In my continuing quest for advice on how to become a better pencak silat instructor, I asked my mentor and friend Mas Mochamad Amien of Chakra V Silat Combat System for some advice. I also inquired about the history of different types of weaponry used by the Madurese martial arts. Specifically, I asked him about several weapons that I thought were characteristic of Madurese systems including the cutting spear known as a monteng (spine) or calok (lancor) for the characteristic shape of its heavy cutting blade (the very tip looks like human tailbone, which is called “monteng”). I have translated his answers from Indonesian with my interpolations presented in parenthesis (to help explain the context). I also had a lot of help from his student Oki, and his assistance was invaluable in correcting my translation of Mas Amien’s answers, my attempt at a proper orthography of Madurese terms, and adding a scholarly gloss to the origins of the individual weapons we talked about.
Interview with Mas Mochamad Amien of Chakra Lima Silat Combat System
Please, tell us about your culture and how it influences your silat.
The culture of the Madurese people has been a strong influence in shape of (our) martial arts. Madurese have a hardy character but also adaptable, open, and are hard workers. Because of that, the form of their silat is fast, straightforward, open, and strong.
What is the difference between a trainer and guru of silat? How does one become a silat guru?
In Madura, there is a tradition that still persists that someone can be called a guru of silat if they have already mastered 7 styles of pencak silat. If they have not yet mastered 7 styles they are not yet called a silat guru. Because of that it is not easy in Madura to be called a silat guru. If they only study one style they are not a silat guru. To be a silat instructor it is enough that you study one style of silat. I studied 7 styles under 3 gurus. The styles from my family are Pukulan Setekel, Akeket Macanan, Are’ Seka, Soddugen Gembuh, and Shakuntala. Pukul Hilang I learned from Pak Hasan and then Tengka’ Keteran from Grandmaster Sarip.
Can you tell me the history of the monteng (cutting spear), sickle, and whip? What cultures use it and how?
(Despite its reputation), the celurit (sickle) is not a weapon that is originally Madurese. The celurit is a weapon in daily use by peasants (everywhere in Indonesia). It was first introduced by Pak Sakerah of Bangil Pasuruan. The celurit is a weapon of the peasant. The celurit was newly recognized as a tool for murder and as the weapon of the Madurese people after the tragedy of Berek Temor.
The calok was first introduced by someone with the name Ke’ Lesap, the fallen son of the king of Bangkalan from a rebellious concubine, his weapon was the Calok.
Around the 14th century the whip (cambuk) was introduced by the King of Sumenep whose name was Jokotole who had the title Socadiningrat III. In the legend (of Jokotole) it explains that he fought with Dempo Awang with the use of a whip.
Does the monteng (cutting spear) have a use as an agricultural tool or is it designed for killing?
The spear and keris as well as the sword are the weapons of the Madurese warrior, also the bow and arrow. Almost the same, but the Madurese way is extinct because nobody wants to learn. Madurese seldom use a mace or a club, mas; they prefer the spear, keris, and whip. The Madurese spear is the same as the Javanese spear; they also have the monteng. There are many kinds of spear.
Why should westerners want to study silat?
If at Chakra Lima, they study because they like a system with real fighting.
Madurese Martial Arts
Of the martial arts that derive from Mas Amien’s family, Pukulan Setekel is one of the more straightforward and effective. It consists of a set of basic movements and footwork, with a focus on close-quarter fighting. The name itself advertises the style’s effectiveness in close-quarters, as it means striking within the distance of one tekel or ceramic floor tile. “Setekel” is the newer term, coined by Mas Amien. An older term is “Pokolan Co’-keco’an” or just “Co’-keco’an” which means something like “Thief’s Boxing.” Akeket is traditional Indonesian wrestling, and Akeket Macanan is influenced by several Madurese and Tartar Akeket systems that teach ground-fighting and grappling. For weaponry, the most infamous Madurese weapon is the sickle. The Are’ Seka, contrary to the normal sickle used for daily agricultural use, is a sickle designed exclusively for killing. The knife is another common weapon that is taught in the Soddugen Gembuh style, an art derived from ancient combat with keris and shield but adapted to modern usage.
Pukul Hilang is a style of pencak silat that is vanishing, as the number of forms known by each generation is being reduced. I had the pleasure of meeting Mas Amien’s instructor nearby his home, and it seemed he was happy that silat is being learned by westerners. Tengka’ Keteran is a style taught by Mas Amien’s relative from his mother’s side, Mbah Sarip. Tengka’ means stepping/footwork, and Keteran is a name for the perkutut bird (Geopelia striata) therefore Tengka’ Keteran means dove’s step. It’s taught together with Madurese swordsmanship by Mbah Sarip. Along with Shakuntala, Tengka’ Keteran are arts meant for killing and are classified by Mas Amien as martial arts separate from pencak silat which focuses more on preserving the life of the practitioner rather than ending the life of the opponent (my interpretation of his opinion expressed to me).
Legendary History of Madurese Weaponry
As in other martial arts, the weaponry and styles of silat have semi-historical or legendary personages responsible for their introduction. Other influences, in an area of continuing conflict and violence between ethnic and religious groups such as Indonesia, are more recent.
Bangil Pasuruan is a town in the district of Pasuruan in East Java. Pak Sakerah is an East Java and Madura folk hero who resisted Dutch colonialists during the early 19th century. The weapon used by the plantation workers is the same tool they used to harvest sugar cane, the sickle. Mas Amien credits the introduction of the sickle, as a favored weapon in Madura not just as an agricultural tool, to Pak Sakerah. In his blog article, Mas Amien explains how the use of the sickle is not an ancient part of Madurese culture, but has been made infamous in the last century by the tragedy of Bere’ Temor (conflict between West and East Madura island) and the practice of Carok which as its root in the old Javanese word “Arok” which means riot/fight/chaos. The earliest Singhasari king was named “Ken Arok” because he was fond of causing such trouble. The vendetta killing or dueling leads to constant perpetuation of feuding between families. Therefore, the use of weapons in martial arts from Madura takes on a deadly seriousness as skill in the use of the sickle could mean the difference between life or death. Aside from duels over honor, one must also be prepared to defend against surprise attacks or being assaulted by 3 or more attackers.
Further in the past, Ke’ Lesap was the son of the king of Bangkalan (western Madura) and a concubine who was also a famous warrior and another Madurese folk hero. The calok I asked Mas Mochamad Amien about refers to the shape of the blade, and can be mounted on either a long handle like a spear or with short handle to fashion a heavy bladed knife. In general use, calok does not mean calok lancor or monteng, but something more like this a long-bladed sickle. The weapon ke’ lesap used is similar to the monteng, it was called “crancang” or “carancang” which means “spine” as in sharp thorn or barb. The word “calok” or “caluk” basically means “sharp weapon” in old Javanese. It is the same in Madurese, a sharp weapon is called calok to distinguish it from common tools. A tool, even if it’s sharp and can kill, will never be called calok by Madurese. Ke’ Lesap led a rebellion against the kingdom of Madura and won several battles before being killed. The use of heirloom spears features prominently in this legend and the weapon of Ke’ Lesap was a magical calok (kodhi’ crancang) of great power.
Even further back in history is the legend of Jokotole, or King Socadiningrat III who was an early 15th century monarch of Sumenep (Madura). In a battle with Dempo Awang, he was victorious with the use of the whip and ever since this has been a favored weapon of Madurese warriors. Although Dempo Awang may not sound familiar to you, that is the Indonesian name of the great Chinese explorer and commander Zheng He who is believed to have been defeated by Jokotole in 1433. This story is important for Madurese martial arts as Mas Amien and his warrior arts are descended from the general (Senopati) Ario Bijjannan who served Jokotole in 1413 A.D. Even slightly further back the father of Jokotole, named Adipoday or Socadiningrat II, was a famous kodhi’ wielder. His kodhi’ still survives to this day, kept in a museum in Sapudi Island in Sumenep, Madura.
Pencak Silat Documentary by Empty Mind Productions
If you would like to learn more about Mas Mochamad Amien and his fighting system that is based on realistic unarmed and armed self-defense, he has been recently featured in a documentary produced by Empty Mind Films. This documentary, The Island Art of Silat, features a number of Javanese and Madurese pencak silat styles throughout Java. It presents a balanced depiction of the different ways silat is trained in Java, with a focus on the tournament set-up for IPSI (Pencak Silat Association of Indonesia). They also discuss other silat systems including interviews with three of my instructors: Mas Sigid, Guru Cahyadi, and Mas Mochamad Amien. For Mas Amien the documentary describes his training philosophy and provides a rundown of the basic material in Pukulan Setekel.
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.