Indonesian martial arts incorporate a variety of fighting styles from traditional to hybrid. It’s common to see pencak silat as an umbrella term, but many expand well beyond that.
Types of Indonesian Fighting Systems
Indonesian martial arts are composed of more than a few combative styles designed for self-defense or general combat. Below are some well-known systems.
Pencak silat is used as a universal term to describe the fighting arts in Indonesia. Some use the term separately, viewing them as two different aspects. “Pencak” can be observed by causal outsiders as it’s all about the essence of training. Whereas, “silat” is more about the essence of combat, something not revealed to outsiders.
This fighting system is full-body; meaning, it makes remarkable use of the entire body so that nothing is wasted. It focuses on grappling, throwing, and strikes. Weapons even maintain somewhat of an importance. Some are kept secret, left only for the more advanced students to train with. Common weapons include a spear, staff, machete, and a kris.
Tarung Derajat is one of the hybrids found in Indonesian martial arts. Some of the basic moves used are strikes, grappling, sweeping, and kicks. Striking and kicking, however, are more emphasized than other techniques. Similar with pencak silat though, Tarung Derajat is a full-body contact style.
This type of style has its practitioners focusing on a set of principles: Tenacity, Speed, Strength, Accuracy, and Courage. The development of Tarung Derajat came in the 1960s by Haji Achmad Dradjat who grew up in a tough society that encouraged younger individuals to fight. After he became a street-fighter in order to survive, he came up with his own style that he eventually began teaching to others.
Like with pencak silat, kuntao has history dating back to ancient times. The two styles are so closely related that some have a tough time telling them apart. In some communities, the terms are used interchangeably.
Nevertheless, kuntao shows representation from both northern and southern Chinese martial arts styles. Some have undergone tweaks, but most have no changes. Styles used are, but not limited to, baguazhang, Kongfu, and Shandog. Previously, this was taught in secret to shield the techniques away from outsiders whether they were Chinese or not. Nowadays, kuntao can be seen publicly by anyone.
There are a number of weapons used when training in kuntao. The more popular weapons include a staff, spear, sabre, butterfly knives, and a sword.
Fitimaen refers to an indigenous form of stick-fighting. The sticks used are typically made from one of the hundreds of variety of native hardwood or from rattan, a species of climbing palms. Although some do use other weapons such as spears, the fighting staff is always favored. When practitioners of fitimaen spar, it is always kept short as the risk of injury is high.
Like with fitimaen, caci involves fighting with a stick. However, this style also makes use of a whip and a shield. In this ancient fighting style, the whip can be long or short, and it’s generally made from palm stems. These stems are woven together with either water buffalo hide or rattan. The stick is usually a piece of hardwood. There is also the use of a shield, elliptical or round, and made from either water buffalo hide or wood.
Both the shield and the stick are traditionally undecorated. Competitors, however, sport a more traditional appearance. Bare-chested, headgear, pants, and jingling bells decorating their ankles and lower back. By some, caci can easily be mistaken for a dance. Make no mistake though, ancient fighters used to boast incredible scars.
Indonesian martial arts are a unique system of a variety of styles, traditions, and techniques. Although many have evolved from their ancient roots, there is still an emphasis on not only physicality, but also on the spiritual and psychological connection involved with it all.
Jason Maine is the founder of FullContactWay, a blog dedicated to provide best martial arts advice and information. Jason helps his readers with martial arts training by sharing personal tips and thorough research. Check out FullContactWay to get more about Jason’s work. You can find him on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.