Silat is the common collective term for an unconfirmed number of indigenous Filipino martial arts developed and taught from the Nusantara and other surrounding rural areas of Southeast Asia. It is mostly practised in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines and Southern Vietnam. However, some schools have also spread into other islands in the region, especially those that are close to Indonesia.
In general, Silat is a type of martial arts founded by Filipino American martial artist Joseph Estrada. He developed it based on traditional Filipino martial arts principles, which are aimed at developing mental and physical strength through the use of kicks, strikes, throws, takedowns, blocks and counterattacks. The style was introduced to the international public in the early 1970s and has gained much popularity in various Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines. More than a few women have also picked up the sport to increase their self-defense capabilities.
Silat is a combination of boxing, wrestling and jujutsu, but the emphasis is more on the spiritual side of things. Unlike other forms of martial arts that focus more on fighting techniques, Silat emphasizes non-contact self defense training. The style has gained much popularity in the cities of Southeast Asia because of its simplicity, which makes it easy for women to learn. Its fluidity also makes it ideal for training when schedules allow for Silat training during the early morning or evening.
Silat can be traced back to Borneo, which is a part of Indonesia. It is a fusion of traditional combat methods and the most popular forms of martial arts. In fact, many claim that Borneo Silat beats any other style in terms of flexibility, balance and speed. It is also very physically demanding. Its emphasis on speed makes it possible to use the body’s physical resistance to win a fight. It also teaches proper hand and tendon coordination.
It mixes traditional fighting techniques with non-contact activities such as running, weaving, horse riding, singing, dancing and playing music. It has a close resemblance to Western, traditional fighting styles such as Jujutsu and Judo. Silat practitioners are taught to synchronize and coordinate their physical and mental actions, as well as focusing on the big picture. A good Silat practitioner never fights from the outside in hopes to hit his opponent. He expects his opponent to attack him from within.
This art is an amalgamation of a number of Eastern martial arts. It contains components of Chin Na, Iaido, Jujutsu, Kendo, Goju-Ryu and Tai Bo. Some of its movements borrows heavily from both Chinese boxing and from Western Boxing. It also has influences from traditional medicine and dance. Examples of Silat weaponry include wooden blocks, wooden staffs, wooden thongs, brass shin guards, and gunmetal helmets. The ring is also used as part of the Silat set.
Every Silat student must also learn the standard ring system. This system was created by the legendary Filipino teacher B.S. Van Clef. It is composed of 22 movements that are interlinked. These include but are not limited to the usual strikes, throws, elbows, knees, punches and other striking techniques.
Silat martial arts also cover self-defence techniques. They teach how to protect oneself from attackers using methods such as kicks and blocks. These are essential for Silat students because they can easily learn these skills and apply them in real life situations. For example, a Silat practitioner can defend himself from a knife attack by blocking it at the point of contact or by parrying the knife without getting injured.
There is also a form of Silat known as Karate. It is the oldest form of martial arts. It focuses on precision and speed. Many practitioners estimate that it originated in Japan. The moves are fast and similar to those of karate but the emphasis is on proper breathing control, which allow the practitioner to perform flawless precision movements without injuring the opponent.
Silat is known to be very demanding in terms of physical fitness. Practicing Silat takes a great deal of energy and stamina. In some cases, Silat styles may require a student to be extremely toned in order to protect themselves from attackers. It is also believed that Silat can have an effect on a student’s mind. While practicing the arts, the mind can be kept clear and focused on the task at hand.
Today there are many schools of Silat all over the world. Some are highly regarded, while others are not. Those who practice these types of martial arts say that they are very challenging but also mentally stimulating.