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Pencak silat – traditional martial arts

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Pencak silatPencak silat is the collective term for traditional martial arts, in which the movements of animals are imitated. This form of self-defense originated in the jungles of Indonesia.

Because of the many wild animals living in the jungles of Indonesia, it was necessary for the Indonesians to learn a form of self-defense that distinguished themselves from any other form of self-defense. It is believed that priests and monks studied the movements of wild animals, in particular the surviving-techniques of these creatures and started to imitate, adapt and perfect the movements of the animals. Some of the pencak silat techniques have animal names, like macan (tiger), ular (snake) and manyang (wasp).

Pencak silat styles

It is not possible to speak of a uniform pencak silat style. In total, there are about 150 main styles of this form of self-defense, each with their own history and characteristics. In addition, a large number of pecak silat styles also have sub-styles, while new sub-styles are also still being developed. Because many Chinese immigrants lived in Indonesia through the centuries, various Chinese martial arts, such as kun tao, have also had an influence on pencak silat.

Pencak silat sports

The competitive side of pencak silat has two variants, tanding” is the full-contact and martial arts form and “seni” the style variant.


A tanding match lasts a maximum of three rounds of two minutes each. A player may perform six techniques in succession and all kinds of techniques, for instance kicks, knocking down and sweeping, are allowed. Although a tanding competitor wears body-protection, it is not allowed to attack the back, crotch, neck and head. You can score points by correct attacks on the armor or bringing down the opponent.


In seni competitions, other elements are important, such as the harmony between movement and music, choreography, speed of movements and facial expressions.


PERSILAT is the world federation of pencak silat and is an abbreviation for Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa (International Pencak Silat Federation). This world federation was founded in 1980 in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. PERSILAT is an organisation without any politicalties and is based on the principles of brotherhood, togetherness, mutual respect and non-discriminatory in relation to race, skin color and religion.

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