The world's largest archipelago stretches like a huge scimitar from Malaysia to New Guinea, encompassing more than 13,000 islands and, more importantly for martial arts, more than 700 fighting systems. Among these Silat, or Pencak Silat, is perhaps the deadliest.


The unifying principles of Silat are based on physics, allowing practitioners to fight in the most efficient and economical manner possible. Students learn that there are endless variations to the empty hand techniques. Silat practitioners make use of all their body parts for locking, joint-breaking or striking maneuvers. A skilled Silat stylist, for example, can substitute a shoulder for an elbow and affect the same type of joint lock.

Pencak Silat students are taught how to exploit the most vulnerable points on their existing techniques and adding knowledge of vital points as a finishing touch. Like a road map, the routes to the target are already in place; the teacher just makes the student aware of a few stops and points of interest along the way. The opponent's pressure points can be struck, pinched or squeezed with virtually equal effect. Such attacks are especially useful against large assailants, putting you on equal terms with them and pressure-point techniques are also beneficial for escaping an opponent’s hold or lock.


All Pencak Silat systems pay particular attention to defense against multiple opponents. Students are initially taught to defend themselves against a minimum of three attackers and eventually progress to exercises involving five to seven assailants.

Pencak Silat students are also taught the importance of disengaging from one opponent to face another when fighting multiple assailants. The Silat practitioner should not be so committed to one attacker that he cannot make an immediate escape to face a secondary adversary.


Most Silat defenses are a mix of grappling and hitting techniques. A 'loose' type of grappling is used, the object being to take down, unbalance, sweep and/or tie-up the opponent momentarily.

Striking techniques are used to 'tenderize' and soften up the assailant prior to initiating Pencak silat's intricate grappling techniques. The idea is to be flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing nature of combat, no matter what situation is thrust upon you. Practitioners are taught to consider the climate, opponent's clothing, time of day and the terrain upon which they are fighting.

Once the Silat stylist has executed takedown and follow-up techniques, he immediately crouches and assumes a ready stance in anticipation of further attacks, either from the opponent he just finished with, or other assailants. Silat practitioners never overlook a fallen opponent; they know he can still be dangerous. It is not uncommon for a Silat stylist to deliver repeated follow-up strikes after an assailant has been taken down. Experience tells the Silat practitioner that one or two blows seldom finish an opponent.


Because hands and feet alone are not enough to solve all combat situations, classical Pencak Silat includes the study of traditional weapons such as knives, sticks, staff, swords and rope. The same principles and technical rationale used in silat's hand and foot movements apply to the system's weapons training as well. In this way, practitioners can resort to everyday objects such as pens, combs, drinking receptacles, shoes, belts, eating utensils, etc., to enhance a particular technique. With this unifying, coherent system firmly in mind, the Silat stylist can substitute and transfer the use of weapons to the empty hand techniques he already knows.

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