Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why I love Silat

In this cycle, we are introducing some silat.  I must confess, I LOVE IT.  Of the many things that we do in Kali Majapahit, including Sinawali/Serrada, Panantukan/Sikaran, Hakka Kuntao, Muay Thai/Muay Boran and others, silat is always one of my favorites.  Years ago, at the Peaceful Warrior Camp, Dakilang Jeff Espinous introduced us to a variety of movements from his Kali Silat Concept and I was mesmerized.  I have been ever since.  In the interim, I have had a chance to experience some fantastic instructors such as Guru Berni Chu, Sifu James Nener and Guru Maul Mornie, who deepen my understanding further and help me make sense of this beautiful art.  Of course, I was thrilled to see silat shown in movies like Raid/Raid 2 and The Accountant.  Silat was even used as a basis for the fighting style of King T'Challa, the Black Panther of Wakanda.   

Why do I love it so much?

Low Stances
While not exclusively so, silat tends to be characterized by an extremely low stance relative to other fighting styles (like Muay Thai, for example).  As a smaller guy, this is to my advantage.  Practicing the Jurus/Langkas is also great for building leg strength and flexibility in the hips and ankles. Some styles like Cimande/Mande Muda have very low movements and are great for lower body physical conditioning. 

Unusual Weapons
I've always been a "weapons" guy, and silat training exposes us culturally to some of the most exotic tools in the martial arts - sarong, karambit, Kris, sabit, tekpi to name a few.  Even weapons which resemble those of kobudo (sabit and tekpi, for example) are used in a very different manner, which means a lot to learn, explore and discover.  Years ago, I was fascinated by a photo of Silat master Eddie Jafri with little blades held between his toes for kicking opponents...mind-blowing stuff.

3 Levels of Engagement
In silat, things are happening all at once, often on 3 planes at the same time.  While the hands are engaging/trapping and striking, the hips may be in contact and the feet may be entering for foot traps, low kicks, sweeps or other low-line attacks.  The fact that these all happen simultaneously make silat an extremely effective fighting system that is very hard to defend against.

Fighting Strategy
Many people observe the jurus (forms) of silat and comment that they are impractical or ineffective.  This is often derided from a point of view that does not understand the actual fighting movements and strategy inherent in silat.  Unlike other styles which favor showing opponents a tight, close guard, silat is very deceptive.  Often the silat artist will "bait" the opponent by offering a (seemingly) very open and available target such as the head or groin.  This is done to try to "channel" the attacker into launching an expected attack - which results in their defeat.  The open guards are usually done with other targets hidden or covered, limiting the attacker to one good (irresistible) line of attack.  I love the psychological approach of making an opponent commit to a doomed strategy.

Silat is not a static art.  The goal is always to use footwork to reach a place of advantage, flanking to gain access to the opponent's back or using footwork to adjust fighting distance.  

Locking Flows
Having come from a background of strong locking/throwing techniques (aikido/jujutsu/judo) I truly appreciate the beauty of being able to control an attacker or project him/her into other combatants.  However, silat has a wide variety of locking techniques that are rarely seen in other arts.  in silat, we lock with the feet, legs, arms and elbows and lock both standing and on the ground.  In general, these locks are a pathway to one of two outcomes: 1) joint breaks/dislocations or 2) strangles and chokes.  Like quicksand, the more the attacker struggles, the more they are locked, in pain and blacking out.  There are also throws in silat, but less the kind of dynamic projections seen in judo or aikido, and more likely to be sweeps or takedowns, usually flowing straight into locking.

Silat is not a submission style like MMA/BJJ or Aikido.  The locks are designed to dislocate or break joints and usually lead directly into strangles or chokes.

Filipino Martial Arts has its own groundfighting style, called "dumog", but this is a bit different from silat.  Styles vary of course, but some such as cimande are extremely low and centered around in groundwork.  Almost like the BJJ guard, these styles seek to pin the opponent to the floor where they can be attacked with brutal full-power strikes, elbows and kicks without being able to retreat.  In general, three points of contact (two knees and one hand, two hands and one knee) will be the base while the remaining limb hits or kicks.  BJJ is considered extremely formidable on the ground, but silat is no less deadly.

Adab, Adat, Hormat
These three words, Adab (courtesy), Adat (culture) and Hormat (respect) form the foundation of good silat training.  This is consistent with all good martial arts instruction and promotes healthy, mature and responsible people.  The silat practitioners I have met all exemplify these traits and I am proud to call them my brothers and sisters.

The great thing about Kali Majapahit is the contrast between the different sub-systems.  There is always a lot to see and do, and it takes some time for the mind to feel comfortable with the vastness of the curriculum.

Train hard. 

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