Pencak silat (Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈpɛntʃaʔ ˈsilat]; pronounced penchak silat and sometimes spelled pentjak silat in Western writings) is an umbrella term for a class of related martial arts originating in Indonesia. It is a full-body fighting form incorporating strikes, grappling and throwing in addition to weaponry. Every part of the body is used and subject to attack. Pencak silat was practiced not only for physical defense but also for psychological ends.
The leading organization of pencak silat in Indonesia is IPSI (Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia, meaning Pencak Silat Association of Indonesia). The liaison body for international pencak silat is the International Pencak Silat Association or PERSILAT (Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antara Bangsa).
Although the word silat is widely known through much of South East Asia, the term pencak silat is used mainly in Indonesia. Pencak silat was chosen in 1948 as a unifying term for the Indonesian fighting styles. It was a compound of the two most commonly used words for martial arts in Indonesia. Pencak was the term used in central and east Java, while silat was used in Sumatra and Borneo. In Minang usage, pencak and silat are seen as being two aspects of the same practice. Pencak is the essence of training, the outward aspect of the art which a casual observer is permitted to witness as performance. Silat is the essence of combat and self-defense, the true fighting application of the techniques which are kept secret from outsiders and not divulged to students until the guru deems them ready. While other definitions exist, all agree that silat cannot exist without pencak, and pencak without silat skills is purposeless.
The origin of the words pencak and silat have not been proven. Some believe that pencak comes from the Sanskrit word pancha meaning five, or from the Chinese term pencha or pungcha which implies parrying or deflecting, and striking or pressing.
Other terms may be used in particular dialects such as silek, penca, mancak, maen po or main-po.
Dutch East Indian newspapers of the colonial era recorded the terms for martial arts under Dutch spellings. These include silat, pencak (spelled in Dutch as "pentjak"), penca ("pentjah"), mancak ("mentjak"), manca ("mentjah"), and pukulan ("poekoelan"). In 1881 a magazine calls mancak a Batak fencing game "with long swords, daggers or wood (mentjah)" These papers described mancak as Malayan (Maleidsche) suggesting that the word originates in Sumatra. These terms were used separately from silat in the Dutch East Indies. The terms pukulan or main pukulan (spelled "maen poekoelan" in Dutch) referred to the fighting systems of Jakarta but was also used generally for the martial arts of other parts of Indonesia such as Sumatra and Lombok. Believed to be a Betawi term, it derives from the words for play (main) and hit (pukulan).
The oral history of Indonesia begins with the arrival of Aji Saka (lit. primordial king) from India to Java. At the request of the local people, he successfully killed the local monarch King Dewata Cengkar of Medang Kamulan in battle and took his place as ruler. This story traditionally marks the rise of Java and the dawn of its Dharmic civilisation. The tale also illustrates the influence India had on Indonesian and Southeast Asian culture in general. Aji Saka is shown to be a fighter and swordsman, while his servants are also depicted as fighting with daggers. The Indian method of knife-duelling was adapted by the Batak and Bugis-Makassar peoples. Ancient Indonesian art from this period also depicts warriors mounted on elephants wielding Chinese weapons such as the jian or straight double-edge sword, which is still used in some styles today. The martial arts of Indonesia's Chinese community still exist and are known as kuntao.
The earliest evidence of pencak silat being taught in a structured manner comes from 6th-century Riau, Sumatra. Sumatran folklore tells that it was created by a woman named Rama Sukana who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a large bird. By using the animals' movements, she was able to fend off a group of drunken men that attacked her. She then taught the techniques to her husband Rama Isruna from whom they were formally passed down. There are several variations of this story depending on the region where it is told. On the island of Boyan (Bawean), Rama Sukana is believed to have watched monkeys fighting each other while the Sundanese of West Java believe that she saw a monkey battle a tiger. The fact that this legend attributes silat to a woman is thought to indicate its age, considering the prominence of women in traditional Southeast Asian society.
Evidence shows that pencak silat had been used consistently through Indonesia’s history. From its birthplace in Riau, the art spread to the Minangkabau capital in West Sumatra. The Minangkabau had a clan-based feudal government. Military officers called hulubalang acted as bodyguards to the king or yam tuan. Minang warriors served without pay. The plunder was divided among them according to military merit, so fighters strove to outdo each other. They were skilled horsemen with the native pony and also expert bladesmiths, producing arms both for their own use and for export to Aceh. Traditional Minang society was based around matrilineal custom, so pencak silat was commonly practiced by women.
Pencak silat further spread to Srivijaya which dominated the coastal areas, while the Sailendra and Medang Kingdoms ruled central Java where the fighting arts developed in three geographical regions: West Java, Central Java, and East Java. Pencak silat especially flourished in Java which is now home to more different styles than any other Indonesian islands. In the 13th century, Srivijaya was defeated by the Tamil Cholas of south India. The Tamil stick fighting art of silambam is still the most common Indian fighting system in Southeast Asia today.
During the 13th century, the warrior-king Kertanegara of Singhasari conquered the Melayu Kingdom, Maluku Islands, Bali, and other neighbouring areas. From 1280-1289, Kublai Khan sent envoys demanding that Singhasari submit to the Khan as Jambi and Melayu had already done, but Kertanegara responded defiantly by scarring the last envoy's face. Kublai Khan retaliated by sending a punitive expedition of 1000 junks to Java, but Kertanegara had already been killed by a vassal in Kediri before the Yuan force arrived. His son-in-law Raden Wijaya replaced Kertanegara as leader and allied himself with the arriving Mongol army. With their help Raden Wijaya was able to defeat the Kediri forces. With his silat-trained warriors, Raden Wijaya then turned on the Mongols so that they fled back to China. The village he founded became the Majapahit empire. This was the first empire to unite all of Indonesia's major islands, and Javanese pencak silat reached its technical zenith during this period. In Majapahit, pencak silat became the specialised property of the nobility and its advanced secrets were hidden from commoners. For example, Merpati Putih is said to have been kept secret in the palaces of Java until the 20th century.
The lucrative spice trade eventually brought colonists from Europe, first the Portuguese followed by the Dutch and British. The Dutch East India Company became the dominant power and established full colonial rule in Indonesia. Local revolts and uprisings were common, but all were suppressed by the Dutch armed with guns and cannons. The Dutch brought in even more Chinese workers to Indonesia, which brought a greater variety of local kuntao systems. But while the Europeans could effectively overtake and hold the cities, they found that it impossible to control the smaller villages and roads connecting them. Indonesians took advantage of this, fighting an underground war through guerilla tactics. Local weapons were recorded as being used against the Dutch, particularly knives and edged weapons such as the golok, parang, kris and klewang.
During the 17th century, the Bugis of Sulawesi allied with the Dutch colonists to destroy Mangkasara rule over the surrounding area. While this increased Bugis power in the southwest, Dutch rule deprived seafaring merchants like the Bugis of their traditional employment. As a result, these communities increasingly turned to piracy during the 17th-18th centuries. Not only was pencak silat practiced by the pirates, but new styles were created to combat them.
During the Dutch colonial era of the 18th and 19th century, the exploitative social and economic condition of the colony created the culture of the jago or local people's champion regarded as thugs and bandits by the colonial administration. Parallels can be seen in the jawara of Priangan, jagoan of Betawi, warok in the Ponorogo region of East Java, and the carok duelling tradition of Madura. The most infamous band of jagoan was the 19th century Si Pitung and Si Jampang, experts in Silat Betawi. Traditionally depicted as Robin Hood-like figures, they upheld justice for the common man by robbing from the rich who acquired power and status by collaborating with the colonists. The jago were despised by the Dutch authorities as criminals and thieves but were highly respected by the native Indonesians and local Chinese.
Conflict with the European rulers provided an impetus for the proliferation of new styles of pencak silat, now founded on the platform of nationalism and the desire for freedom from colonisation. The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI) was founded in 1948 to bring all of Indonesia's pencak silat under a single administration. The world's oldest nationwide silat organisation, its basis is that all pencak silat is built on a common source, and that less functional styles must give way to the technically superior. IPSI has avoided the tendency of modern martial arts that gravitate towards sport. The resistance to sport has lessened over time, however, and sparring in particular has become less combative. While nominally an Indonesian organisation, many of the rules and regulations outlined by IPSI have become the de facto standard for silat competitions worldwide. Indo-Dutch Eurasians who first began practicing pencak silat in the 20th century spread the art to the west in recent decades.
Today pencak silat is one of the extra-curricular activities taught in Indonesian schools and the Merpati Putih system is the standard unarmed martial art of the Indonesian National Armed Forces. It is included as a combat sport in local, national and international athletic events such as the SEA Games and Indonesia's National Sports Week. Since 2012, the Pencak Malioboro Festival has been held annually and features demonstrations by the biggest silat schools in Indonesia.
Styles and schools
Over 150 styles of pencak silat are recognised in Indonesia, although the actual number of existing systems is well beyond that. Older methods are typically identified with specific ethno-cultural groups or particular regions. After Indonesia's independence, pencak silat adapted itself in the context of modern sport and, in some cases, religion.
Much of what constitutes classical Malay culture has its origin in the Riau Archipelago, including the earliest evidence of silat. Referred to as silat Melayu, the regional fighting systems of Riau have influenced nearly the entirety of Indonesian pencak silat, and as far as Malaysia and Singapore. Fighting tactics dating back to the Srivijaya empire persist in Palembang today. Wide stances with the front foot turned slightly inward are typical, developed for fighting on Riau's muddy ground, while also preventing the knee joint from being exposed to frontal kicks. Seizing techniques which grab the arm are common. The most prominent weapons in silat Melayu are the staff (toya) and the spear. Spear forms in Riau usually begin with the blade pointed downward. Staff technique in silat Melayu of the Palembang area is said to be the best in all of Indonesian pencak silat. The weapon is made of wood and usually measures seven feet long. Fixed hand positions with very little sliding along the staff is characteristic of silat Melayu.
The Minangkabau formed the dominant sovereignty in West Sumatra and make up the majority of Sumatran pencak silat systems. These styles may be referred to as silat Minangkabau, silat padang (lit. field silat), or silek, the local pronunciation of silat. Very few systems in Indonesia have not been influenced by silek, and its techniques form the core of pencak silat throughout Sumatra. It developed as an extension of the original silat Melayu from Riau. Folklore traces this to five masters, namely Ninik Datuak Suri Dirajo from Padang Panjang, Kambiang Utan ("forest goat") from Cambodia, Harimau Campo ("tiger of Champa") from Vietnam, Kuciang Siam ("Siamese cat") from Thailand and Anjiang Mualim ("teacher dog") from Gujarat. Stealth and ambush were the preferred Minang war tactics, and they were said to be among the best assassins in the world when dispatched singly. Silek Minangkabau is characterised by its low stances and reliance on kicks and leg tactics. The local practice of paddling rafts with the legs strengthened fighters' lower body muscles. The low stance is said to have developed to offset the chance of falling on slippery or wet ground, common in the rice fields of West Sumatra. Hand and arm movements are fast, honed through an exercise in which the exponent stands across from a partner tossing sharpened sticks or knives. The exponent must redirect the sticks or knives and send them back at the thrower, using their hands and a minimum of movements with the rest of the body.
There are currently around ten major styles of silek, a few of which like Silek Lintau are commonly practiced even in Malaysia. IPSI recognises Silek Harimau (tiger silek) and Silek Buaya (crocodile silek) as among the oldest pencak silat in existence. Silek Harimau, also known as Silek Kuciang or cat silek, epitomizes the Minang techniques in that it focuses on crouching and kicking from a low position paired with rapid hand attacks. Silek Tuo is considered by some to be the oldest Minang system, while others claim it traces to the freedom fighter Tuanku Nan Tuo. Prominent Minang weapons include the pedang (sword), tombak (spear), kris (dagger), klewang (longsword), sabit (sickle), payung (umbrella), kerambit (claw), and various types of knives.
The Sundanese pencak silat of West Java may be called silat Sunda or silat Bandung. In the Sunda language they are generically referred to as penca (dialect form of pencak), ameng, ulin or maen po (from the word main meaning "play"). Ameng is the more respectful term, while ulin and maen po are of lower speech levels. Sunda systems are easily identified by the prefix ci. Pronounced "chi", it comes from the Sundanese word cai meaning water. IPSI recognises Cimacan (tiger style), Ciular (snake style), and Pamonyet (monkey style) as among the oldest existing pencak silat. Cimacan is said to have been created by a Buddhist monk. The most prominent system of West Java is penca Cimande, founded by Embah Kahir in Cimande village of the Sukabumi area around 1760. Several stories of its origin exist, even tying it to the older Rama Sukana legend of Sumatra. The system itself is said to have origins dating back much further than Embah Kahir, and is believed by many masters to be the original penca of West Java. Cimande students begin by learning to fight from a seated position before they are taught footwork, a hallmark of Sundanese penca.
The town of Cianjur – seen as the heartland of Sunda culture – is associated with a few systems, the most prominent of them being Cikalong or bat style. Borrowing its technical base from Cimande, Cikalong was founded by Raden Jayaperbata after meditating in a cave in the Cikalong Kulon village. Penca instruction was traditionally done through apprenticeship, wherein prospective students offer to work as a servant in the master's house or a labourer in the rice fields. In exchange for working during the day, the master provides the student's meals and trains during the evening.
The Javanese pencak silat tradition were developed by several perguruan (schools). Notable schools include Merpati Putih and Inti Ombak from Yogyakarta, and Perisai Diri from Surabaya. PPS Betako Merpati Putih stands for Perguruan Pencak Silat Beladiri Tangan Kosong Merpati Putih or "Empty Handed Pencak Silat Martial Art School of Merpati Putih". Officially established on 2 April 1963 in Yogyakarta, Merpati Putih is rooted in the Javanese beliefs and philosophies based on Javanese keraton (court) tradition, and can trace its origin to the martial art tradition of the 17th century Mataram Sultanate. The name Merpati Putih in Indonesian literally means "white dove", and the bird is the symbol of the school. The name is said to be an abbreviation of a Javanese proverb: Mersudi Patitising Tindak Pusakane Titising Hening which means "Always searching for the truth with inner peace". The school also has a motto: Sumbangsihku tak berharga, namun Keikhlasanku nyata, which means "My contribution is humble, but my sincerity is real".
Merpati Putih focuses heavily on empty-handed self defense and tenaga dalam ("inner strength") developed through intense breathing technique trainings. Although the style is very much self-defence oriented, its practitioners also participate in modern competitions and have achieved some important victories in many regional, national and international tournaments. Today, the school of Merpati Putih is one of the most widely distributed and has large numbers of practitioner in Indonesia and abroad. The school of Merpati Putih has numerous branches established in schools and universities in Indonesia to attract students to learn pencak silat as an extracurricular activity. The Merpati Putih self-defense system is also practiced by the Indonesian National Armed Forces. Merpati Putih has established overseas schools in the United States, Japan and the Netherlands.
Following the invasion by Demak, many families of the Majapahit empire fled to Bali. The descendants of the Majapahit were traditionally resistant to outside influence and as a result, the people of Bali often make a distinction between "pure" Balinese pencak silat and styles introduced from outside such as Perisai Diri. The native systems - known locally as pencak - are less direct than other styles, characteristically favouring deception over aggression. Hand movements are used to distract, and openings are deliberately exposed to bluff the opponent into attacking. This approach requires that exponents train their flexibility and stamina. As with Balinese warriors of the past, modern pencak practitioners in Bali often wear headbands as part of their uniform.
There are about four main systems considered purely Balinese. The most prominent of these is Bakti Negara, which is firmly rooted in the old local Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana. Another system which has gained prominence is Seruling Dewata meaning "God's flute". Purported to date back to ancient times, it recognizes Bodhidharma as the first patriarch, though not its creator. Eka Sentosa Setiti (ESSTI) was the first pencak silat association officially founded in Bali. Created and practiced in the island's south, it draws heavily from southern Saolim kuntao. The primary stance is the ting posture of kuntao, also the main stance of Japanese aikido. ESSTI keeps membership low and does not permit outsiders to view sparring matches. Finally, the Tridharma style is practiced in northern Bali. It utilizes circular hand movements and straight kicks. The ESSTI and Tridharma schools often exchange students so cross-training between the styles is common. All Balinese pencak schools traditionally keep sportive contests and performance to a minimum in order to emphasise combat effectiveness.
Acehnese pencak silat borrows its foundation from silat Melayu and silek Minangkabau, particularly the arm-seizing techniques of the former and the ground-sitting postures of the latter. The Aceh style is comparatively more aggressive overall. Acehnese pencak silat favours bladed weaponry, specifically knives and swords. The primary weapon is the rencong, an L-shaped dagger used mainly for thrusting but also for slashing. The kris is used as well but the native rencong takes precedence. Located on Sumatra's north coast on the westernmost tip of the archipelago, Aceh was the first port of call for traders sailing the Indian Ocean, and local blades show an Indian-Muslim influence. Unlike the more typical rattan shield, the Acehnese buckler is also of Indian derivation, made from metal and with five or seven knobs on the surface.
The Bugis (Ugi) and Makassar people (Mangkasara) are two related maritime groups from Sulawesi. The former in particular were renowned navigators and shipbuilders, but also feared as corsairs and slave-traders. Both the Bugis and Makassarese were famous for piracy, though this was more common among the former than the latter. Their skill as warriors and sea raiders made them highly valued as mercenaries in wars along the coasts of Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia. A Dutch alliance with the Bugis destroyed Mangkasara rule in the late 17th century, but the European colonial expansion that followed deprived the Bugis of their traditional commercial employment as merchants, and lead to an increase in piracy.
As sailors for whom the knife is a vital tool, Bugis and Makassar combatives (known locally as silat) favour blades. The primary weapon is an indigenous knife called the badik. Other weapons include the sele (dagger), berang (machete), cabang (truncheon), and the mandau (cleaver). Silat in Sulawesi is closely tied to animism, and weapons are believed to be imbued with a spirit of their own. Hand and arm movements are designed to be adaptable for use with a knife or with the empty hands. Attacks with the fists or open hands can be modified with a pinching action of the fingers, which has its origin in the pinch-grip of the badik. Bugis styles (silat Ugi) are based on these hand and arm movements and contain only limited kicks, almost all of the linear variety. The Bugis kekuda is identical to the southern Chinese horse stance. Styles from southwestern Sulawesi generally come under the Makassar category (silat Mangkasara). Chief among them are the kuntao-influenced style Karena Macang and the kick-based Manca Tonaja from southern Sulawesi, which is believed to have Minang roots. The mangrove swamps and rocky inlets along the coasts of Sulawesi served as hiding places for pirates, so silat among the Bugis and Makassar community makes use of and defends against ambush. Countering surprise attacks is the specialty of Silat Tapu, a secretive system taught only to experienced practitioners.
Pencak silat in the Maluku Islands uses a wide variety of weaponry, some of which are indigenous to the area. The particular specialty of Moluccan silat is the cabang (forked truncheon), pisau (knife), galah (wooden or metal staff). The local pedang (sword) is long-bladed and associated with female fighters. On Haruku Island, particular emphasis is placed on one-legged stances. This tactic is well-suited to fighting in the ankle-deep sands of the island, allowing the exponent to use both kicking and eye-gouging techniques simultaneously.
Among the Betawi people of Greater Jakarta, the silat tradition is rooted in the culture of the jagoan or jawara, local champions seen as heroes of the common people. They went against colonial authority and were despised by the Dutch as thugs and bandits. Betawi silat is referred to in the local dialect as maen pukulan or main pukulan, literally meaning "strike play". The most well-known schools are Cingkrik and Beksi. The monkey-inspired Cingkrik is the older of the two, the name implying agile movement. The art is said to trace back to a monkey style of kuntao attributed to Rama Isruna after his wife observed the actions of monkeys. A student of this kuntao named Ki Maing later expanded on the system after a monkey stole his walking stick. Beksi, meaning "defense of four directions", is credited to a man named Lie Ceng Ok. It is distinguishable from other Betawi systems by its close-distance combat style and lack of offensive leg action.
The Bajau are a seafaring people of Sulawesi originating from the Philippines. Often nomadic, they were traditionally born and raised on longboats at sea although this is increasingly exceptional as the community has been forced to settle on land in recent decades. Colonial records often mistook them for pirates but - unlike the neighbouring Bugis - the Bajau lacked the organization and technology for piracy. In fact, they more often clashed with pirates than engaging in raids themselves. Their main and often only weapon was the fishing spear, which functioned as a hunting tool on land. The Bajau utilized a wide array of these harpoons as weapons both thrown and unthrown. Their aim was impeccable, having been honed by fishing and hunting. The spear may be of nibong wood or bamboo, single-pronged or three-pronged, barbed or unbarbed, and tipped with wood or steel. Contact with the southern Philippines sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao of Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao allowed the Bajau to acquire other weapons through barter, specifically swords, shields, lances and parang. The most notable Bajau style of pencak silat is centered in Kendari. It is characterized by cross-legged stances and rapid turning, designed to be used in cramped spaces such as boats.
Generalizations in pencak silat technique are very difficult; styles and movements are as diverse as the Indonesian archipelago itself. Individual disciplines can be offensive as in Aceh, defensive as in Bali, or somewhere in between. They may focus on strikes (pukulan), kicks (tendangan), locks (kuncian), weapons (senjata), grabs, or even on spiritual development rather than physical fighting techniques. Most styles specialize in one or two of these, but still make use of them all to some degree. Certain characteristics tend to prevail in particular geographical regions, as follows:
- Kicks - West Sumatra, North Sumatra
- Hands - West Java, Sulawesi, Kalimantan
- Grappling - East Java, Sumatra, parts of Bali
- Strikes (hands and feet) - Central Java, Madura, parts of Bali, parts of East Java
Stances and steps
Students begin by learning basic body stances and steps. Steps or langkah are ways of moving the feet from one point to another during a fight. Pencak silat has several basic steps, known as langkah 8 penjuru or "eight directions of steps". Traditional music is often used as a signal to change body position when practicing langkah.
Langkah are taught in conjunction with preset stances, meant to provide a foundation from which to defend oneself or to launch attacks. The most basic stance is the horse stance (kekuda or kuda-kuda), which provides stability and firm body position by strengthening the quads. Other stances may train the feet, legs, thighs, glutes and back. Other essential stances are the middle stance, the side stance, and the forward stance. The crawling tiger stance, in which the body is kept low in a ground-hugging position, is most common in Minang silek. Stances are essentially a combination of langkah, body posture, and movement. Through their correct application, the practitioner will be able to attack or defend whether standing, crouching, or sitting down, and alternate smoothly from one position to another. When the student has become familiar with stances and langkah, all are combined in forms or jurus.
Forms or jurus are pre-meditated sets of steps and movements used for practicing proper technique, training agility, and conditioning the body. Repetition of jurus also develops muscle memory so the practitioner can act and react correctly within a split-second in any given combative situation without having to think. Either armed or unarmed, jurus may be solo, one against one, one against several, or even two against more than one. Forms involving more than one practitioner are meant to be performed at the speed of an actual fight. Real weapons are used in the case of armed jurus, but are sometimes unsharpened today. The kembang (lit. "flower") aspect of forms consists of fluid movements with the hands and arms resembling traditional Indonesian dance. As with Korean taekkyeon, these movements are preparation for defending or reversing the opponent's attack. Musical accompaniment provides a metronome to indicate the rhythm of motion. For example, the beat of a drum might signify an attack. Those not aware of the combative nature of these moves often mistake the forms for dancing rather than the formalized training of fighting techniques.
Pencak silat uses the whole body for attack. The basic strikes are the punch (pukul) and kick (tendang), with many variations in between. Strikes may be performed with the fists, open palms, shins, feet (kaki), elbows (sikut), knees (dengkul or lutut), shoulders (bahu), or the fingers (jari). Even basic attacks may vary depending on style, lineage, and regional origin. Some systems may favour punching with the clenched fist, while others might prefer slapping with the palm of the hand. Other common tactics include feints (tipuan) or deceptive blows used as distraction, sweeping (sapuan) to knock the opponent down, and the scissors takedown (guntingan) which grips the legs around the opponent.
Defense in pencak silat consists of blocking, dodging, deflecting, and countering. Blocks or tangkisan are the most basic form of defense. Because pencak silat may target any part of the body, blocks can be done with the forearms, hands, shoulders, or shins. Blocking with the elbows may even hurt the attacker. Attacks can also be used defensively, such as kneeing a kicking opponent's leg. Hard blocks, in which force is met with force, are most suitable when fighting opponents of the same strength or lower. Styles that rely on physical power favour this approach, such as Tenaga Dasar. To minimize any damage sustained by the defender when blocking in this way, body conditioning is used such as toughening the forearms by hitting them against hard surfaces. In cases where the opponent is of greater strength, evasion (elakan) or deflections (pesongan) would be used, and are actually preferred in certain styles.
As with most ancient fighting arts, pencak silat historically prioritized weapons over unarmed combat. While this is usually not the case today, all pencak silat schools include weapons to some degree of importance. While pencak silat includes a wide array of weapons, the following are considered standard in all classical styles.
- Pisau: Any short-bladed knife
- Parang: Machete-like chopper, ranging from 10 to 36 inches long
- Kris: Double-edged dagger made by folding different types of metal together and then washing it in acid.
- Cabang: Short-handled trident, literally meaning "branch"
- Toya: Staff usually made of rattan or sometimes metal. Typically measures 5–6 feet long and 1.5–2 inches in diameter.
- Tongkat/Galah: Short stick or cudgel
- Pedang: Sword, most often single-edged and either straight or slightly curved. Usually measures 15–35 inches overall with a blade upward of 10 inches long
- Sabit/Celurit: A sickle, commonly used in farming, cultivation and harvesting of crops.
- Golok: Heavy cleaver measuring 10–20 inches long. The blade is heaviest in the centre
- Klewang: Single-edge longsword with a protruding notch near its tip
- Tombak/Lembing: Spear or javelin made of bamboo, steel or wood that sometimes has horsehair attached near the blade.
The major international competition is Pencak Silat World Championship, organised by PERSILAT. This competition takes place every 2 or 3 years period. More than 30 national teams competed in recent tournaments in Jakarta (2010), Chiang Rai (2012) and Phuket (2015).
List of Pencak Silat World Championships
|1987||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||18|
|1990||Den Haag, Netherlands||18|
|1997||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia||20|
|2012||Chiang Rai, Thailand||?|
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