Bukkitinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia
Pencak Silat is not only a martial art, but one of the pillar of Minangkabau culture and history. The legend says it was created by a woman named Rama Sukana who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a large bird. By using the animals’ movements, she was able to fend off a group of drunken men that attacked her. She then taught the techniques to her husband Rama Isruna from whom they were formally passed down. The Sumatran Minangkabau tribe is one of the oldest and most influential tribes in pencak silat with almost all silat styles today having some trace of Minangkabau fighting arts contained within them.
Minangkabau is one of the few matrilineal society in the world, but it is also a society relatively untouched by the western model: traditions, animism are important as the relation with nature, jungle and animals. Pencak Silat is a martial art that derives by the profound study of animal spirit and movements. Pencak Silat is studied and performed as not violent. Pencak Silat brings to an excellent level the animal instinct of killing for survival or defense, experienced practitioner are able to kill in few second their opponent. And this is paradoxically why they don’t fight and only study. There are several styles, mostly derived by animal techniques, the most important are tiger, eagle and crocodile. Pencak Silat masters become those animals when fighting.
In the history the technique has been sometimes militarized, mostly as a defense weapon against colonies. Even if as fundamental part of the education process of Minangkabau men it is more a philosophy to follow than a martial art. Masters don’t fight, they advice and they practice meditation. There are not, or very few, indonesian champions as it is a secret art, often studied in the nature, or in hidden place, to prevent other people to discover secrets. The family play a big role in Pencak Silat, and often it is both a father to son and grandfather to nephew teaching.
When asked to a master if I could fight with him with swords he replied very seriously that he could accept only with him being blindfolded and with no swords.