reprimand: -1
- Second reprimand: -2
- Warning: -5
- Second warning: -10
According to PERSILAT’s terms and rules, there are several ways to win a Silat match:
1. 1. Winning by score
- When one of the pesilats has more points than his opponent.
- When there is a draw, then the winner is the pesilat with the least penalties.
- If the result is still the same then the winner is the pesilat who has the highest score of techniques (e.g. 1+3 is higher than 3).
- If the result is still the same then one more round is fought.
- If the result is still the same then the winner is the pesilat with the lowest weight.
- If the result is still the same then the winner is decided by lot.
2. Technical knockout
- When a pesilat prefers not to continue his fight.
- When the doctor decides to stop the fight.
- When the coach decides to stop the fight.
- When the referee decides to stop the fight.
When one of the pesilats is knocked down due to a valid attack.
4. Referee stops contest
A referee can stop a fight when one of the pesilats is not capable anymore to defend himself.
5. Walk over
When one of the pesilats does not show up in the arena.
6. Disqualification of an opponent
- When a pesilat receives a 3rd warning.
- When a pesilat commits a serious violation.
- When a pesilat receives a reprimand and his opponent is seriously wounded and cannot continue his fight.
- When the weight of a pesilat is not conform the class he wants to fight.
*) PERSILA (Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa – Indonesian abbreviation for the International Pencak Silat Federation) is promoting Pencak silat as an international competition sport. Only members recognized by PERSILAT are allowed to participate at international competitions. Several European national Pencak silat federations, together with PERSILAT, have founded a European Pencak Silat Federation. In 1986, the first Pencak Silat World Championship outside of Asia took place in Vienna, Austria. In 2002, Pencak silat was introduced as part of the exhibition programme at the Asian Games in Busan Korea for the first time. This was to show the level of quality outside the Asian area, and also to show the globalization of Pencak Silat as a sport. The last World Championships just took place in Kuantan, Malaysia on October 19 – 25, 2007.
Outdoor Pencak Silat bout
Asian Ganes champion in lihght weight category Le Thi Hang (Vietnam)
Hannah Alrashid (UK) vs Katja Tennstaedt (Germany)
Фото с вебсайта Pencak Silat Federation of the UK
Silat contests with weapons
Hannah Alrashid performs Seni (female jurus)
Photo from the website Pencak Silat Federation of the UK
Two videoclips with Pencak-Silat demonstrations