The Deadly Art of Silat

Silat is a martial art that originated in Indonesia and has grown to become one of the most unknown, but effective styles of self-defense around the world. Known for its focus on flexibility, speed and agility, silat can be traced back to before the 12th century BCE. Since the tradition of silat is mostly oral, there are a few different legends surrounding its origin.

One points to a woman fighting off a group of drunk men by mimicking techniques from a fight she watched between a hawk and tiger. Another suggests that a woman named Teemoh was being attacked by her husband for taking too long in the bath and was able to fight him off.

The martial art form places emphasis on overcoming fear through discipline and self-control. Practitioners learn and practice techniques such as joint locks, strikes and throws to overpower their opponents during combat situations.

A Brief History of Silat

Silat is a traditional Indonesian martial art, which comes in many forms. According to historical evidence, Silat as a martial system was taught and developed by the Minangkabau people of Sumatra (an island in south-west Asia) in the 6th century.

It involves strikes with the hands, feet, knees and elbows; as well as grappling techniques such as throws and joint locks. Silat practitioners train using both solo drills and sparring against a partner.

Silat can also involve training with weapons such as traditional swords, knives, and hooked blades. Like many martial arts, Silat is as much a mental challenge as it is physical, with the art emphasizing on overcoming fear through the self-discipline required to master the skills of this form of martial arts. It's not just about learning how to defend yourself, but also about staying calm in stressful situations while having an acute awareness of your surroundings.

Cultivating Awareness of Surroundings

When a practitioner learns silat, they are expected to be able to perform certain actions blindfolded or even with their eyes closed. This teaches them how important it is for them to be aware of what's going around them at all times so that they can react appropriately when necessary.

The philosophy of silat is based on the fact that mind and body are one, and that the mind controls the body in everything an individual does. This means that in order to be a great silat artist, you must have strong mental fortitude. You need to be able to control your emotions and actions through sheer force of will alone.

In silat training, you learn how to think before you act—and not just during competition but in everyday circumstances as well—and this can be beneficial if applied outside of martial arts training as well. Silat practitioners aim to be aware of their surroundings at all times. They want to be tuned into the environment around them, and aware of things happening around them.

This is one of the reasons why silat is so effective in actual combat situations: because a practitioner with intense focus is less likely to get caught off-guard by sudden movements from an opponent and can prepare himself/herself accordingly.

Exotic Blades and Weaponry

Silat is known for its exotic weapons, which include everything from swords to sticks, daggers to tridents, spiked clubs to throwing blades, among others. These are called senjata in Indonesian.

These can be divided into two categories: senjata utama (main weapons) and senjata tambahan (additional weapons). The main ones include an l-shaped blade called a rencong, a sword called kris; the golok, which is similar to a machete; and (for advanced practitioners) a throwing knife called the piau.

Each Style Has Their Own Subtle Variations On The Art Form

Silat is a martial art with many variations. There are over 300 schools of thought in silat, from different styles and schools of thought that teach their own subtle variations on the art form.

Silat is a martial art, and as such has been used for self-defense. However, it’s often not about winning fights or duels but about using the art form to control yourself and others. Silat can be used to break bones, but it also teaches focus on breathing and mental control.

Silat In Movies - The Raid: Redemption

Rama from The Raid: Redemption is hunted down by a machete gang in the movie and uses silat techniques to defend himself.

Ben Affleck in The Accountant

Another example is Ben Affleck in The Accountant. He uses his belt as an improvised sarong to fight an attacker who's wielding a pocket knife. Traditionally, a sarong (which looks a lot like a scarf) is used as a weapon of defense and offense.

If you watch the video all the way to the end, you'll see Ben Affleck's character use his belt as an extension of himself to choke the attacker.

World Tournaments Around Asia and Europe

Today, silat has reached far beyond its native Indonesian boundaries, with professional fighters from all over the world competing in tournaments around Asia and Europe. The martial art’s popularity has only continued to grow since its inception.

At the 2018 Open Belgium competition, the fighting style looks quite a bit different than the fight scene from The Raid: Redemption. The tournament ruleset allowed kicks, kick catches, sweeps, and punches to the body.

This goes without saying, but sparring full contact with live edged weapons is highly unsafe and could result in a deadly outcome. Watch the video below to see some of the action from the tournament!

Silat does not have a single founder or creator, but is instead a collection of martial arts that have been passed down from generation to generation. Its origins can be traced back to ancient tribal warfare practices and is still applicable today.

Global Popularity and Video Games

Even though originating in Indonesia, silat can now be found all over the world thanks to its global popularity. It is practiced by martial artists from many different disciplines, including Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do. The art also has a strong following in Malaysia and Singapore as well as other parts of Asia like Thailand and Hong Kong. Furthermore, it has been used as inspiration for various video games with an emphasis on Asian combat (such as Soul Calibur III and a few characters from the Mortal Kombat franchise).

An Ancient Art Form With Modern Relevance

Silat is an ancient martial art that has been practiced by Indonesian people for centuries. The art form emphasizes on mental discipline, using both the mind and body in order to master its skills. This makes silat both a physical and mental challenge, with the philosophy behind it being based on overcoming fear through self-discipline.