Some General Information about Pencak Silat
Pencak Silat is a martial art originating from Indonesia. There are more than 13,000 islands, 360 spoken languages and a population of approximately 200 million people in making up the Indonesia Archipelago.
With over 1.800 different styles of Pencak Silat throughout the islands of Indonesia, you can imagine that no two styles of Pencak Silat look exactly alike. Each style depicts the area of origin and its' ethnic group with their own characteristics.
The Term "Pencak Silat"
The word pencak is originally from Java and it refers to the martial arts of that area. Penca, without the k is the original spelling of the Sunda language. Pencak with the k , comes from Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia and refers to the movement or beauty of the martial arts. The word Silat comes from the areas of Sumatra, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and others. Silat refers to the actual fighting.
In West Java, the application of Pencak is called Maenpo which means to do Pencak. In the past the word Maenpo was referred to when challenging people to a fight to the death. Maen, the Sudanese spelling, literally means "to play". The word Main is the Bahasa Indonesia spelling of the same word. Po means "forget" so the translation of Maenpo is "forget to play". This terminology is rarely used today. In Indonesia, Pencak Silat was originally taught as a secretive art to the family and to members of the village. Now there is a modern version of Pencak Silat which caters to the public. It is taught in the school systems starting in elementary schools and continuing throughout the colleges and universities.
In West Java during the 1940's through the 1970's you could see Pencak Silat routinely performed in village ceremonies. It was most commonly seen at weddings, celebrations of the rice harvest and circumcisions. It was especially important to perform Pencak Silat at circumcisions because it is believed when a boy is circumcised he changes from a boy to a man. Pencak Silat was a reflection of his manhood and it also helped divert his concentration from the pain of the procedure. This ceremony can still be found in some villages but it is rarely performed in the big cities.
The names of the Pencak Silat styles come from various sources such as the name of the village it originated from or the name of the founder or creator of the system. Most villages in West Java start with "Ci" Ci means pointing to a particular village or Chi which can mean water. This is why many of the rivers start with Ci.
There are three major styles of Pencak Silat in West Java. These are Cimande, Cikalong and Syahbandar.