What is it?
Pentjak Silat is the martial art of Indonesia. It is an effective form of self-defense, in which the user employs among others punches, chops, kicks, clamps, leg sweeps and scissors techniques. Pentjak Silat is characterized by graceful execution, distraction of the opponent with threatening moves and rapid surprise attacks.
But Pentjak Silat is more than just a form of self-defense or a fighting art. It is a complete system of personal development, with its own philosophy and code of ethics. As such, it can serve as a development path for those who wish to practice this fighting art.
In Indonesia, some 16 million people practice one of the approximately 800 styles of Pentjak Silat, a number of which have spread outside Indonesia in the second half of the 20th century.
Opinions vary as to the exact meaning and origin of the terms “Pentjak” and “Silat”, most likely because of the large number of languages spoken in the Indonesian Archipelago.
“Pentjak” is usually explained as “skilful and specialized body movements”. In this sense, the term can refer to the exercise itself as a form of gymnastics, which is not by definition intended for self-defense.
“Silat” literally means “to hit” or “to defend”. This could be derived from “Bersilat’ which is formed from the components “Ber” (to do) and “Silat” (to fight). In short, Silat refers to the application of the Pentjak for self-defense.
All combined, “Pentjak Silat” can be translated as “to fight using specialized body movements”.
The exact source of the Eastern fighting arts is difficult to ascertain. Experts often point to priests and itinerant monks as the first to develop and spread the fighting arts in Asia.
Little is known about the origin of fighting arts in Indonesia, except what has come down to us in a limited number of government records and legends. According to cultural anthropologists, Pentjak Silat probably first developed among the Minangkabau on Sumatra and the surrounding islands, such as the Riau Archipelago. These islands are an important crossroads between India and China, and were settled by monks from both countries. From here, Pentjak Silat spread further into Indonesia. As a result of Indonesia’s wide geographical expanse and diverse local circumstances, many forms or “styles” of Pentjak Silat have developed.
Important elements in the early development of Pentjak Silat were the “keratons” (palaces) of the Indonesian sultans. As warlords, the sultans were responsible for the protection of their domains. The courts of the sultans were often visited by traveling monks who would subsequently exchange knowledge on a variety of subjects, including fighting arts. Martial arts were first and foremost a practical necessity for survival in times of war. Training in the art of fighting was survival training. In the so-called “pesantren”, a Hindu-Buddhist monastery, the aristocratic young students were trained in many things, including the fighting arts. These physical regimes were combined with basic spiritual teachings in religion and other mystical subjects. Over the course of time, the teachings of the pesantren also made their way into other areas of the community.
In the 15th century, Islam began to exert its influence in Indonesia. The Islamic conquerors fought many battles with the existing Hindu rulers. This inevitably provided new impulse to further refine the fighting techniques. In and following this time period, Pentjak Silat underwent considerable Arabian influence, such as the introduction of characteristic Muslim weapons.
The Dutch arrived in the Indonesian Archipelago in the 17th century and began colonization. The Indonesians sought various means to escape their domination, and the Dutch military occupiers put down many frequent uprisings and resistance movements. The practice of martial and fighting arts as well as the use of traditional weapons was forbidden. As a result, Pentjak Silat was practiced in secret and became a symbol of the underground resistance. In public, Pentjak Silat techniques were concealed and only demonstrated as a form of dance.
In the 19th century, the Dutch stimulated the migration of hundreds of thousands of Chinese merchants into the economy to stimulate growth. The Chinese brought Kuntao techniques with them from China. In all likelihood, these Chinese techniques also influenced Pentjak Silat.
Developments in the early 20th century
The 20th century brought a surge of nationalistic sentiment in Indonesia. Various emancipation movements surfaced. In Pentjak Silat, this period saw the rise of the “Setia Hati” style. Many of the movements were aimed at ending the Dutch rule. The conflict between Indonesia’s yearning for freedom and the Dutch colonialism further stimulated Pentjak Silat. Many of the Pentjak Silat styles were an expression of the craving for independence.
The Second World War
During World War II, the Japanese invaded the Dutch Indies in 1942. All political parties were driven underground as well as most Pentjak Silat styles. Although the Japanese occupation forces lifted the ban on fighting arts, the majority of training sessions remained in closed circles.
After the Second World War
The Dutch returned to Indonesia in 1945 after the Japanese capitulation. The cries for Indonesian independence were becoming increasingly loud, and resistance to the Dutch colonial power was growing. In 1947, the Dutch government opted for military action. The underground military movement and anti-Dutch sentiment combined to further stimulate development of the fighting arts. In both the inland guerrilla moments as well as the Dutch forces (The Royal Dutch Indonesian Army and the Queens Special Forces) the fighting arts were taught extensively. These were especially useful during close man-to-man combat in the jungle. After Indonesia received its independence in 1950, islanders (especially Moluccas), who had participated in these special forces, emigrated to the Netherlands, and together with the Dutch Indonesians, introduced Pentjak Silat.
After World War II in 18 May 1948, the IPSI (Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia), the Indonesian Pentjak Silat Federation, was established in Indonesia. In 1980, the PERSILAT, the International Pencak Silat Federation, was founded by IPSI (Indonesia), PERSISI (Singapore), (Malaysia) and PERSIB (Brunei Darussalam).
In 18 May 1948, members of the Pentjak Silat schools to emerge as inter-regional organizations, formed the National Indonesian Pentjak Silat Federation, and called the Ikatan Pentjak Silat Indonesia (IPSI). In the years to follow, numerous other schools also joined this federation. At last official count, some 823 separate schools were registered.
To promote Pentjak Silat on a broader scale, as well as international unity within the sport, the International Pentjak Silat Federation, called the Persekutuan Pentjak Silat Antarabangsa (PERSILAT), was formed on 11 March 1980 in Jakarta by representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. As an international federation, the PERSILAT is based on the principles of fraternity, solidarity and mutual respect regardless of race, creed or color.
Persaudaraan Setia Hati “Terate” or PSHT
The goal of the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate is to propagate a system of personal development for the mind and the body. This Pentjak Silat style is one of the largest and most widespread styles in Indonesia.
The physical and spiritual ‘epicenter” of the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate is the city of Madiun, in East Java, Indonesia. In this city of 600,000 inhabitants, some 15% of the population is actively involved in the PSHT.
The PSHT currently counts some 1.5 million members in Indonesia spread over 177 “Cabang” (Cities or Districts). The Head Office and the Central Board of PSHT organization is in Madiun located in East part of Java.
Madiun is also home to the central organizing board of the PSHT. The current chairman of the Central Board (Pengurus Pusat) is Mas Tarmadji Boedi Harsono.
The scope of the PSHT is broader than fighting arts alone. The PSHT is also a social-cultural organization, with its own educational programmed. It organizes educational and social-cultural activities for the local community. It maintains good contact with the government and other social-cultural organizations. And members of the PSHT maintain responsible positions in the community.
In 1903, Ki Ageng Soerodiwirjo laid the groundwork for a Pentjak Silat Setia Hati style. Previously he called the Physical / Movement of his Pentjak Silat “Djojo Gendilo Tjipto Muljo” and the Spiritual called “Sedulur Tunggal Ketjer” , in Kampoeng Tambak Gringsing, Surabaya. In 1917 Ki Ageng Soerodiwirjo moved to Madiun and establish his style named the Persaudaraan Setia Hati in Desa Winongo, Madiun. The Persaudaraan Setia Hati is not an organization, it just a brotherhood among the student (kadang), as at that time the Pencak Silat organization was not allowed by Dutch Colonialism. “Setia Hati” means “Faithful Heart”. Soerodiwirjo was born to an aristocratic family in Madiun, East Java, Indonesia, in the last quarter of the 19th Century. He was eventually dubbed a “Ngabei”, an exclusive aristocratic title extended by the Sultan only to those who have proven themselves spiritually worthy. He lived and worked in various locations on both Java and Sumatra, were he studied diverse styles of Pentjak Silat. On Sumatra, he also studied under a spiritual teacher. The combination of this spiritual teaching (kebatinan) and that which he had distilled from the diverse fighting arts styles formed the basis for Setia Hati. Ki Ageng Hadji Soerodiwirjo died on 10 November 1944 in Madiun.
In 1922, Hardjo Oetomo (1883-1952), a follower of the Setia Hati style, ask permission of Ki Ageng Soerodiwirjo to establish the Setia Hati School for younger generation and was permitted by Ki Ageng Soerodiwirjo, but has to be in different name. Mr. Hardjo Oetomo than establish “SH PSC” stand for Persaudaraan Setia Hati “Pemuda Sport Club”. This system was then called Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate or PSHT in 1948 during the first congress in Madiun.
After World War II, the PSHT continued to spread throughout Indonesia. An important figure behind this growing popularity was Mr. Irsjad the first student of Ki Hadjar Hardjooetomo who created 90 Senam Dasar (Basic Exercise), Jurus Belati (Jurus with Knife), and Jurus Toya (Jurus with Long Stick). One of student of Mr. Irsjad is Mas Imam Koessoepangat (1939-1987), the spiritual leader of the PSHT at the time. His successor, Mas Tarmadji Boedi Harsono, is the current leader of the PSHT central board.
The Art of self-defense
Each eastern self-defense art is based on a philosophy with an associated code of ethics. This also applies to Pentjak Silat. The practice of a self-defense art has the objective of helping the student develop a forthright character by living according to the fundamental norms and values of the art. The student strives for harmony in body and spirit, in intellect and emotion.
Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate is a way of living, a life’s path. The element of sport is just a small aspect, one of the many stones from which the path of the PSHT is paved. With this broader approach, the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate is not a fighting sport but a fighting art. A fighting sport is a struggle with another. A fighting art is a struggle with oneself.
Striving toward harmony in body and mind, the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate is founded on five basic principles:
1. Persaudaraan (Brotherhood or fraternity)
2. Olah Raga (Sport)
3. Bela Diri (Self-defense)
4. Seni Budaya (Art and culture)
5. Kerokhanian Ke SH an (Spiritual development)
The complete philosophy of the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate can be seen in the symbols of the PSHT emblem.
The following describes the various concepts and symbols in the PSHT emblem. It embodies the part of the philosophy of the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate.
This concept, which can be translated as “brotherhood” or “fraternity”, expresses the vision that all people are brothers and sisters. “Saudara” is translated as both “brother” and “sister”: women are also a part of the “brotherhood”. This implies mutual respect, solidarity and co-operation. Brotherhood supersedes culture, race, creed and political affiliation.
This can be translated as “faithful heart”. It implies that one should always be true to one’s heart (emotional feeling) in all of life’s decisions. These emotions, however, must be in harmony with one’s rational cognition. What the heart feels and what the intellect reasons should be in agreement. If the two elements are not in harmony, then any decision taken is wrong.
A heart is pictured in the emblem. The rays emanating from this heart are a symbolic representation of the concept of brotherhood: one sends out good thoughts or feelings to others. The red boarder around the heart is a symbol of self-defense: one aspires to brotherhood and that which one can offer others, but not at the expense of oneself. White symbolizes love and inner cleanliness.
The Terate is a water lily (lotus flower). It symbolizes resolve, resilience and the ability to adapt. This flower can thrive in all conditions. In the air. In the water. In dry and wet conditions. The PSHT student is equally able to adapt and overcome difficult circumstances. And like the Terate, despite negative influence from the surroundings, the PSHT student maintains his or her inner cleanliness. The Terate may bloom in the mud, but it maintains its beauty and purity.
A vertical red line is found on the left-hand side of the emblem, flanked on each side be a white line. This is the “straight path”, symbolizing the mental and spiritual growth to which the PSHT student must aspire. During the initiation to the First Degree, the candidate makes an oath to follow this path and conform to certain rules of behavior.
Finally, a number of yellow-colored weapons are pictured on the emblem. These symbolize the physical path that one must follow to ultimately achieve spiritual growth.
The path of the Persaudaraan Setia Hati Terate is divided into three degrees.
The First Degree (Tingkat Satu):
The First Degree is primarily aimed at physical development. Through a system of skilful physical movements (Pentjak), students learn to use their body effectively.
The First Degree is subdivided into a number of steps, coupled to a graduated system of belts and slendangs (sashes). Each step concludes with an exam.
The Second Degree (Tingkat Dua):
The Second Degree focuses primarily on the Silat, the demobilization of an attacker using the physical techniques (Pentjak) learned for the First Degree. Students learn to make effective use of inner strengths through concentration, breathing techniques and meditation.
This form of self-defense can be highly lethal. It is therefore taught only to the PSHT holders of the First Degree White Slendang, and who, after years of training in discipline, willpower and character building are capable of mastering the “real” Silat. Training for the Second Degree White Slendang is essentially 50% physical development and 50% mental development.
The Third Degree (Tingkat Tiga):
The Third Degree is only intended for the selected few: for those who can bundle all the positive powers they have learned and apply them to the benefit of humanity. The Third Degree is 95% spiritual and 5% physical development.
In Indonesia, there are currently some 300,000 holders of the First Degree White Slendang and approximately 160 holders of the Second Degree White Slendang. Unfortunately there is only one person in Indonesia has Third Degree White Slendang, the chairman of the PSHT, Mas Tarmadji Boedi Harsono, as others was already past away.
The weapons employed in Pentjak Silat are a combination of indigenous weapons and those brought to Indonesia from the entire Asian continent. A number of these weapons were originally tools used to worked the land. Virtually every traditional Pentjak Silat style employs the following weapons.
Pisau or belati
The pisau is a short knife with no specific form or length.
Golok and parang
The golok is a short, heavy machete with a single-sided blade. The parang is also a type of machete that is used extensively. Both were originally used as farming tools.
The trisula is a three-pronged metal fork. It varies in length from 25 to 65 cm. The trisula is most likely of Indian origin.
The toya is a wooden staff, generally made of rattan. It varies in length from 1.5 to 2 meters, but in principle is slightly shorter than the person using it. The toya is between 3.5 and 5.0 cm in diameter.
In addition to the weapons mentioned above, most Pentjak Silat styles also employ their own specific weapons. In the PSHT, the following weapons are also used.
Celurit is the Indonesian term for a sickle, a farming implement with a short, steel blade in the shape of a half-moon. The “ant” is a smaller sickle. The cutting edge is on the inside of the blade.
The krambit is a fist-held punching brace with a double-sided blade in the shape of a half-moon. The krambit is originally a Moslem weapon. The PSHT is the only Pentjak Silat style to employ this weapon.