Elements used in Combat Arts training – Part 3 – Pencak Silat

The third article about the martial art elements that Combat Arts founder, Gordon McAdam, specialises in and uses in his training courses is all about Pencak Silat

What is Pencak Silat?

Pencak Silat, originating from the Indonesian/Malay archipelago derives from groups of full-body, holistic and adaptive fighting styles. It is a physical, and a psychological practice, and teaches you to control your body and your mind.

It has been described as one of the deadliest martial arts of Indonesia but is considered an art of stopping war rather than an art of war.

As with other martial arts, Pencak Silat was passed down from teacher to student. Traditionally, the practice and learning of martial arts was a secretive method of self-defence not meant for public competitive combats as well as being a path to spiritual enlightenment.

The term, Pencak Silat, has only been used as a term of general application since about the 1950s and after Indonesian independence.

The name is actual derived from the two most common terms used for martial arts in Indonesia: “Pencak” referring to the outward, fluid expression of training; and “Silat,” referring to the essence of fighting and self-defence. A practitioner of the art-form is called a Pesilat

Aspects of Pencak Silat

There are four main aspects to Pencak Silat:

- Mental and spiritual (olah batin) – Pencak Silat focuses more on shaping the individual bearing and character of the pesilat as befitting its spiritual philosophy. It places equal emphasis on controlled physical movements, inner power, and observance of the core value of nobleness of mind and character (keluruhan budi pekerti). Pesilats must use their training to focus their mental and spiritual energies during combat situations or dangerous emergencies.

- Self-defence (bela diri) – Pencak Silat is performed to heighten the human instinct to defend oneself against any kind of threat and danger. To this end, the tactics and techniques that the pesilat uses emphasize his physical safety and, if necessary, attacking the opponent first.

- Art (seni) - Pencak Silat is performed to celebrate the beauty of movement. Pencak Silat Seni expresses cultural values in the form of patterns of movement and rhythm, which involve harmony, balance, and the accord of gracefulness, rhythm, and feeling. In some regions, artistic moves are accompanied by special percussion instruments and are performed at social events, such as harvest festivals, marriages, and public gatherings.

- Sport (olah raga) – Pencak Silat prioritizes physical skills to attain fitness, dexterity, and endurance. When training, a pesilat strives to enhance the agility of the body and to make more forceful manoeuvres, while gaining confidence in order to perform well in sport competitions.

These four aspects combine to create the specific movements of Pencak Silat, which consist of several basic techniques.

Basic Techniques of Pencak Silat

There are four kinds of basic techniques:

-          Initial stance - By assuming an initial stance (standing position), the pesilat shows that he/she is ready and on guard. This could switch at any time to a particular tactical move. Normally both legs and arms are employed in this stance, which may involve standing, crouching, sitting, or lying down.

-          Footwork – is Pencak Silat’s dynamic part. By determining the direction, type, and tactic of the manoeuvre, the pesilat moves to defend or attack. More specifically, defending oneself involves taking action to evade attack from an opponent (using defensive, evasive, and disengaging techniques for instance).

-          Offensive techniques – Using the whole body for attack, offensive action involves trying to bring down the opponent in a number of ways, such as punching, kicking, and grappling. The basic strikes are the punch (pukul) and kick (tendang), with many variations in between. Strikes may be performed with the fists, open palms, shins, feet (kaki), elbows (sikut), knees (dengkul or lutut), shoulders (bahu), or the fingers (jari). Other common tactics include feints (tipuan) or deceptive blows used as distraction, sweeping (sapuan) to knock the opponent down, and the scissors takedown (guntingan) which grips the legs around the opponent.

-          Defensive techniques - Defence consists of blocking, dodging, deflecting, and countering, with blocks being the most basic form of defence. Because Pencak Silat may target any part of the body, blocks can be done with the forearms, hands, shoulders, shins or even the elbows which could hurt the attacker. Attacks can also be used defensively, such as kneeing a kicking opponent's leg. Hard blocks, in which force is met with force, are most suitable when fighting opponents of the same strength or lower. Styles that rely on physical power favour this approach, such as Tenaga Dasar. To minimize any damage sustained by the defender when blocking in this way, body conditioning is used such as toughening the forearms by hitting them against hard surfaces. In cases where the opponent is of greater strength, evasion (elakan) or deflections (pesongan) would be used, and are actually preferred in certain styles.

The defensive and offensive techniques also make use of several kinds of weapons, such as knives, swords, trisula (tridents), and toya (wooden staffs usually of rattan).

Silat Buka Lingkaran

Gordon practices and trains student in the Silat Buka Lingkaran style.

This literally translates to 'open circle' and this system, influenced by its roots in both old (Nusantara) and modern Indonesia, is a dynamic and effective martial art form.

It is a holistic approach to martial arts and covers all aspects of self-defence from ground to upright fighting, grappling, the use of sharp-edged weapons to softer weapons such as the Salendang (shoulder scarf), and dynamic striking from all angles and ranges.

Silat Buka Lingkaran also has a softer side called Kembangan (the Flower Dance), a moving meditation done in a relaxed and slow manner to help improve balance, fluidity and rhythm, and to enhance concentration, focus, and levels of awareness.

Who is Silat Buke Lingkaran suitable for?

This style of Silat is suitable for beginners or advanced practitioners in martial arts alike, enabling practitioners to improve fitness, lose weight, increase relaxation and concentration levels and, most importantly, build self-confidence.


If you are interested in getting in shape and back to feeling like you could take care of yourself, if the need arose, contact us now to check availability in our small groups classes, or book your FREE 1-2-1 session.