„I am an individual with a noble mind and character.
I am a person who honors his fellow man and seeks in silence for friendship and peace.
I am a knight who upholds truth, honesty and justice always resilient in facing life's toughest situations and temptation”.
The above statement, suming up pencak practitioners credo, can give you the first impression of what the traditional Indonesian martial art values. Penciak silat (or pentjak silat) is perceived in Indonesian culture as a self-defence system, a sport and a way of life. It teaches moral, spiritual and physical discipline. The term itself has been introduced around 1949 as a unifying name for the Indonesian fighting styles. In modern usage 'pencak' and 'silat' are seen as being two aspects of the same practice. 'Pencak' is centred around the aspect of performance (refers to the dancing aspect of the art, which honours Indonesians passion for dance), while 'silat' is the essence of a fight. It is often said that 'there can be no silat without pencak and pencak without silat skills is purposeless'. The art of silat is linked to honor, respect and the triumph of good over evil.
The origin of pencak silat goes back several centuries and is largely based on oral tradition. Primeval myths concur that silat was originally developed by tribal groups in the archipelago through the observation of animal behaviour with the aim to defend themselves from wild creatures and natural dangers. Since the age of Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms like Srivijaya, Majapahit or Sunda pencak silat was used for soldiers and warriors battle training.
There is no common standard for pencak silat. Each style has its own very particular pattern of movements to follow, especially designed techniques and choreography. This wide diversity reflects the fact that pencak has been developed by different masters who have created own styles according to socio-cultural context in which they lived.
The foundation of pencak silat involves four main aspects: development of mental and physical attributes, the mastery of a self-defence, its aesthetic quality and the sports element. That way, members of pencak silat community train to become pendekar – master of self-defence, of pure character, eloquent in actions. The intention here is to develop a human being who is fit both physically and mentally.
Strong spiritual training is especially important, so the students may be prepared for violent consequences of a real combat. The final result of pencak silat education is a belief system that values courage, confidence and the will to fight on the side of truth and justice. In order to achieve it, every practitioner must build: technical precision, speed, reaction time, power (physical strenght), patience and quiescence. The last area to work on is the inner power, known as the spiritual strenght which is the privilege of a master (pendekar), that is strongly related to meditation techniques and the religious aspect of the art: 'When the student purifies himself and reduces the ego his desire for love increases. You can see everything by just sitting down and asking the soul from a heart level, so when you meditate it’s important to ask with your heart and reach a point of pure emptiness to make the best spiritual connection.'
Today pencak silat training is an important part of the education curriculum in many schools and is being practiced by people of all age, regardless of sex or social status. Throughout Indonesia there is plenty of local pencak silat clubs and assocciations and usually it is possible to join the training group anytime.
Becoming pencak silat trainee can be an interesting experience while in Indonesia as it's the very centre from where this martial art has spread to the world. As every training is almost celebrated with the special order and routine, it's also a unique chance to get a deep insight into Indonesian values and approach to physical discipline and a fully-balanced lifestyle.
Other than that, telling your friends that you are an adept of Indonesian warriors martial art, how cool is that?