Pukulan Cimande Pusaka

San Michele Italian System

An Maide Mear Eire-Irish Stick

The Physical - Magickal Connection

By William Sanders, Pendekar

When I began studying this Indonesian Martial Art over twenty years ago, most martial artists in the USA had never heard its name. Most teachers in America at that time had to label this ancient and complete art Indonesian Karate or Kung Fu, just so the average person had some idea that this was a complete fighting art. Of course, I sought out all of the available written documentation on my art. It was evident, even among the few books written, that I was studying a very esoteric system, whose very core consisted of a magickal-mystical blend that was integral to the art.

My first teacher spoke of this part of the system often, and at first seemed as intent on acquiring this knowledge as I was. We had many interesting discussions as he read over the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." He spoke of many tales of secret training with a candle flame, etc., told to him by his teacher, who was from Indonesia. Sadly, a few years later his teacher died and he rarely spoke of these things again. My interest, however, did not die but grew stronger and stronger. I realized I only had a shell of the true art

Finally I was to meet Suryadi Jaifri, the then government representative to the USA from the official Indonesian Pencak Silat organization, the IPSI.  Eddie, as he was known, again spoke of the Tenaga Dalam (the inner spirit), the movement, and the magick, and so I began a steadfast and determined vow to learn this portion of the art and pass it on to my students.

For a moment, let's examine what inspired this inseparable aspect. Prior to the Fourth Century, which was the approximate time period that Hinduism and Buddhism arrived in Indonesia, Animism was the major belief structure.

The Gamelon plays, the participants moving rhythmically, hoping to be possessed by the animal spirits they are invoking. Suddenly the movements look strikingly like the animals invoked, the weave of the snake, the crouch of the tiger, thus the ilmu, the magickal transformation which could be summoned in combat had begun.

Therefore this early Animism was the initial source of the mystical-magickal tradition of Pencak Silat. In fact as stated the original flavor and movements can be stated to have been born of this magick.

Hinduism brought much mystical knowledge with it to the Archipelago, such as the yoga type postures, breathing exercises, and the concept which became known as Tenaga Dalam (or the inner spirit.) It also taught that ones lot in life is primarily predetermined at birth and one could not really rise above it. This concept was referred to as Dharma.

Buddhism maintained the use of this term, although its meaning became more vague. It often referred to various conditions, including states of awareness. However a major difference was that one could, by studying the inner and outer worlds of existence, obtain "enlightenment." This then now allowed the practitioner to gain control over the physical plane, to rise above ones given lot in life. The spirits of the beasts now were no longer in control but became harnessed for the skilled practitioner.

When a particularly mystical sect of Islam (Sufism) began to come into power towards the end of the 15th Century and towards the conclusion of the famous Majapahit Empire, a blending of Shamanistic type structure with Pencak Silat occurred. Indeed during the reign of Raden Mas Rangsang, the powers of Tenaga Dalam and Ilmu were duly recorded.

 The main weapon associated with Pencak Silat and inexorably blended with early Indonesian culture is the highly mystical Keris. A ceremonial bladed weapon whose construction (some blades contain the actual thumbprints of the Pande or Keris Smith, who through his power was able to handle the molten steel with his bare hands), the materials used (a blend of meteorite iron), and its many reported powers (everything from flying, to the ability to draw fire, water, and projection of its owner) reflect the aura of Pencak Silat.

Just as there are many local variations from village to village, even in the same system, so to do the magickal-mystical methods find many forms. Many contain a strong Islamic structure, many do not. But while I was in Indonesia it was always indicated that this magickal-mystical development was the ultimate goal of the art. The physical portion, indeed is but the tip of the iceberg, ten percent to be exact.

When I was introduced to my Magickal teacher Sartono, he told me that he had to go up to his favorite mountain and meditate to see if a non Indonesian could be given this training. He said he did not know because he had never seen it done. A few days later, he told me he was presented with a small powerful golden Kris as a sign to teach me, which he then gave to me.

During my various trips to Indonesia I visited many villages and witnessed much Pencak Silat in every village. Without fail all demonstrations which were performed for me contained many applications of combative methods which were blended with and attributed to the underlying magickal-mystical training. Excited, I absorbed everything.

I have stayed in contact with my Magickal teacher Sartono over the years. I had discovered the missing link which I had not found in the Pencak Silat I had seen in the USA. What astounded me was the inner meanings that were now understandable in the physical training. The act of not looking at the attacker, so the inner awareness could be turned loose to guard the body. The elements of fire, earth, water, and air which allowed the body to subconsciously isolate and perfect the concepts of various movements. This translated as really useful fighting skills, not to any specific religion. Martial arts themselves are more efficient ways of defending oneself by having information or skill, and hopefully not being possessed by your opponent. This inner training is no different and at its core could be the keys of the psychological workings of the human body.

When I first observed Pencak Silat so many years ago I was awed by the feeling that the movements elicited from me. My teacher referred to it as fascinatingly deadly. Years later and still today, when I observe much of the Pencak Silat that is taught in the USA, I get no such feeling. 

The training in the concepts of earth, wind, fire, and water, the search into the deeper self, reflects its "alive" nature in the movements. The spirits of the animals come alive, the subconscious takes control and one senses the presence of something "more." Most of the purely physical types of so called Pencak Silat I see by comparison seem lifeless, stiff, and something is missing.

Keep in mind this is not any particular religion. Indonesia itself has an actual law called "Panscalla," the belief in the personal concept of Divinity you choose to believe in, but belief never the less. This is the concept behind Pencak Silat. A training and belief in the ability to go beyond the normal physical boundaries.

 It is no wonder that the term Pendekar, the highest rank awarded in Pencak Silat to the Indonesian practitioner, connotes spiritual priest master - a teacher of the mystical and physical. If one is a true Pendekar, one must teach both sides of the complete coin, or don't use the term.

The practitioner crouches low embracing the power of Mother Earth and he springs up towards Father Sky. He does not look at his attacker and by disassociating the conscious mind away from the fray, his inner being, which his teacher has been teaching him to develop, comes forth to protect him. This is Pencak Silat.