Friday, November 22, 2013

Silat Buka Lingkaran for Karateka

First, I am sorry for not updating this blog in such a long time.  For my handful of readers, it is not that I have forgotten you.  Moving to Italy presents some distractions.   Just know that I have been training regularly in Silat Cidepok under the instruction of my pal Lorenzo Bagnai, and also attending seminars in Silat Suffian Bela Diri and Silat Buka Lingkaran, given by Maul Mornie and Alvin Guinanao, respectively.  Who knew Italy is the Silat capital of Europe?  Recently, Lorenzo and I had the pleasure of traveling to Gorgonzola (just outside Milan) to learn Silat from Alvin.

Wow!  As a rank beginner in Silat, you might conclude that I am easily impressed by the novel, maybe.  I like to think that a lifetime in the martial arts would enable me to discern the good stuff from fluff.  Lorenzo, who has been teaching Silat Cidepok for ten years, was mightily impressed by Alvin's technique, just as he is impressed by Maul's.  I hold these gentlemen in high regard.  Each has something to teach all karateka.  Here's a vid of Alvin's seminar in Gorgonzola.

Now there are a number of things that can be gleaned from Silat that will make kata more intelligible to karateka.  Among them are flow and gelek ( the notion of turning, often with the limbs of your opponent intertwined with your own).  The notion of flow seems to be stunted in karate.  It is as if the primacy of the "ikken  hissatsu" ideal, where the karateka strives to deliver the one deciding strike, reduces everything to choppy, staccato like movements ending in a punch or a kick.  In contrast Alvin uses strikes to set up opportunities.  One technique flows to the next, twisting, turning, striking, rolling.  He attacks low, then high, whatever it takes to keep the opponent off balance.  Mix it up with Alvin, and you will be off kilter quickly, and then on your face.  In much of what I have learned in Silat, the job is not done until the opponent lays broken on the ground.

I have said before that the numerous turns that you find in kata do not represent opportunities to face a new opponent, rather they represent a takedown or joint destruction.  In the above video, you can see the potential for these devastating technique.  Note that the turns apply as well on the ground.  Some karateka might be familiar with kata that involve falling to the ground, and kicking from one side to the other, without realizing that the turn on the ground itself is the destructive application, the power of gelek.  Falling may also be turned to one's advantage, especially if you are falling on top of your adversary's extended knee or elbow joint.  No movement is wasted.

When you are practicing your kata, ask yourself if any movement seems wasteful.  Does it seem more art than martial?  Cross training in Silat with someone like Alvin, Maul or Lorenzo as your guide will help you make sense of it.  Besides teaching me Silat, they have made my karate better.


  1. Good article, Im not sure I can relate to the idea of italy being the capital of silat in europé, or it probably depends on what and how you define a capital. But I agree with you that silat has that wich Contemporary karate lacks

  2. Thanks for your comment. Understand that I am a little biased. Having just moved to Italy, I find the training opportunities plentiful and of high quality. :)