South-East asian martial arts and Pencak Silat - are there similarities?
I actually posted this in the Kenpo etc. subthread, but due to the nature of the question, I'll pose the question here as well:
I'm looking to write a short piece on the similarities between Silat and other South-East Asian styles.
Given that I'm not familiar with a great deal of Silat's history, and only have videos to look at, I wondered if anyone had an opinion on what the practical and historical aspects of these arts have in common?
For example, I'm aware that Chinese boxing was developing at the same time as Silat, and that there would have been strong cultural ties during this time.
But how does this translate to techniques they share?
Does anyone have knowledge of Silat as well as Chinese boxing?
You even went to the effort of getting images for me, thanks muchly!
I agree from what I've seen that the greatest similarities lie in the hand work, particularly I thought with paired exchanges, but also with blocking techniques and development of body position in relation to the opponent.
I wasn't aware of Harimau (Tiger-style walking drills???? YouTube - silat harimau) but as you've pointed out, none of the Shaolin forms (nor other Chinese boxing forms) that I've seen utilise the knee. For me, the issue of "going to ground" in Kung Fu is one that screams of a deficiency, and this is coming from someone who loves the art!
I was all too happy when my Sifu decided to spend some time looking into the details of BJJ.
Anyway, I'm going on a tangent :smile:
I'll certainly take a look at Kuntao, though I couldn't find too much from a quick youtube search, will have to dig deeper!
Eventually I'll put it on my blog on Kung Fu and martial arts in general (if you're interested).
Another thing Iíve noticed is that while both arts have a variety of different weapons, silat has many weapons with a forward curving blade. Kung fu does this pretty seldomly, emphasizing a straight line ending in a point, or a little belly in a blade, or a backwards saber type curvature. Silat blades like the kuku machan and karambit curve towards whavever theyíre going to cut. Iíve read that part of it is mimicry of the tigerís claws in nature- nature doesnít really produce animal blades that saber cut. Thereís some really well crafted and beautiful weapons that come out of Indonesia, incorporating a level of artistic expression Iím not used to seeing in kung fu weapons, which at least these days are mostly mass produced and designed for training (no real edges). It seems like there is a closer connection between silat and the bladesmiths that actually craft their weapons. There are definitely elements of mythology that go into blade making in Indonesia too. Iíve read in Steve Taraniís book that they believe the kris had symbolic and magical properties, for example one manís weapon would be light as a feather when he wielded it, but if anyone else handled the weapon it would seem really heavy. Or a kris that could kill a man by stabbing his shadow. I imagine that beliefs like this in Indonesian blade culture play a role in how weapons are crafted. I havenít seen evidence of the Chinese having as strong a blade culture.
They also do some beautiful woodwork for the handles and scabbards. Iíve been working on a side project (a kris) little bits at a time for months. Iíve got a rough blade shape ground out of a piece of steel, and I want to carve a handle to look like a fish with the blade where the mouth is and some smaller fish etched on the blade so it looks like a large fish chasing smaller ones.
Silat blade examples:
This Indonesian blade style (golok, also in the Philippines) is associated with the Chinese connection, so it might interest you:
hmmm... I think there's one exception to the purely point-based or saber style, which is the Kwan Dao:
While I've seen the slicing of this weapon using the saber, it's also possible to block and counter blade-strikes with the claw-like edge from above. Most of the forms I've seen using this however seem to be just modern Wu-Shu.
I have a feeling that the emphasis in ancient Chinese blade making was purely on the strength of the metal, and thus repetitive folding of the blades, rather than the artistic side. Add to this the fact that following the Chinese Revolution Kung Fu was essentially banned/commercialised, and I wonder if any ancient Chinese arts surrounding this still survive.
Like you've said, the training weapons are normally just flimsy metal and I don't believe they reflect how they would have been used traditionally.
The guandao was actually exactly what I was thinking when I added "a little belly in a blade" as one of the possible Chinese blade characteristics. The belly is a bit different than a forward curve though. Itís that shape that makes a bowie knife effective no matter which part of its edge touches first. That shape is also seen in Chinese broadswords and even on the Chinese leaf blade dagger. There's even examples of forward curving blades in China but not to the same extent as Indonesia, like the gik which has not only a forward curvature but also a backwards one and a kris blade sometimes (like this one):
Originally Posted by MartialStudy
A forward curvature can work in 2 different ways depending on design. A small one, like a karambit, makes deep draw cuts because thereís more resistance against the edge, so it bites into targets instead of sliding across them. But a large one, a kukri for instance, will also get more chopping power because of where the weight is distributed. The Chinese donít seem to use the small hooked knife, but they do use forward weight distribution in long weapons, and the saber shape that flares out towards the tip is kind of a similar idea I guess (aside from allowing better geometry for adding a cutting edge). The other thing that either of them can do is present the tip in different ways, and on those moon shaped ones a cutting stroke might well end up stabbing with a tip. I imagine a weapon like the gik is something that will cause damage no matter how it hits you.