silat

The island of Bali is part of the Indonesian archipelago. While the rest of the nation is Muslim, Bali traditionally has been populated by Hindus. It was a Hindu, a traditional wrestling master named Putu Witsen Widjaya, who originally invited me to this tropical isle to try my hand at mepantigan wrestling. (See the December 2018/January 2019, February/March 2019 and April/May 2019 issues of Black Belt.) He explained to me that his life's ambition is to meet and organize all the martial arts masters in Bali in an effort to preserve the culture.

On my subsequent visit, Putu introduced me to several local martial artists, including masters of san da, judo and silat. That last style, in particular, intrigued me because on a previous visit to Malaysia, I'd studied silat kalam and silat tomoi, in addition to having documented a few other variations of the art.

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In his matter-of-fact manner, Mas Aan, the man who had agreed to teach me silat tapak suci in Bali, Indonesia, explained the difference between using a hard block against a kick and simply stepping aside. With a hard block, he noted, your arm absorbs the force of the technique — and it's possible a bone in your forearm will break. With a side step, however, the kick slips right on by. That enables you to avoid all its destructiveness before you counterattack.

The concept applies even when catching a kick, the master said. His advice to me was to slide my front leg backward to get out of range and, once the foot or shin misses, attempt to grab the leg.Switching gears, Mas Aan demonstrated a self-defense technique for use against a shirt grab. As soon as the offending hand latched on, he slapped the arm down. Instead of using a slap that was strong enough to break the hold, he made his opponent stumble forward — at which point he uncorked an uppercut to the jaw. After that strike, he looped his fist downward and smashed his foe between the legs.This technique, coupled with the ones he'd just taught (see part 1 of this column), prompted me to ask if silat tapak suci had ever been dubbed the "punch him in the nuts" style.

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In this Black Belt exclusive, Hall of Famer Burton Richardson reveals five more ways in which you can benefit from adopting silat's open-hand self-defense tactics.

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

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The way you hold your hands in a violent encounter and in the moments leading up to it can influence the outcome. That's why the martial art of silat teaches students to open up.

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?

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Can exposure to MMA lead to practical updates to a traditional martial art? Can it make a martial artist more capable of defending himself? Burton Richardson says the answer to both questions is yes!

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. RUDE AWAKENING 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.

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