Silat is the collective word for a group of indigenous silat martial arts originating from the Nusantara, surrounding and eastern geoclimatic regions of Southeast Asia. It is mainly practised in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Southern Thailand. It shares its common principle of “the way to learn”, which is not a fixed system but a system of self-discovery and evolution. There are five main styles of silat:
The Nusantara silat that was practiced in conjunction with the Arabic language and other Islamic arts developed out of the influences of the Bak Mei system of early Japan. This was refined by the martial artist experts of the Philippines. In the Philippines the name for this martial art is Pinagkawasihan (Filipino name for salt). It is practiced nowadays by a few hundred people primarily in the urban centres of cities in the Philippines but is spreading fast to other parts of the country such as Manila.
Another school of pencak silat martial arts is the pencak silat kung said. This school emerged from early morning classes impromptu after lunch in the nations of old Jamboree, Negril, andondon in the southern part of the Philippines. It evolved out of the early moves of the muay Thai karate, such as the wrist break, where the instructor would deal small blows on the opponent’s wrists and hands until they loosen up. In time this evolved into the self-defense style of today. Its key weapon is the wooden paddle that the teacher uses to whip the student around the ring or onto the ground.
The pencak silat kung sahih was later modified to create the art of silat karate, which became the most popular martial arts form in the Philippines. It was not long before the martial arts took another giant leap when Filipino soldiers trained with the Japanese in Japan during World War II. In that time the karate refined the techniques of the pencak silat kung said to make it more deadly and nimble, which was very much needed by the soldiers to move from place to place. Thus, the two forms are very similar and even share names.
Another school of pencak silat martial arts is the kinilaw. It hails from northern Philippines and is practiced mainly in the rural areas, especially in Mindanao. The style originated from the skill of a Filipino named Alondo. Alondo learned from a Chinese named Li Hong (one of the most noted Chinese exponents of sight) and brought the art to the Philippines. It combines a few kicks, hand and body movements, and traditional Chinese medicine, especially acupuncture and cupping.
The Kung Fu has long been practiced in different countries, especially in China, Japan, and Korea. However, it actually began its journey to Philippines when the Spanish colonists brought it there in the 16th century. The Kung Fu practiced in the Philippines has evolved over the centuries, becoming more polished and developed. Today, silat practitioners still study the kung fu, although not as much as those in China, Japan and Korea. The martial arts that are practiced in the Philippines, however, are very unique, since they have borrowed from a number of Asian martial arts such as karate, judo, wushu, and folk dance.
A pilot training system will teach you the basics of this type of martial art. This is where you will learn the various kicks, punches, blocks, knee bends, and other basic moves. It is also here where you will learn some advanced moves like flying knees, spinning back kicks, and stepping or jumping onto a moving disk. You will be taught also how to strike at an opponent while standing and how to use your hands to block and deflect strikes. These moves are integral to mastering the art of silat and hence the emphasis of this system is on these techniques.
This is just a brief overview of what you can expect to learn from a pencak silat class in the Philippines. The beauty of pencak silat, especially for people who are not used to learning martial arts, is that it can be easily learned from a teacher who has studied it for several years. In some areas in Indonesia, you may find that there are schools that only offer a couple of hours of training a week, but this is perfectly fine. You will learn a lot more in a few hours than you would in a one to one session with a trained martial artist. Regardless of where you live or what level of silat you are trying to achieve, you will be able to benefit from learning a little more about the martial art of silat from a pencak silat class instructor.