Pentjak Silat is a martial art developed in Southeast Asia designed to empower its practitioners to survive extremely dangerous situations. Though no one knows for certain where the words “Pentjak Silat” come from, today the word “Pentjak” is commonly understood to mean “practice” or “work” while Silat refers to the fighting arts. Pentjak Silat comes from indigenous martial arts that originate in a geographic area from Thailand in the northwest, to the Philippines and the Microneasian islands in the east all the way to Indonesia in the south. This area includes Java, Bali, Singapore, Borneo, Sumatra and Komodo island, known for it’s komodo dragons. Each village in this area trained in a style of martial arts that had its own idiosyncrasies, but villages talked to and fought with one another so the fighting styles of this area have a lot in common.
Pentjak Silat also shows the influences of martial arts from other parts of the world. There are influences on Pentjak Silat from Burma, India, and even from as far away as Tibet. However, China has had the largest influence on this style. Geographically speaking, there is a lot of Chinese territory near Southeast Asia. On a map, China dominates this area. In addition, historically their has been a significant influx of Chinese people into the region. Beginning as far back as the 1,200’s, the Chinese began immigrating to southeast Asia, predominantly Indonesia and Mylasia. Consequently, Pentjak Silat has developed in an area that has been a melting pot of martial arts styles.
Silat was created in places where there were many threats to deal with, threats more drastic than what we experience in the states. In this area of the world, people had to deal with threats from large animals such as tigers. This is also an area where not only did groups fight with one another, but cannibalism was practiced as well. Villages had a long history of fighting with one another over territory, property, trade routes and also of simply hunting one another. Attackers would approach an attack on a human in the same way they might approach hunting a large animal. They would look for a time when the person was alone and isolated. They would attack that person as a group. They would come armed with clubs and bladed weapons. Lastly, whenever possible, they would try to surprise their target.
The indigenous martial arts villages developed and taught had to include methods of dealing with all these threats. Pentjak Silat teaches students how to deal with surprise attacks, attackers with weapons, as well as multiple attackers. Silat is an explosive and vicious art that teaches people how to survive in dire circumstances. Silat strikes focus on bone breaking, pressure point strikes, joint manipulation breaks. Silat is built on a knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the body including how to exploit the weaknesses of the human body and most living creatures. Pentjak Silat is a powerful martial art that can help its practitioners to survive what would otherwise be deadly attacks.