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History of Pentjak Silat

Historical Background by Bapak Guru Besar A.D. Nelson
Historical Research by Guru Besar Jim Ingram
Translated and Edited by Guru Pendita Dr. Andre KnustGraichen

  • Pencak Silat

  • A Short Historical Perspective

  • Sriwijaya

  • The Kingdoms of East Java

  • The Birth of Self-Defense Methods

  • Pencak Silat Outside of Indonesia

  • Pencak Silat in the USA

  • The Organizational Structure of Pencak Silat

  • Rules, Laws, Standards, Etiquette


    Pencak Silat

In order to fully understand Pencak Silat and to maintain the same historical perspective as Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (IPSI) it is necessary to have a working knowledge of the historical background of Pencak Silat. Since the arrival of Pencak Silat in Europe, several western practitioners, in particular those from the Netherlands, have returned to Indonesia to find evidence and to prove to themselves what exactly, is going on in the Pencak Silat circles. One individual comes back satisfied and another comes back dissatisfied, with the not altogether clear, information base. As usual the researchers, or the curious have tried to track down Pencak Silat in archaeological digs, pagodas or statues of ancient times in hopes of finding some spectacular evidence of the practice of Pencak Silat in the various cultures that have thrived on the islands. Instead they have only discovered various statues and carvings of otherworldly figures. The mystical aspect of Pencak Silat is, for the western personality, nowhere to be found. The answer of course is right in front of their faces. The ancient temples and pagodas were after all places of worship, places of prayer. Within these temples one can find unearthly and gigantic carved statues that have nothing to do with Pencak Silat itself. The hideous looking statues were placed there to ward off demons and evil spirits. You would not expect to see statues in fighting postures of the roofs of churches or mosques would you?

The stories in Indonesia are either very long or very short and not told as they are in the west. In other words not in black or white. These aren't fairy tales but one must have spent some time in Indonesia to appreciate the humor and exaggeration that is often interjected into these stories. As in most cultures there are expressions used that convey an entire meaning. An an example, I would say "slam dunk" and in the US this would convey images of some great personage of basketball, running, jumping and often "flying" through the air with incredible grace and height to put the ball into a hoop. But I would not have to say any of this, it would be understood as such with just the statement "slam dunk" and I would know that he didn't really fly.

In the handbook NILAI-NILAI DAN PERKEMBANGAN PENCAK SILAT 1992 by Pengurus Besar IPSI, on page 3 it states that Pencak Silat began in the 4th century AD. One can accept this as it is, or research it. Logically, one cannot just accept it but for those who have studied Indonesian history, one must think back to the first kingdom in Indonesia - Kutai (south Kalimantan, formerly called Borneo).


    A Short Historical Perspective

Long before the Christian era, according to Indonesian historians 1500 years BC, it was the inhabitants of Tongkin and Annan (modern day Vietnam) who, due to various reasons, explored and settled on the current Indonesian islands. These explorers were more highly developed culturally than the indigenous peoples of the island groups now known as Indonesia. To this day one still finds evidence of the Dongson-culture. {?} The original inhabitants were very primitive and darker skin color as can be found today on Madagascar, Irian Jaya (New Guinea) and other Melanesian islands. The small groups of Vietnamese immigrants who later established themselves on these islands formed alliances, intermarried and formed the first true and oldest recorded kingdom, Kutai in southeast Kalimantan, in 400 AD.



A little over two hundred years later a great empire arose: Sriwijaya which stretched out over all of Indonesia and into parts of Thailand. This was in the years 650 to 1300 AD. A kingdom was established, having its cultural center on the banks of the Nusi River. During this period between 650 and 750 AD a mighty temple was built in central Java called the "Borobudur" the largest Buddhist temple ever built on earth, with an unknown technology and considered today, as one of the "7 wonders of the world". The most notable ruler of this empire was Ratu (king) Balaputradewa (856-860 AD) the son of Ratu Samaratungga of Mataram (eye of God) who was a practitioner of Buddhism. It would seem logical that the Visayans who traveled over to Indonesia from India through Burma were much better armed and 
trained in warfare than the immigrants of Vietnam or the peoples of Indonesia and therefore were able to effectively rule this empire for so long. Their contribution to Indonesian culture is still evident today in Bali and in the common usage of various terms such as "guru" from the two words "gu" (one who dispels) and "ru" (darkness) in other words a wiseone or teacher.


     The Kingdoms of East Java

Always at war with the Sriwijaya were the kingdoms of east Java. Under the leadership of Ratu Darmawangsa in east Java during the wars to repel invaders, one can find evidence of combat and self-defense techniques (980 ?1017). An alliance was created by Darmawangsa with prince Airlangga, son of Udaya of Bali, when Airlangga married Darmawangsa's daughter. When Airlangga became Ratu (1019 ? 1042) the techniques of Pencak Silat became clearly more formalized and refined. The fighting techniques of Pencak Silat were further refined during the periods of the following Ratus: Ratu Dhoho (Kediri).

Ratu Joyoboyo (1135 - 1157).

Ratu Tunggul Ametung (1222 - 1292) ruler of the Singasari kingdom who's wife was the famous princess Ken Dedes. It was at this time that an exceptional personality suddenly entered into the area neighboring the Singasari kingdom named, Ken Arok. It turned out later that he was not Javanese. Ken Arok was interested in contacting powerful wizards and seers. He traveled with Empu Gandring a Hindu-wizard who taught him all sorts of crafts (black arts, witchcraft). On Ken Arok's orders Ratu Tunggul Ametung was assassinated with a "Kris" (the mystic blade of Indonesia) provided by wizard Empu Gandring, and given to the assassin. The assassin was then immediately put to death by Ken Arok, who then took Ken Dedes as his wife and ascended onto the throne becoming Ratu of Singasari. This then was the beginning of the most famous empire in east Java the Mojopahit.

Mojopahit (1293 - 1470). Here we see the test of Pencak Silat under the leadership of Ratu R. Wijaya with the help of Adipati Arya Wiraraja. These two men led their armies against the dreaded forces of Sih-Pe, Ike-M'se and Kau-Sing, Generals under the command of Emperor Kubilai-Khan and drove them back. This and other victories expanded the Mojopahit empire until, under the rule of Ratu Hayamwuruk it encompassed all of the Indonesian islands and Malaysia. It was Gajahmada who during this period created an elite army of specially trained warriors called the "Bayangkara".

Mataram (1586 to 1755) was the last recognized kingdom or government, with its capital city named Pasar Gede (Kotagede).

Therefore we can see that Pencak Silat had many influences in its evolution as a fighting art, from the intermarriages with Vietnamese and Visayans, in warfare, exposure to trade with other countries such as China, as well as to Hinduism, Buddhism and eventually Islam.


    The Birth of Self-Defense Methods

As temples and pagodas were built to honor various religions, and as the priests and monks from India and China prayed, lived and worked within the walls of these structures, it became necessary for them to defend the very creations they had built and decorated. The decorations on the temples and monasteries were often made of gold and adorned with jewelry. The monks then were not only craftsmen and artisans but also became masters in defending and preserving their work from vandals, thieves and robbers. The priests and monks were often very refined, cultured scholars, who acted as advisors and were employed in the service of kings and princes. It is not surprising then, that in order to preserve their martial arts, the monks would teach only the aristocracy or members of the nobility. Many of the principles of fighting were also tested and refined by the warrior class. It wasn't until much later that the "commoners" were able to learn and utilize the martial arts for their day to day needs.

The name Pencak Silat was, until the 17th century, relatively unknown. It is a combination of a Javanese term "pentjak" which implies an art form or artful expression, with a Malaysian word kilat or "silat" which means lightning. Therefore the implication is that of lightning fast application in combat. Over time many styles developed, often named after a village, river, forest, an animal or legendary hero. The words "pentjak" and "silat" are also thought to be derived from the Chinese words "pong-cha" (to deflect) and "sila-te" (to perform with the hands). The influence and contribution of Chinese Kung Fu and Kun Tao ("fist way") on Pencak Silat can therefore not be ignored.


    Pencak Silat Outside of Indonesia

Because of the colonial takeover of the "spice islands" by the Dutch in 1596, and due to the mixing of races that occurred over time, Pencak Silat was no longer the exclusive property of any one Indonesian village, person or group, but was studied by Dutch-Indonesians as well. The Dutch-Indonesians ("Indos") had to be resourceful in integrating and innovating Pencak Silat for modern applications. With Indonesian independence from the Dutch following World War II, many "Indos" were imprisoned in camps and had their properties and means of livelihood stripped from them by the Indonesians even though they fought just as hard against the Japanese invaders and risked everything in the process. These same "Indos" men, women, and children were imprisoned and mistreated. During the ethnic "cleansing" by the Indonesians, that followed. Those who were able, made their way to The Netherlands. With them came their own unique expressions of Pencak Silat. It was through the efforts of the "Indos" to preserve their heritage and culture that the European continent received exposure to the Indonesian cuisine, dance and Pencak Silat.


    Pencak Silat in the USA

It has been through the continued efforts and contributions of "Indos" who immigrated to the United States that Pencak Silat continued to receive recognition on a global level. Through the pioneering efforts of men like Bapak Guru Besar Rudy TerLinden, Pendekar Willy Wetzel, Pendekar Willem A. Reeders, Pendekar Agung Paul de Thuoars, Bapak Guru Besar Jim Ingram, Sigung Bapak Guru Besar Willem de Thuoars, Guru Victor de Thuoars, Guru Art Rhemrev, Guru Richard F. Durand, Guru Rudy Kudding and others, Pencak Silat has been popularized in the United States.


    The Organizational Structure of Pencak Silat

It was in 1946 that the first formal, organized meeting of Pencak Silat Grandmasters took place to form an organization dedicated to the preservation and continued development of Pencak Silat. This organization was at first named Ikatan Pencak Silat Seluruh Indonesia (IPSSI). Seluruh was an all-inclusive term but it was unclear as to whether it referred to all peoples or only to all Indonesian peoples. With the growing interest in Silat by other Malaysian speaking neighbors namely Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, it was important not to exclude their contributions and so as not to insult these other countries, in 1948, the name was changed to Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia in the city of Surakarta (Solo). This it is assumed was done, to not appear to the other countries as though Indonesia was claiming sole ownership of Pencak Silat but simply proclaiming itself as just one of the countries in which Pencak Silat was practiced. In 1950 Pencak Silat was officially recognized by the Republic of Indonesia as the National Sport.

After an analysis of the then practiced form of Pencak Silat the Grandmasters of Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia, Persekutuan Silat Singapura, members of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports from Malaysia and an observer from Brunei Darussalam, on March 11, 1980 in Anjungan Jawa Barat Taman Mini Indonesia, developed and structured the existing organization, Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antara Bangsa (PERSILAT), comprised of the following:

"Catur Gatra" (The Four Aspects of Pencak Silat)
1. Mental/Spiritual
2. Seni (cultural/artistic, dance)
3. Bela Diri (self-defense)
4. Olah Raga (sport)

Mental Spiritual: The control of the body and spirit. Also the restorative arts are included here. As well as one's behavior in society and in relationship to each other. The mental and spiritual development in Pencak Silat is aimed at achieving inner peace and spiritual balance. This can be accomplished in several ways. One can find two categories of training; these are natural and supernatural. With natural we mean the tangible and measurable things such as, breathing techniques, forms of meditation and concentration, prayer, the continued development of the five senses and physical body, etc. By supernatural we mean the intangible or unmeasurable. These we refer to as "Ilmu Kebatinan" (spiritual knowledge). It is defined as knowledge of the spirit, the mystical and seemingly impossible. There are many Pencak Silat practitioners who have experienced this for themselves. Other terms used are "Tenaga Dalam" (inner dragon), "Indera Keenam" (sixth sense), "Kanuragan" (magical self-defense), "Ilmu Kontak" (calling upon spirits), telepathy, etc. This mental/spiritual aspect of Pencak Silat stimulates, motivates, intensifies and expands the practitioner's outlook.

Seni (cultural/artform, dance) aspect of Pencak Silat: These movements were created and designed to hide the fighting/combative elements of Pencak Silat from any one considered an outsider. The movements of combat were made softer and are today still practiced with some form of percussion instruments accompanying the dance forms. These movements are still based on the performance of the Bela Diri or self-defense in dance form with emphasis on precision and decorative/aesthetic qualities. These are judged on technical quality, choreography, and harmony between the dance and accompaniment of the percussion music.

Bela Diri: Self-defense and sport categories were created to offset the "Suruan", yet still demonstrate the effectiveness of Pencak Silat training while preserving life. You see up until 1942 (officially, but still practiced until 1949) the practice of "Suruan", which were underground secret fights/matches, often resulted in death as there were no rules.

The Bela Diri is pure self-defense in its expression. The techniques are derived from (1) "Jurus" (upperbody fundamentals) and "Langkas" (lower body fundamentals/footwork), also referred to as the mother and father of the Pencak Silat practitioner. (2) Rhythm, meter and timing. Once these elements are part of the self-expression of the practitioner the techniques become fluid and stimulate self-confidence and spiritual balance.

Olah Raga: Sport Pencak Silat was created to stop the death matches and to further the technical development of the Bela Diri in a safer environment. Also to promote sportsmanship in friendly competition. Olah Raga techniques are based on Bela Diri expressions but softened for safety. The competitions/tournaments are graded according to Gaya (style), Teknik (technique), Taktik (tactics) and Etic (ethics). Olah Raga is also practiced to promote physical strength and conditioning for the overall health of mind and body. Currently there are more than 20,000 Pencak Silat practitioners in Europe and over 3,000,000 in Indonesia.

In November of 1990 The International Pencak Silat Federation, Pencak Silat USA was formed in the United States and was incorporated as non-profit (501)(c3) in the City of San Jose, County of Santa Clara, in the State of California in 1993. The founders were Guru Besar Jim Ingram, Sigung Guru Besar Willem de Thuoars, Guru Richard F. Durand and Guru Andre KnustGraichen. This federation has worked to bring together the Guru Besars living in the United States and unify them under one banner. It is today recognized by the European as well as the southeast Asian organizations as the parent organization for Pencak Silat in the United States. Although the rules for competition are slightly different, the essence of Pencak Silat is preserved.


    Rules - Laws - Standards - Etiquette

We know animals in nature have their own strict rules. The animals by nature utilize or take what they need by killing their prey. We as humans choose not to desire violence. There are animals that possess a pecking order or ranking system. We as humans have worked to maintain a ranking system for organization and discipline. Many animal varieties protect their territories in various ways instinctively. Although we as humans often criticize them, we have a lot to learn from them as well. Especially how to survive in the wild as well as their hunting techniques. In nature we find a tremendous variety of movements and expressions which through natural law, the animals follow. As humans we practice similar movements and expressions (jurus and jurusan).

In Pencak Silat it was discovered which postures or positions one could effectively place oneself into, to draw an opponent into oneself, or to draw him out of position. These postures are referred to as "Pasang" and are as numerous in Pencak Silat as they are in the animal kingdom. They do follow a specific formula or concept/principle which is contained in the "langkas" (footwork/lowerbody fundamentals) and "jurus" (upperbody fundamentals). The langka can be expressed in a variety of ways depending on the situation. In Pencak Silat the jurus and langkas are utilized interchangeably to perform and express a technique. In order to preserve and remember the formulas and techniques one performs the "kembangan" (flower dance) expression of Pencak Silat. The kembangan into which the langkas, jurus and techniques are integrated is the foundation training in Pencak Silat. It is not possible to study Pencak Silat without training in the dance as well as fighting elements. According to tradition one must begin the practice of Pencak Silat with the jurus and langkas, which are then put into expression in dance form. After this, one puts oneself to the test by carefully performing Bela Diri and then further applications into "Main" (pronounced my-en, free sparring). The latter being the most important aspect of Pencak Silat as it cultivates and prepares the practitioner for any situation or circumstance. Main incorporates three elements vital to the proper expression of Pencak Silat. These are Rhythm, Meter and Timing. One learns to "play" with these elements and coordinate them into one flowing expression. By playing with a partner while accompanied by music, the practitioner develops an understanding of action-reaction/cause-effect. In trying not to damage each other a code of honor developed among practitioners. As one continued to refine his Pencak Silat skills one became more conscious of this code of honor. This form of play was once considered sacred and holy. The way in which one played became the way in which one lived.

True Pencak Silat is founded upon principles of brotherhood, a code of honor, adat (etiquette), honesty, loyalty, service and self-cultivation for inner peace. One's mannerisms and behavior in the Indonesian language are summed up in either the word "Adat" (etiquette) or "Tatakrama" (totokromo in Javanese). Tata = laws or behavior, Krama = civilized or higher.

Adat = rules of conduct, law
Isti adat = use of law
Hukum adat = justice
Ber adat = to act in accordance with the law.

Adat was created in the 4th century to preserve law and order during the time of Kutai, the first kingdom. It was before that time a loose collection of social rules. In Pencak Silat it became a vital part of its training. In Adat body language and gestures form the basis for communication. Not just what is said, but how it is said becomes very important. For the practitioner it is vital to consciously perceive, what to others may be considered unimportant, minute signs or signals in order to approach others with proper respect. A Pencak Silat practitioner who visits other lands or countries is by no means just another ordinary tourist but an ambassador of Pencak Silat, his country as well as himself. As a guest his behavior must be above question. At his core the practitioner keeps in mind the words of Lao Tsu ?"In raging water, one cannot see his own reflection, only in still water. Only one who know inner peace, can give inner peace to another". In today's society, our youth are not much different than from any other time. They are able to understand and adapt to changing circumstances just as we. Pencak Silat can fulfill them just as it has given fulfillment to generations before. The only difference is that we are to instill in them the adat. In Indonesia the "murid" (scholar) was expected to obey the commands of the Guru Besar. In the west there is a different outlook. Many think that after a few months of training, they are able to fight. Since fighting and winning, at any cost, are western ideals, this is considered by most to be a good enough reason to study Pencak Silat fighting techniques, but why bother with all of the "outdated" adat stuff? Winning brings recognition, honor, admiration and prestige. With this line of thought the essence, passion and sensitivity of Pencak Silat becomes degenerate.

Tragically this is the direction of Pencak Silat today, as many of the students and instructors are compelled by economic or commercial necessity to apply western standards of conduct to the art. This is changing the face of Pencak Silat. With continued contact with western concepts the adat is being pushed into the background when in fact it should be primary. Remember that, being an ambassador is a part of the code of honor and that the code of honor is a part of the adat. Many "bright" individuals are happy and feel at ease only when they can sit back and put their feet up onto the table. Could it be that they never learned any manners at home? Some will answer "yes, but? In Pencak Silat there is no "yes, but? In the adat you must respect other people, and that respect is demonstrated in your behavior and conduct all the time. In the Pencak Silat world your behavior and conduct implies what level of training you have been exposed to. One who has spent a lifetime of training in Pencak Silat, knows that the adat is one of the cornerstones of the art. In Pencak Silat it is said "do not talk about yourself, no matter how proficient you are." In Indonesia there are but two words that describe one who is boastful?"gentong kosong", an empty drum makes lots of noise.

It must be pointed out that adat and tatakrama are not "one way" streets. That only opens one up to abuse. In the Bible it is written "cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet." Still we believe that all people should have the opportunity to experience the inner peace and social harmony that comes from the training. The Pencak Silat, where one learns all sorts of destructive techniques, must be respected, because you come to realize how easy and how fast it is to be destructive, you also understand that it is not right to short circuit/short-cut natural law. Animals kill to eat and survive, not to just kill. This is why the practitioner is obligated from the very beginning to nullify the aggression directed at him and to replace it with a sense of peace directed outwardly as well as inward 
towards himself. This level of attainment often requires a lifetime of self-cultivation. From this point of view one learns to seek peace, friendship and compassion with his fellow man. One remains humble and yet when it becomes necessary, draws from deep within to acquire explosive force, to rescue oneself or another from harm, to produce a healing or for restorative energy. Alas some misuse and abuse continues, just let it not be by us.

Copyright A.D.Nelson / Jim Ingram 1999, All rights reserved. 

Used with permission from Jim Ingram or Pentjak SIlat USA

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Pukulan Pentjak Silat Serak 

Pukulan Pentjak Silat Serak

Pukulan Pentjak Silat Serak (also Sera) is one style of the Pencak Silat family of Indonesian martial arts.

It was founded by Bapak (or Pak) Serak who was born in the Gunung Kendang Region and lived in West Java.

Serak is closely related to other systems of West Javanese Pencak Silat including Tjimande and Tjikalong. It tends to fight at closer range than these styles.

There are Serak players in Indonesia, Europe and the Americas. Most European and North American practitioners trace their background to the de Thoaurs and de Vries families. Like many, perhaps most, of the early Silat teachers in the West the de Vries and de Thoaurs families were Dutch-Indonesians, forced to leave Indonesia in the upheavals surrounding independence.


The System of Serak(R)

 Serak(R) consist out of 10 intelectual phases, were the students learns movement called Jurus, Sambut (30 Standard)namely Techniques other than Throwing techniques, then Sambut Buwang that are Throwing Technieques (24 Standard)Hystorical Knowledge becomes a must, as the the lineage as well as Indonesian and Dutch hystorical fact, this with the assurance that the system of Serak(R) gains its rightfull place, with accrededation and not corrupted.Besides learning the Close Combative hand to hand, many of it trade mark in weapons is the Tjabang or Siku Siku, a ancient TRI-Trunion Weapon that has its origin in India. To become a Serak(R) teacher, it takes 4 full years in minimum of 3 days per week in studies to gain the assistant Instructor level, and 3 more years beyond that to gain a Guru Mudah level meaning, young teacher. For a full teacher, that will take an additional four full years of study. Main reason why the strict requirements to Carry the name of Guru Serak(K) 

A Brief History of the Style Now Known as Anakserak.  Pentjak Silat is the romanized form of the concept for "stylized lightning motion." At its roots are the preservation of the self through the harmonious movements of redirection and deflection of movement, force and energy. A true master of Pentjak Silat practices the ability to ward-off attack through the redirection of energy in and around his/her immediate environment. This takes a few years to develop and requires the help of a master. An apprentice is usually brought into the fold and taught as a member of the family. In this manner the information and training is passed on from generation to generation. Entire Pentjak Silat societies were formed and from these societies a culture was developed. It is accepted that the West Javanese Pentjak Silat style reached a level unsurpassed in the islands and became the model for other styles to mold themselves after.

In more recent times a gifted practitioner of West Javanese Pentjak Silat created a method of training enabling his students to rapidly advance in the theory and movements of Pentjak Silat. "Pak Serak." "Pak" (respectful title for an elder) "Serak" has several translation, berserak meaning a raspy Voice, however Burung mening Bird, Burung Serak also known as an "Owl" or as generation in description as "Wise" the Nick Name Serak or "Wise One" for the founder stuck. The real name of bapak Serak(R) Illeah Haboen Hasin. So that the system that bears his Nick Name of Wise One, shall never be forgotten.

Pak Serak became widely recognized as a "wise person," a gifted teacher and healer. He took on Three apprentices and educated each one in the finer points of "Pentjak Silat Pak Serak" until they acquired mastery. The older of the three, Mas Djut, second Mas Roen and the Third Mas Mustaffa, the later was removed by Pak Serak himself. Written Document to the Founder Pak Serak is in the possession of Pak Victor de Thouars, a document dated from 1830.

"Abang Djut." or Mas Djut taught three apprentices, brothers named John and Ernest and Ferdinand de Vries who also reached a level of mastery that satisfied the requirements of the style. These two, in turn, taught "Pentjak Silat Pak Serak(R)" to their nephew Maurice de Thouars until he too fulfilled the requirements.

In February 1999 Maurice de Thouars gave recognition to Dr Andre and Hans KnustGraichen and conferred upon them the designation of full apprentice.  Then in May of 2004 Maurice de Thouars gave Dr. Andre KnustGraichen the title of “heir and successor” in Pentjak Silat Pak Sera(h,k).As well as accepting  and a handful of his students into his direct lineage.

Tjimande GM

We are a closed door system you must be invited in to train

Pentjak Silat USA

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