Pencak silat (Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈpɛntʃaʔ ˈsilat]; pronounced
penchak silat and sometimes spelled pentjak silat in Western writings) is an
umbrella term for a class of related martial arts originating in Indonesia.
It is a full-body fighting form incorporating strikes, grappling and throwing in
addition to weaponry. Every part of the body is used and subject to attack.
Pencak silat was practiced not only for physical defense but also for
The leading organization of pencak silat in Indonesia is IPSI (Ikatan Pencak
Silat Indonesia, meaning Pencak Silat Association of Indonesia). The liaison
body for international pencak silat is the International Pencak Silat Federation
or PERSILAT (Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antara Bangsa).
The Minangkabau formed the dominant sovereignty in West Sumatra and make up the
majority of Sumatran pencak silat systems. These styles may be referred to as
silat Minangkabau, silat padang (lit. field silat), or silek, the local
pronunciation of silat. Very few systems in Indonesia have not been influenced
by silek, and its techniques form the core of pencak silat throughout Sumatra.
It developed as an extension of the original silat Melayu from Riau. Folklore
traces this to five masters, namely Ninik Datuak Suri Dirajo from Padang
Panjang, Kambiang Utan ("forest goat") from Cambodia, Harimau Campo ("tiger of
Champa") from Vietnam, Kuciang Siam ("Siamese cat") from Thailand and Anjiang
Mualim ("teacher dog") from Gujarat. Stealth and ambush were the
preferred Minang war tactics, and they were said to be among the best assassins
in the world when dispatched singly. Silek Minangkabau is characterised by its
low stances and reliance on kicks and leg tactics. The local practice of
paddling rafts with the legs strengthened fighters' lower body muscles. The low
stance is said to have developed to offset the chance of falling on slippery or
wet ground, common in the rice fields of West Sumatra. Hand and arm movements
are fast, honed through an exercise in which the exponent stands across from a
partner tossing sharpened sticks or knives. The exponent must redirect the
sticks or knives and send them back at the thrower, using their hands and a
minimum of movements with the rest of the body.
There are currently around ten major styles of silek, a few of which like Silek
Lintau are commonly practiced even in Malaysia. IPSI recognises Silek Harimau
(tiger silek) and Silek Buaya (crocodile silek) as among the oldest pencak silat
in existence. Silek Harimau, also known as Silek Kuciang or cat silek,
epitomizes the Minang techniques in that it focuses on crouching and kicking
from a low position paired with rapid hand attacks. Silek Tuo is considered by
some to be the oldest Minang system, while others claim it traces to the freedom
fighter Tuanku Nan Tuo. Prominent Minang weapons include the pedang (sword),
tombak (spear), kris (dagger), klewang (longsword), sabit (sickle), payung
(umbrella), kerambit (claw), and various types of knives.
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