Pentjak Silat

These 10 Silat Strategies Will Expand Your Consciousness and Make You Better at Self-Defense! Part Two

In the first part of this post, Burton Richardson talks about the following silat self-defense principles:

• It’s easier to de-escalate a situation with open hands.
• Open hands facilitate the use of more techniques.
• Open hands make it easier to catch kicks.
• It’s easier to stop a weapon with open hands.
• Use of a physical-restraint technique requires open hands. In this part, he addresses five more.

— Editor

Silat Strategy No. 6
To parry an attack, the hands must be open.

Blocking punches is fine if your only goal is to avoid getting hit. However, if your goal is to neutralize the source of those punches, the beauty of silat parrying becomes apparent. Why? Because when you parry, you can counterstrike at the same time.

To execute a parry, your hands must be open. That’s because you’ll need to use a palm to divert that punch and thus create an opening for your counter. Yes, you’ll need to spar a lot to fine-tune your timing, but once you do, you’ll find that parrying affords you a higher level of defense than does blocking.

Silat for the Street is the title of a new online course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt magazine. Now you can learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!

Silat Strategy No. 7
Open hands foster a relaxed mind and body.

If you want to move at maximum speed, you must be relaxed. If you want to flow, you must be relaxed. If you want your mind to be pliable and ready to perceive all threats, you must be relaxed.

Having your hands open relaxes your mind. In contrast, closing them into fists tends to make your mind tight and your body tense. Because of this mind-body link, keeping your hands open is often the key to keeping yourself in a calm state that will optimize your overall fighting skill.

Video from Burton Richardson’s Silat for the Street. Sign up here.

Silat Strategy No. 8
Feinting is more effective with open hands.

You may be thinking, How can this be? After all, feinting with a fist works very well, right? Yes, it does, but throwing an open hand as a feint presents your opponent with the perception that a larger weapon is incoming. That’s because an open hand is larger than a closed fist.

Because of that difference in perceived size, feinting with an open hand makes your adversary think the blow is closer and, therefore, more of a threat. For that reason, it’s likely to elicit a bigger reaction, which is exactly what you want from your feint. Remember that the bigger the reaction you get from your opponent, the bigger the opening for you to take advantage of.

Silat Strategy No. 9
Striking with open hands subjects the body to less danger.

You’re less likely to hurt your hand when making contact with a palm than with a fist. If you have any doubts, look up “boxer’s fracture” online. You’ll learn that it’s one of the most common injuries in street fighting — and even in boxing and MMA matches, in which athletes have their hands taped and wrapped with gloves.

Breaking a hand in an altercation likely will mean you can no longer strike with that hand or use it to grab your attacker. That’s bad if you’re a civilian. It’s worse if you’re a law-enforcement officer or military member because you might need to fend off a surprise attack before transitioning to a weapon.

Silat Strategy No. 10
Training is simpler with open hands.

I’m a big advocate of putting on helmets and gloves frequently to do safe sparring, but I also believe that you can safely spar with your open hands without all the gear. You’ll want to wear a mouth guard and a cup to make sure face contact and groin strikes are options — remember that you’re polishing your self-defense skills, not engaging in a combat sport — but you’ll want to avoid wearing bulky boxing gloves. They’ll prevent you from working on certain clinches and control techniques that require tactile sensitivity and the dexterity of an open hand.

For this reason, it’s best to do some of your sparring without gloves. Focus on being functional with your open hands. You’ll find it’s fun and a great way to develop more options in your arsenal. And in real-world situations that may involve violence, you want your mind to have access to as many options as possible.

Read Part One of this article here.

Photos by Robert Reiff

These 10 Silat Strategies Will Expand Your Consciousness and Make You Better at Self-Defense! Part One

The debate is as old as the martial arts: If you have to fight, should you follow your instincts and ball up your hands to form fists, or should you keep them open?

Some martial arts instructors argue that under pressure, you’ll always make and use fists. Others insist that fists should be avoided because they’re technically limiting and their use is potentially hazardous to the puncher as well as the punchee.

No matter which side of the fence you’re on now, you should consider these 10 open-hand strategies of modern silat. Even if they don’t make you change your ways, they’ll help you open your mind with respect to technique. Contemplate the strategies and review the photo sequences, and you’ll become a more formidable fighter.

Silat Strategy No. 1

It’s easier to de-escalate a situation with open hands.

Like all martial artists, you want to avoid conflict whenever possible, in part because you know that using your skills can lead to legal trouble. This alone is a great reason to always do your best to end a conflict without any physical interaction.

Because real fights often start with an angry aggressor yelling and posturing, you’ll want to maximize your ability to calm the situation. If you close your fists and get into a stance, you’re signaling that a fight is imminent, and that can prompt the assailant to initiate his physical attack. Keeping your hands open can help calm him down while you talk him down.

Silat for the Street is the title of a new online course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt magazine. Now you can learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!

Silat Strategy No. 2

Open hands facilitate the use of more techniques.

It’s pretty tough to target an attacker’s eyes when your hands are balled into fists. Likewise, you can’t grab an assailant’s throat when your hands are closed. Those are just two reasons to keep them unclenched.

In general, being comfortable with open-hand tactics expands your defensive options, and in any serious attack, you’ll want to have as many options as possible. Once you experience the effectiveness of techniques like the finger jab to the eyes and the slap to the ear, you’ll want to keep your hands open whenever you can.

Silat Strategy No. 3

Open hands make it easier to catch kicks.

If someone launches a leg at you, of course you can block or evade the technique. Tactically, however, it’s better to catch the leg. Doing that not only gives you control of the attacker but also allows you to keep him in a very vulnerable position — balancing on one leg.

When your hands are open, you have the ability to snatch a straight kick, to check and capture a roundhouse kick, and so on. Because these responses require speed, it’s best to stay mentally primed to react, which is what consciously keeping your hands open does.

Silat Strategy No. 4

It’s easier to stop a weapon with open hands.

If you’re in a fight and a weapon is drawn, you’ll need to physically control the weapon or the weapon-bearing limb before you apply a disarm. You can make that happen more quickly if your hands are already open when you begin.

Having your hands open signals your body that it’s not just a frantic striking mode that you’re in. It’s a mode that entails quickly searching for a way to control your adversary and his weapon.

Silat Strategy No. 5

Use of a physical-restraint technique requires open hands.

If you know only how to strike, you’re limited to smashing your assailant into submission. But what if the situation doesn’t call for that level of violence? What if you’re dealing with a belligerent drunk who’s not actually combative? In such cases, you need to lay open hands on the person to control him.

Being able to respond with limited violence is especially important for law-enforcement officers. When they’re forced to interact with people who are resisting arrest but aren’t actually combative, striking isn’t warranted.

Video from Burton Richardson’s Silat for the Street. Sign up here.

(To be continued.)

Photos by Robert Reiff

Pencak Silat Expert Gets MMA Smackdown, Regroups, Comes Back Even Stronger With His Martial Art!

Fighters have practiced pencak silat for thousands of years, but it didn’t capture the attention of Western martial artists until the late 1980s. Suddenly, the Indonesian system was everywhere, with its vicious counterattacks and precision takedowns attracting self-defense practitioners who wanted the best in street-fighting functionality. As a bonus, it offered a fascinating dose of Southeast Asian culture.

I had the good fortune of starting my silat training under Dan Inosanto in the early 1980s before it became popular. Several years later, Herman Suwanda, master of the mande muda style, started a class at the Inosanto Academy, which I naturally attended. Inosanto later got me into the backyard bukti negara group operated by Paul de Thouars. With those wonderful teachers guiding me along the path, I was in silat heaven.

Silat worked very well for me. As one of the original Dog Brothers — I was dubbed “Lucky Dog” — I used the art in the group’s all-out, minimal-protection stick fights. In our style of combat, which was deemed “too extreme” by UFC co-founder Art Davie, I was able to regularly apply foot sweeps and my go-to move, the tarik kepala, or head-tilt takedown. The latter technique proved so effective, in fact, that after some time, a couple of my fellow Dog Brothers asked me to stop using it because they feared someone would get injured.

I used silat in stick-fighting tournaments, in a challenge stick match in the Philippines and in two empty-hand challenge matches. When people questioned the effectiveness of the style, my teachers would point to my success as proof that it really worked. All was well in the world of silat. Then came MMA.


Back in the mid-1990s, MMA was called no-holds-barred fighting. I began training with some of the NHB pioneers — in particular, with Egan and Enson Inoue. The experience proved an eye-opener, to say the least. I couldn’t get my silat to work against athletes who had a strong grappling background. Sure, I wasn’t kicking them in the groin or gouging their eyes, but I had to acknowledge that most of my techniques didn’t function as planned.

Slap and Strike technique from Richardson’s new online silat course.

Example: I couldn’t break my opponent’s posture sufficiently to execute a good sweep or takedown. It was frustrating because I knew firsthand how effective silat takedowns could be. I’d used them against resisting opponents many times, but MMA was a different world. The grappler’s base was just too stable, and I couldn’t do the head tilt because my opponent’s neck was often too strong. To make matters worse, I found that my stance was vulnerable to wrestling takedowns.

Burton Richardson teamed up with Black Belt mag to make Silat for the Street, a new online course that teaches the best fighting moves of the Southeast Asian art. Click here to learn how you can start streaming it to your smartphone, tablet or computer now!

After months of trial and error — mostly error — I decided to set aside my silat skills. It was a sad and difficult decision, to be sure. I enjoyed being known as a silat fighter, but the truth had to come first. My goal in life was, and still is, to be the most effective martial artist possible and then to pass along my knowledge of functional skill development to my students. Silat wasn’t working, so I had to move on.


I began investing the majority of my energy in MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu while still maintaining my roots in kali, jeet kune do and muay Thai. The No. 1 lesson I learned during this period was that a person’s training method is paramount. You must contest against a resisting opponent or you’ll never be able to apply your techniques against a real aggressor.

This proved so important that I coined a phrase: “If you want to learn how to fight, you must practice fighting against someone who is fighting back.” The martial arts are that simple. As John Machado, one of my BJJ instructors, says, “No sparring, no miracles.”

Head Twist technique from Richardson’s new online silat course.

Ten years later, I was the owner of a BJJ black belt who had coached top fighters for matches in the UFC and various grappling events, but something was missing. Although I’d immersed myself in the fight sports for a decade, it dawned on me that I was neglecting the street-fighting facet of the martial arts. Yes, MMA definitely worked, but when there are no rules governing the combatants, you often need something more.

My remedy was to put groin strikes, throat grabs and simulated eye attacks back into my sparring sessions. My partners and I trained with resistance — of course, …

Touching New Movie Examines Pencak Silat From a Female Perspective!

Most of us have no idea what life in Brunei — or even what the culture of this Islamic state on the north coast of Borneo — is like. A new film titled Yasmine is about to change that. It’s not only the first movie ever produced in Brunei, but it’s also bound to be of interest to you because it’s all about martial arts.

For a clue as to what Yasmine is about, think Rocky meets Karate Kid — but make sure you’re envisioning The Next Karate Kid, the 1994 sequel that starred Hilary Swank. That’s because Yasmine paints a picture filled with elements that could have come from any American high-school girl’s coming-of-age story: peer pressure, attraction to boys and an ongoing fight for independence from her strict, single-parent dad, who’s unable to accept her adolescent pining and desire to learn pencak silat.

Yasmine movie

Why does the titular character Yasmine, played by Liyana Yus, want to learn silat? For all the wrong reasons: to fight her high-school nemesis and silat expert Dewi at an upcoming silat tournament, and to win over her childhood sweetheart and silat champion Ali. When Yasmine connects the dots and discovers that Dewi is Ali’s new girlfriend, she freaks out, and her yen for victory becomes even stronger. Yet that’s dampened when her father enrolls her in a strict Muslim school, where she chooses to wear a red head scarf to symbolize her individuality in a school hierarchy of conservatism.

Silat movie

History sidebar: Although the term “pencak silat” was chosen in 1948 to be a unifying name to describe the Indonesian martial arts, silat is believed to have originated during the powerful Malay empire of Srivijaya (seventh century to 13th century). Some legends hold that unlike most martial arts, silat was not created by a man. A woman named Bima reportedly founded the style of bima sakti, which incorporates a philosophy of never being the first to strike. It also teaches that even if you’re hit, you should try not to hit back. Another version of silat’s founding tells that while she was washing clothes in a river, a woman named Rama Sukana observed a monkey fighting a tiger. She later used the monkey’s movements to avoid being physically abused by her husband.

Burton Richardson, Black Belt’s 2015 Self-Defense Instructor of the Year, teamed up with the magazine to make an online course called Silat for the Street. It teaches the techniques from the Indonesian martial art that he’s deemed most effective for modern combat. Click here for details!

Yasmine’s first silat teacher in the movie claims to be a master of tenaga dalam, something akin to chi in the Chinese martial arts. However, the filmmakers chose not to delve into the subject, which is unfortunate.

The martial arts movie Yasmine comes from Brunei.

Considering that Yasmine is a family film, you may find the action is rather lightweight, especially compared to the popular silat-based film series The Raid. However, Yus holds her own. She spent several months training in kuntao, a Chinese art widely practiced in Indonesia. That gave her the skill base she needed to endure the fight choreography, which was created by Chan Man-ching, a longtime filmmaking associate of Jackie Chan.

silat movie Yasmine

The best thing about Yasmine is that no matter where the plot’s twists and turns take viewers, at the end of the day, it’s the silat that brings Yasmine peace, love, friendship and a deeper understanding of herself and her life. It’s almost as if the young martial artist was walking in the footsteps of silat’s foremothers.

Watch the trailer for Yasmine here.

silat movie

Photos courtesy of Originfilms.

Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.

Pentjak Silat’s 9 Deadliest Weapons

Suryadi “Eddie” Jafri is one of the best-known instructors of the Indonesian martial art pentjak silat (also spelled pencak silat). Pentjak refers to the fighting movements, while silat means a “spiritual way.” Jafri’s style of pentjak silat, pera taki sendo, is a close-combat system using empty-hand techniques as well as traditional weapons. His system has combined some elements of Philippine arnis styles, as well as several classical styles of Javanese, Sumatran and Borneo silat.

Indonesian Martial Arts History

The Indonesian archipelago is made up of 13,677 islands, the best known of which are Java, Sumatra, South Borneo, West Irian (New Guinea) and Bali. While Bali has a unique Hindu-Buddhist culture, the rest of the islands are Muslim, a result of proselytism and military incursions between A.D. 1275 and 1520, Islam having first been introduced by merchants from India and Persia.

Your Filipino martial arts training starts with this FREE download!
Escrima Sticks 101: Julius Melegrito’s Practical Primer on the
Fighting Arts of the Philippines

The two major kingdoms prior to the Muslim takeover were the Sriwijaya Empire, beginning in the fifth century with its capital in Jambi (South Sumatra), and the Majapahit Empire, which began in the 13th century with its capital in Java. The Majapahit Empire extended all the way to the southern Philippines, where an interchange of martial arts occurred as the Filipinos adopted the kris (Indonesian dagger) and Malay-style fighting arts before integrating the rapier and dagger techniques of Spanish conquerors.

In the 15th century, European colonial powers turned their eyes to the “East Indies,” which they saw as the “Spice Islands” because of their natural supplies of clove and nutmeg. In 1596 the Dutch, under the command of Cornelis de Houtman, solidified their hold on the islands, forcing out Portugal and the other European colonialist traders. Eventually the Dutch monopolized the spice trade, setting up the East Indian Company, Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie.

Indonesian patriots fought the company as best they could, using silat’s traditional weapons against Dutch firepower. Needless to say, firearms ownership was forbidden to native Indonesians, and even metal, from which edged weapons could be made, was restricted. The martial arts techniques had to be taught in secret.

Pentjak’s Silat’s Development

The original system of pentjak silat dates back 4,000 years, and the first moves copied the strikes of animals such as monkeys, tigers and snakes. It provided self-defense techniques against wild animals, bandits, madmen and foreign invaders. Its principal weapons were the staff and various bladed tools.

By the time of the Dutch conquest, Indonesian martial arts had already developed into complete systems. Except for primitive decapitating moves practiced with mandau jungle knives by the Dyak tribes of Borneo, virtually all Indonesian styles had developed martial arts techniques for various weapons. The blade was emphasized over the empty hand or blunt instruments. Even today, there are more knife and sword designs in Indonesia than any other place in the world.

Download your FREE flashback to Black Belt magazine’s
first in-depth coverage of the Indonesian martial arts!
Pencak Silat: Techniques and History of the Indonesian Martial Arts

The traditional styles were adapted to modern combat first against the Dutch and later the Japanese. The objective was to infiltrate so close to the enemy that he could not use his rifle. During the early days of the Dutch conquest, this meant working against a single-shot musket, the objective being to avoid the first shot and then the bayonet. The Atjehnese of Sumatra developed a kicking style whereby the unique rentjong knife was held between the toes to compensate for the superior length of the rifle’s bayonet. The bayonet could be parried with either a golok or another field knife, then the rentjong was kicked into the groin. Such frontal combat could be suicidal against the Japanese in World War II, who were armed with modern repeating weapons, so Indonesians later emphasized subterfuge and assassination techniques. The night attack, stalking of sentries and stragglers, and poisoning of officials became tactics of choice. Even today, poisoning is taught at the higher levels of silat for use against one’s most dangerous enemies.

Suryadi “Eddie” Jafri teaches Philippine stick techniques to his students because Indonesian arts do not give the stick special emphasis. Police officers and those who need nonlethal self-defense techniques can use silat’s techniques to good effect.

Suryadi “Eddie” Jafri also teaches silat empty-hand techniques, although most of his students are not expected to strike banana trees with punches and kicks as he had to in his early training in Sumatra. Currently, most of his teaching is devoted to the Indonesian blade, the core of the old styles. The following are the silat weapons that he considers the nine deadliest.

Pentjak’s Silat’s Deadliest Blades: The Kris

The kris (also spelled keris) is the national weapon of Indonesia …