Pencak Silat is a martial art that was first practiced in Sumatra after arriving in Indonesia with Indian and Chinese travelers more than 1000 years ago. Today there are hundreds of different forms of Pencak Silat practiced across Indonesia with the various forms jealously protected by the intimates.
One of the newest forms of Pencak Silat is Pencak Silat Nusantara, developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Mohamad Djoko Wasposo, Mohamad Hadimulyo and Rachmadi Djok Suwignjo, who sought to open up the esoteric martial art so it would not be lost to younger generations. Pencak Silat is now recognized as a competitive sport within national sports games.
According to Melbourne-based Pencak Silat teacher Ronnie Takdare, the name comes from pencak (the physical) and silat (the movements of the mind); a combination of yoga and meditation that “trains the five senses”. He says there are three main forms of Pencak Silat:
Ilmu Beladiri or the standard form of Pencak Silat that can be taught to anyone.
Seni Beladiri that is specific to a region, such as Sundanese Silat from West Java or the Balinese form of Silat.
Silat Keluarga that is developed within families and only taught to family members
Like many martial arts, Pencak Silat movements are based on animal movements, such as the movement of a tiger in attack.
One Pencak Silat legend says the martial art was developed by a woman who watched tigers fighting. Absorbed by the fight, she was late home and her husband attacked her. Using what she had learned from the tigers the woman was able to deflect her husband’s blows, defeating him in the fight. Her husband was so impressed by his wife’s newfound skills that the couple teamed up and developed Pencak Silat, teaching it to their children and community.