The Internation Mobilisation
of Indon-Malayan Tradition
Department of Anthropology
School of Culture, Media and Politics
Pencak Silat is
widely known as the martial art originating from the Indo-Malayan archipelago.
It is a hybrid and generic name for a large variety of homegrown styles of
self-defence, performance art and cultural knowledge.
As a product of internationalization, organizations such as the IPSI (Ikatan Pencak Silat
and PERSILAT have tried to collate, systematize and unify Pencak
Silat from across the archipelago for a more
marketable system of self-defence. However, do standardised forms of Pencak Silat do justice to the fundamentals of the art? The
systematization, formalization and standardization of Pencak
Silat for an international audience may help the
distribution and acquisition of movement vocabularies, but it may overlook
distinct properties of the traditional art. Traditional Pencak
Silat teachers do not use the teaching styles made
famous by Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese martial arts. In fact, Pencak Silat instructors in Indonesia
may be more correctly conceptualized as fight-choreographers rather than self defence instructors. Learning Pencak
Silat is a collaborative exercise between teacher and
student. Teachers grant themselves the freedom to adapt to and be inspired by
their students. Subsequently, Pencak Silat teachers expand the knowledge and movement
vocabularies of their students by increasing their awareness of how to
recognize and escape from danger. Testament to the adaptability of Pencak Silat teachers is the
diversity of styles of Pencak Silat
found throughout the Americas,
Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
These styles have arisen through the interaction of Indo-Malayan instructors
with foreign students. However, these idiosyncratic styles are often less
popular and less widely spread than the more standardized styles of Pencak Silat such as Silat Perisai Diri.
Silat Perisai Diri is a highly systematized style of Pencak
Silat that allows many students to be taught at once.
More traditional styles of teaching only allow for a few students to be taught
at a time. The essence of Pencak Silat
may not necessarily be found in systematic teaching of various movement
sequences. Just as traditional Indo-Malayan music is taught without notation,
so too is traditional Pencak Silat
movement taught without an over-riding system but with an underlying feeling.
While those international Pencak Silat
schools that practice standardized forms of the art may be performing
traditional movements, those schools with no systematized teaching styles may
in fact be performing traditional knowledge.