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Style Highlight: Pencak Silat

In my last style highlight, I talked a little bit about the “origin” of martial arts. Basically, I said that forms of combat, armed and unarmed, have existed as long as human conflict has existed.

Last time, we looked a bit at Kalaripattayu, an Indian martial art. Pencak silat, or just silat, is considered an umbrella term for Indonesian martial arts. Meaning that there are a lot of styles which fit into silat.

Like the Philippines, Indonesia is an island nation, so it’s not surprising that we use a catch-all term for Indonesian martial arts. Indonesia is actually the most populous Muslim country in the world (88% of 237 million is a lot of people, compare to 100% of 16 million Saudis). In silat, you’ll see both men and women participating.

Silat is fascinating to watch. Like many Southeast Asian martial arts, silat has the aesthetics of a soft martial art. There are lots of strong kicks and strikes, and an interesting focus on throws. The practitioners stay so close to the ground–dropping the center of gravity allows them to pull off some thrilling moves. Silat practitioners also use a range of weapons, most common of which are short swords.

Why am I talking about pencak silat on this blog? Basically, I want to expose some of my readers/students to different styles of martial arts.

Why is it so important to know about different styles?

For one thing, it’s good to get out of your box once in a while. Recognizing that there are many equally good ways to do the same thing is a mark of maturity & respect for others.

Second, we can always learn from how other martial arts do things. Like Bruce Lee said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

  • Maybe our martial art has it wrong, backwards, or mistaken. (Yup, I said it).
  • Maybe our martial art lacks something that fits a different body type better.
  • Maybe we don’t know it all, as much as we’d like to think so.

Silat is not for the faint of knee, for sure. If I ever get the chance, I’d love to study this Indonesian martial art. For cool pictures from a great variety of martial arts, check out my “Martial Diversity” board on Pinterest.

Here are some more silat videos, please enjoy!

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