This article is from the Martial Arts FAQ, by Matthew Weigel firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
(Contributors: Jeffrey Chapman - email@example.com
Russ Rader - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Rivera - email@example.com)
Pencak Silat is the Indonesian and Malaysian set of Martial Arts, all
with different styles and schools (over 400 of them). Some of them use
different spellings, depending upon their lineage - Dutch-Indonesian
Silat is typically "Pentjak Silat" and "pure" Indonesian styles "Pencak
Silat." The Indonesian spelling is used here, not to exclude some Silat
styles, but for uniformity.
Origin: Indonesia and Malaysia
Since Silat is an umbrella term covering many styles, it is not
possible to give a single history. Some of the arts are very old (1000
years?), and some were developed less than 50 years ago. Also, as with
other arts, the history of Silat is somewhat unclear. There is a
mixture of indigenous techniques along with techniques borrowed from
Chinese arts and Indian arts such as Kalaripayit.
Pencak Silat depends heavily on an indigenous weapons and animal-styles
heritage. In the (distant) past, it was predominately a weapons
system; empty hand techniques are derived from the weapons forms. It
is still often said that there is no silat without the knife.
Techniques are quite varied, although kicks are not emphasized much.
Foot work is sophisticated and the development of stability is of major
importance. The foot and and hand techniques are so subtle and
intricate that they are often taught separately, then integrated after
the student has mastered them individually. There is a good balance
between offensive and defensive techniques.
Different styles of Silat use different terminology to describe a
practicioner's ability - "guru" is frequently used to refer to a
proficient instructor, "kang" for senior students, and "pendekar"
someone who has developed a high level of skill and possibly spiritual
development. However, the usage varies from style to style, and
possibly even from school to school.
As an example, Pencak Silat Mande Muda has a complex and rather
rigorous system of training, which includes classical empty hand and
weapons forms, practical empty hand, weapons, and improvised weapons
techniques, stretches, physical conditioning, and breath control.
Although the forms are often performed with musical accompaniment,
much like a dance, they are nevertheless extremely valuable both as
conditioning methods and as encyclopedias of technique.
Mande Muda, Serak (also spelled Sera and Serah), Cimande (Tjimande),
Cikalong (Tjikalong), Harimau, Mustika Kwitang, Gerakan Suci, Perisai
Diri, many others.