Silat, My Journey

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Silat, My Journey

Post by TomFurman » Wed Sep 09, 2009 1:30 pm

I've posted this elsewhere on the net, but, I've had lots of private questions about silat,, so hopefully my little article will answer some of them.

This statement, posted on an earlier blog of mines stimulated the creation of this article.

"I know what works in silat. But, w\out proper striking or WEAPONS, it is hard pressed to appear effective. Remember, ALL the silat that I learned was based on stabbing \ cutting someone. Empty-hand renditions are severely weakened IMO. That's why I supplemented my personal silat w\the striking from Jun Fan \ Muay Thai kickboxing, and the grappling from pammachon \ MMA, etc. The totality of that combo has vastly improved my empty-hand silat expression." --- Blaise Loong"

Silat or "to fight" is a martial art that runs from Southern Thailand, through Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Southern Philippines. Guru Stevan Plinck said that the people of the spice islands have a syncretic quality. They could absorb the many influences of China, India, Arabia, Africa, and the Philippine Islands, yet retain their own flavor or uniqueness. I do not think this evolution has stopped. In my view, many of the deep applications of silat are like a DVD textbook of human combat on a kinetic plane. You need to practice under pressure to express the secrets yet to be uncovered. Silat, not universally, but in my experience, is taught through patterns and what many would call "dead" drills. They are called dead because there is no resistance or measurable outcome to them. They are actually movements to refined many levels of physical, mental, and spiritual development. Remember, many of these arts are centuries old and hard work ( conditioning ) and fighting ( over property, honor, or breeding rights ) was more common. To "spare" the combatant, high repetitions of increasingly difficult drills cultivated reflexes, positions, and body mechanics that enhanced your ability to survive. In modern times we walk on treadmills, take sleeping pills, and carry guns to survive.

I've had several influences in my development regarding silat. I also have a strong opinion, which may go contrary to many in silat. Remember it's only an opinion.

I was born in Western Pennsylvania. Most all of my friends had fathers who were war veterans. Most of these fathers worked in mills, foundries, or machine shops. Most of them had knowledge of boxing or military hand to hand combat. My own extended family included eleven combat veterans. Our area was heavily ethnic with much of it Eastern European. Oddly the most common martial art was Indonesian Poekulan Tjimandie from Willy Wetzel. About ninety miles to the north, William Reeders taught silat at one time. Those in the silat arts know who these gentlemen are, know their background, and their place in martial arts history. This was the early seventies. I had already been involved in amateur wrestling, and didn't think martial arts were magic at any point. My earliest teachers at one time or another had trained with Willy Wetzel, and our "school" moved from spare rooms, to street corners, to parks, and finally in a boxing gym in Rochester, Pennsylvania, down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. The amateur boxers didn't give a crap about silat, Bruce Lee, or Bill Superfoot Wallace. They finished their rounds, showered and went off to do night shift at a steel mill after eating a kielbassi sandwich and an Iron City beer. They provided ample "pressure testing", and the equipment, bags, ropes, rings, and mirrors, left a permanent stamp on my methodology about what it took to throw punches of bad intent.

Many years later, I had the privilege to travel to the Smoky Mountains and train with many legendary martial artist for twelve hours a day for seven days. It was at this time that silat, was again gaining popularity. Guru Dan Inosanto, legendary martial artist, was exposing silat, with special permission, to the students of the camp. He demonstrated many variations. The thing is,.. Dan remains as one of the best teachers on earth. If you can't get excited studying with him, it's time to leave martial arts. His teaching and lecturing captivated me, and I noticed that many of the elite martial instructors at the camp were listening too. Dan was teaching Bukti Negara Silat. A Dutch variation from the DeThouars family. Dan's background in Silat included material from Jon Lacoste ( Kuntaw silat, Bersilat, Langkah Silat ), Nick Mustafa (Bersilat), Eddie Jafri ( 4 step silat), and Jon DeJong. He included material from Panantukan/Suntukan or Filipino boxing. He said that he taught this variation since he wasn't certified to teach certain aspects of DeThouars Silat, and that western students seem to understand and appreciate silat more when a western art (boxing) was used as a vehicle of learning. I continued with as many Inosanto seminars as possible for many years. This would include close to one hundred hours, lots of travel, and much analysis. I also was able to train a workshop with Paul DeThouars in Miami, as well as Pak Herman Suwanda. All of these influences had a tremendous impact on my development and thought process. Dan's current synthesis of silat is called Maphilindo or Majapahit.

In addition to the above influences, I have had the incredible good luck to have become a friend and student to three of the best instructors imaginable. First, chronologically was Cliff Stewart. His resume reads like this.

Who is Cliff Stewart?
By Master Instructor Masaad Ayoob
"It’s a question I don’t have to ask. I’ve known Cliff for more than 15 years – as student and instructor, friend and peer.
The guy has more black belts than a men’s clothing store, and in many of the disciplines he has studied he is a master instructor: a trainer of other instructors.
When you’re rich and famous, you need two kinds of CPAs: one is the guy that will help you keep as much as possible of the money you have earned; the other is a Close Protection Agent like Cliff, to keep you alive to enjoy it. A veteran of over 25 years in the Executive Protection field, Cliff Stewart has provided elite bodyguard services to the rich and famous, including Wesley Snipes, Larry Flynt, Mr. T., Joan Collins, Muhammad Ali, Stevie Wonder, James Garner, members of royal families and foreign diplomats. He is the one who trains the teachers of Law Enforcement, Federal Agencies and Martial Arts Organizations. It’s no wonder in Hollywood he’s called the “Bodyguard to the Stars.”
Cliff Stewart knows his stuff. I’ve worked with many of his contemporaries who have studied under such masters as Dan Inosanto, and at the same time Cliff was there. The martial arts world can be a jealous place, with more than its share of prima donnas. Yet, from Graciela Casillas to Paul Vunak, each of Cliff’s contemporaries I’ve spoken with gives Stewart the highest praise. It’s a rare man who can be that well liked and that highly respected at the same time in such an ego-charged environment. It says a lot for the grace and professionalism of Casillas and Vunak, but it says even more about Cliff Stewart.
The Stewart legend lives not just in the dojo of Los Angeles, but in it’s streets as well. A few years ago Cliff was out in the wee hours picking up some necessities for his newborn son, and was set upon by three street muggers who suffered what I’ve come to call “a sudden and acute failure of the victim selection process.” One swung at Cliff with an iron pipe. The fight was on…and it was over in seconds. When the police got there, they found three men on the ground, all either unconscious or in too much pain to move or speak. All had suffered major broken bones or internal injuries …and, significantly, no one was outwardly marked or had shed a drop of blood. The only one bleeding was Stewart, slightly injured by a glancing blow of the pipe he had deflected from it’s original skull-crushing path before he began returning force. It took the officers a while to figure out that “the last man standing” was the intended victim, not the perpetrator. But once that was sorted out, no one appreciated the justice of the outcome more than the responding officers…
I’ve also seen the gentle side of Cliff Stewart. When watching him with the woman he loves or delicately cradling his baby son, you see a very large teddy bear. But watch him in the training environment or in the field and you realize the bear is really a grizzly in disguise. Cliff keeps the grizzly behind a very strong barred door, but it’s always right at the door, a fraction of a second away from a conscious decision to release it when nothing less powerful can protect the innocent.

Cliff Stewart possesses an awesome degree of knowledge and destructive power. The point he drives into his W.A.R. students is that possessing power doesn’t mean that you have to use it. Often, he makes clear, the greatest expression of that power is to dominate a threatening situation to the point that you don’t need to unleash it. Avoidance, he points out, is the ultimate victory.
It’s one thing to hear these things said about a wimp whom you know couldn’t bear to face conflict. It becomes more credible when you hear it from a man who is a veteran of conflict and has left a trail of strong, violent men prostrate and unconscious behind him. Such a man is Cliff Stewart.

I manage crisis and teach crisis management for a living. I know the difference between the professionals and the phonies. Cliff Stewart is a professional. When he talks, I listen. So do other professionals. And so should you."

Cliff has the ability to make the mysterious components of silat real, understandable, and applicable. He has been there, done that, and can teach it. When a man has gone against shotguns, multiple opponents and even swords, I tend to believe him. He makes the traditional arts functional ones because he understands them on many levels and has the character and intelligence to transmit knowledge with eloquence. His Western expression of martial arts is called WAR-With Arms Reach. It has a strong dose of Kenpo, Hapkido, Serrada Eskrima, and mainly SILAT. It's a method to teach techniques as an expression of principles. It's also, in my opinion, a gateway for the Western Mind to understand the Eastern Promise of silat.

Guru Harold Koning, was next. His arts? East Indian wrestling, Western Boxing, Dutch Kenpo, and Mustika Kwitang Silat. Here is description of Guru Harold's background from on article I wrote in 2008-

"Harold Koning, Ph.D., MSW, M.Ed., C.Ht., is the founder of Dynamic Wellness Strategies. He is a Life, Wellness and Career Coach. His background is in Social Psychology, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Qi Gong. Dr. Koning has 22 years of international experience as a seminar leader, motivational speaker, and trainer of trainers. His motto: "I practice what I teach."
Dr. Koning’s work style is an integration of Mind-Body Medicine, NLP, Humanistic Psychology, Trans-personal Psychology, Guided Affective Imagery, Kinesiology, and humor.
He has a work and research history in Europe, the Caribbean, South America and the United States. Dr. Koning has been featured in the book, "Turning Dreams Into Success", and has produced his first CD titled, "Stress Repair".
In addition, Guru Harold is a former boxer, kickboxer, black belt in Dutch Kenpo, and practitioner of Mustika Kwitang Silat. His fitness level and conditioning would put a high school athlete to shame. He is skilled in native Surinamese-African dance, as well as being a gifted musician with a specialty in percussion and Flamenco guitar. He speaks English, Spanish, Dutch, varieties of Creole, and a few more languages. He never stops learning, training, or teaching. He just never stops. His musical instruments are as heavily used as his heavy bag, weights, jump rope, blades, kayak, and bicycle. "

Guru Harold's influence into my silat is like a strong spice in a favorite dish. It's taste permeates everything, but doesn't overwhelm it either. His silat is hard core, grounded in cement and sweat. He plays hard, and surviving the training is an art in and of itself. I continue to gain wisdom from Guru, not only in silat, but life as well. I consider him and his wife Ita, to be my spiritual guides.

The last of the giants in terms of influence is Guru Bruno Cruicchi of Venezuela. He is perhaps one of the most profound scholars of martial history and styles that I am aware of. He is also a linguist who claims fluency in eight languages, but you could probably double that number and feel safe. Bruno teaches Raja Sterlak Silat. It is a Sumatran art that is very rare in this country. Donn Draeger said it was to counter Harimau or Tiger silat, but I tend to see a Chinese Hsing I influence. I wrote a description of his background for the Dog Brothers Martial Arts last year-

"Bruno Cruicchi has been doing martial arts for over 40 years. He is Italian/Armenian and born in Cairo. He lives in Caracas, Venezuela, and Miami, Florida. We met through a silat email list several years ago and have been friends ever since. He is the mentor to our Miami based training group. He teaches many arts but focuses on the Venezeulan ones with our group. Personally he and I discuss blade and silat. His training is in Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Venezuelan, Chinese, Indian and Euro or Western arts. His primary focus is Venezuelan, Filipino, Indo, and TaiChi (Chen). His is a textbook of international travel, martial arts, styles and people. He knew Don Draeger and lives a similar lifestyle. He can root out the oddest sources of martial arts from Stick Lickin’ in the Islands to Portuguese Staffwork, to African Testa. He can give you an outline and a story about the instructor as well. Bruno makes his living as a linguist and speak 8 languages fluently,,, probably many more if pushed. He can start with the story of training in Indian Weaponry with his Silat instructor, or his entry into a French LaCanne Tournament using Venezuelan methods or his honeymoon trip to Paris and his meeting with the Adityo Hanafi of the Sumatran Tiger Silat Clan… but you will have to buy the coffee or beer,… It will be a long night and you will tire before him. He is of course,.. The International Man of Mystery."

Those influences have shaped my understanding of silat application, form, mechanics, theory, history, and spirituality. On my own course, I tend to have a very skeptical western mind. I have seen the metamorphosis of martial arts in my lifetime and I understand how all war arts need to have a strong foundation. I view that foundation with a fundamental question. Will it work when almost everything goes wrong?
That foundation leads me to believe that several physical arenas need to be entered, and games need to be played. They are as follows.

Power Game. By power, I mean the ability to deliver destructive force. That includes conditioning, footwork, defense and offense. The vehicle for power type training is Easter based kickboxing and clinch work. I highly regard Rodney King of South Africa for his "Crazy Monkey" approach to fighting. His extensive background in the Thai arts and his own hard won experience make the process of delivering punishment and surviving it, and teachable, usable, product. Also, I'd give a big thumbs up to Bas Rutten. Most silat men I speak to tell me Bas, "looks like a silat guy in MMA". I'd tend to agree. His hand structure, kicking, and footwork are oddly Indonesian in appearance.

Weapon's Sparring Game. Showing blade or stick work in isolation is a teaching tool that many do not move beyond. There has to be a method to teach weapons in real time and have feedback from those on the front line of violence that it does indeed work. The training method must also spare the fighter and allow him to train with minimal injury, or the training method is flawed. The vehicle that I feel most likely fills the bill is Floro Fighting from Ray Floro of Australia. Ray's simple method is effective, requires little gear, and it works. He is desperately trying to find someone to "kick his arse" in weapons sparring so he can upgrade his methods with the tools that overcame his. This keeps his cutting edge methods cutting edge. I highly recommend silat men examine his methods and include them in their play.

Ground Game. There is no getting around it. Fundamental groundwork is here to stay. Learning to move from position to transition to submission to transition is a skill that is as important as a right handed punch or a kick to the groin. Brazilian Jiujitsu has a richness and teaching method second to none. I don't want to argue the points of Catch wrestling, Sambo, or Shooto. They are all fine arts. BJJ is currently easy to find, and "rolling" is a training tool that must infest the Indo arts. The syncretic nature will allow the integration without loss of character. Ground arts in Indonesia are weapons centric and based on multiple opponents. BJJ is based on a hierarchy of positions and perfection of technique over power. Both systems work in concert and are beautiful together or apart. It's not an insult to either art,, it's a compliment that combat on this planet, or rather the skill to deal with conflict is so rich.

The last realm is the spiritual realm. This is not religion, but the ability to go beyond technique. The mental game of martial arts will teach you awareness, ego managment, and target denial. The physical game of martial arts will allow you to survive the Octagon. The spiritual realm will allow you to drive your sick child to the hospital through a snow storm when you, yourself are sick or without sleep. It will allow you to see what others don't, feel what others can't, and say what others are unwilling to.
In this sense, Guru Tristan Sutrisno, has been very important. I've never met him. We have mutual friends. His stories of REAL warfare, training theory, and richness of his martial resume ( Japanese Karate, Iai jujutsu, Aiki jujutsu, and Indonesian Silat ) have strongly made me THINK about what is, and isn't real. What matters in life, and what matters in death. I hope to meet him soon.

Much of my understanding of silat has come about from my conversations with Guru Santiago Dobles of Miami. I don't use the word prodigy much, but he is one. ( Yoga, Silat, Music, Reiki, QiGong, Kundalini ) He is my brother, ( this is hard to explain! ) , and his understanding of the deeper levels of Eastern thought has helped me with my stubborn Western mind. We share many teachers and experiences. He has recently brought into our circle of no circumference the presence of Guru Muhammad Zarifin Ipin of Cimande Silat. Guru Ipin is a healer first. He is a man of peace and deep, deep, understanding of the human body, and spiritual realm. I could tell you things about him you wouldn't believe, so I'll leave it at that. I'm blessed to have this extended family of warriors to make me aware of the tools I already have to overcome life's obstacles. In a way they are an extension of the the warriors whose blood runs through my veins. I feel in many ways, my journey has just begun.
"There is only one God, and he doesn't dress like that". - - Captain America

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Re: Silat, My Journey

Post by JamesonBushmill » Thu Sep 10, 2009 5:22 am

TomFurman wrote:In this sense, Guru Tristan Sutrisno, has been very important. I've never met him. I hope to meet him soon.
You should definitely try to make his gathering in the Poconos. I think it is mid to late august every year. He himself is a hoot to hang out with, as i am sure you already know.

If you still have family in PA, think about stopping by his school, if you get to visit them.
Females who wear heels emulate the gait patterns of wounded and/or compromised prey and thus inspire males to heights of predatorial chasse-a-tude. - Robb Wolf

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