“…a Guru must teach the way of fighting and making peace with one’s self…”
-Mas Noeryanto Dhipuro
I first met Mas Noeryanto Dhipuro in 2013 during our biannual training camp which began in the hills and forests of Bali . We were staying at the home of our friend Pak Made, who runs a traveling gamelan (traditional Indonesian music style featuring drums and other percussion instruments reminiscent of xylophones) orchestra based out of the University of Colorado at Boulder. At that time we had already done several silat demonstrations using his music as our accompaniment. Pak Made’s place has its own enclosure for playing gamelan as well as some hard-packed dirt courtyards surrounded by the rooms we were staying in. We were staying in central Bali, near Ubud, which is full of windy roads and jungle. It is quite different than the beaches that people usually associate with this island paradise!
In the early mornings we would wake up, take a shower (mandi) and train in the dirt before having our breakfast. Our focus during the day was Madurese and East Javanese martial arts, with our training alternating between jurus macan (tiger form) exercise and basic langkah (stepping patterns) being taught by a new teacher, Mas Noer. I remember him as being fairly quiet, skilled in speaking English, and always ready with a smile on his face. During the evenings and late nights he taught us traditional healing methods similar to Japanese Reiki. I also remember learning from him about the different aspects of Indonesian martial arts, known to the world as Pencak Silat:
Mental/Spiritual: this encompasses the tenaga dalam or internal martial arts and meditation aspect of silat as well as the less tangible aspects of training in Indonesian martial arts. Noeryanto is adept at this, combining his traditional teaching with modern concepts of neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis therapy to help improve people’s lives.
Art: this is about having halus or refined motion and can be interpreted as the dance or seni within performing silat. Several of my silat teachers are also trained in classical central or East Javanese dancing styles (tari jawa) that have a strong impact on how they play silat. Hip motion or geol is crucial to East Javanese silat and can be built through practicing the traditional forms of dance.
Culture: budaya or culture and philosophy is essential to a practitioner of silat in order to understand the reasoning behind the motion. As mentioned in a previous article, kaedah is everything to a style of silat and the preferences, strengths, and weaknesses of a style are heavily influenced by the culture it comes from. This aspect can also be represented by the lexicon or naming systems used for the motions. For example, an inside checking kick is called gejros which is the name of the feeling you get when you are walking down stairs, expect there to be one more stair, but suddenly step upon solid ground.
Self Defense: pencak silat is known for practical self-defense motion, which includes highly refined and effective blade work, brutally precise striking, and joint manipulation. This is the aspect most commonly associated with silat by western culture, reflected in the recent movies Merantau, The Raid, and The Raid 2 directed by Gareth Evans.
I have been very lucky to make friends with a variety of silat instructors during my trips to Indonesia, and I have started to ask them questions about how they view silat. I picked Guru Noeryanto’s brain recently and would like to share his answers with you in this article. The conversation was half in English and half in Bahasa Indonesia, and I have translated his answers for you below. Any awkwardness is the fault of my translation, his answers in Indonesian are beautiful and will be posted in the comments.
Where did you learn silat from, and how long have you been teaching?
I learned Silat From my father (Bugis Style) and my grandfather (East Java style, especially Ponorogo) as well as Madurese styles of silat. I have been teaching Silat from 2005 until now.
What do aspect of silat do you emphasize (bela diri, tenaga dalam, seni)?
My silat emphasizes the aspects of Art (seni), Martial Arts (seni beladiri), and Healing (tenaga dalam).
Why should westerners want to study silat?
Many of the Silat students from abroad (especially westerners) study silat because they find something special and unique in silat. Not only as a killing art for self-defense, but also containing cultural elements and methods for learning about life from art, knowledge of self-defense, healing, philosophy, and even the value of spiritualism.
Why should Indonesians keep the tradition of silat alive?
Because silat is a tradition handed down to us as a part of our Indonesian heritage that must be maintained, developed, and preserved. Silat is not just about studying a way of fighting or of art, but is something of the utmost importance that has to be understood and maintained, for silat is part of the identity of the Indonesian nation which is humble, characteristic, and full of tenderness.
What does it mean to be a silat guru?
To become a teacher of silat is to become a teacher for yourself and for the student. A Guru does not just teach the way of fighting and defeating others, but a Guru must teach the way of fighting and making peace with one’s self, so that they are not influenced by all the thoughts and feelings which will lead them to incorrect behavior.
Do you accept foreign students? How can they contact you?
Yes, I also teach foreign students who want to learn silat. For foreigners who want to join our organization, Pengembangan Bayu Suci, in practicing silat you can contact us via telephone (085334469999) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Guru Noeryanto Dhipuro will be visiting the United States in August of this year (2016) to teach a tour of seminars and workshops on pencak silat and traditional healing methods (Suwung Terapi). His schedule is still being arranged but will be posted when it is settled at here and here. You can read more about him here.
Charles Brandon Stauft has been training in Silat since 2006 and teaching for the past 4 years. He is the head instructor for Inner Wave Pencak Silat New York where he teaches occasional seminars in New York City, a number of private students, and a class at Stony Brook University in Pencak Silat basics. He has mainly trained under Guru Daniel Prasetya and also with instructors in other Filipino and Indonesian martial arts both in the United States and Indonesia. He has been lucky enough to go to intensive camps in Bali and Java as well as a number of seminars in the United States. Recently he has also taken up historical European martial arts (HEMA), specifically German longsword fencing in the Lichtenauer tradition.