This article was originally featured on the now defunct Pendekar.Com website circa 1996. This is all about the right attitude and the smarts to go along with it...


In Malaysia, Pendekar is a term normally associated with persons who have very good or exceptional mastery of Malay Silat. This term is probably the best starting point if one wants to understand what Silat is and the attitudes, mentality and culture of the people who practice this very deadly art form.

The word Pendekar comes from a combination of two malay words, 'Pandai' which means clever and 'Akal' which means mind or intellect. It is hard to convey the actual nuances when these words are expressed in malay but roughly Pendekar can mean 'Clever Mind'. This meaning trancends just mere martial arts skill alone as a Pendekar is also respected by the society that he lives in for his wisdom and knowledge, an embodiment of an ideal concept. He is sought for his counsel and ability to heal, a contrast to his deadly skills.

In the art that the Pendekar practises, this utilization of the intellect to rationalize the full range of weapons that he has been naturally endowed with is expressed in the way that he uses the body as an integrated system devoted to the subjugation or destruction of his enemies whichever is most suitable for the situation at hand. In malay this is expressed as 'Dari hujung rambut ke hujung kaki', meaning 'from the tips of our hair to the tip of our toes', all are potential weapons to be used at the right moment.

He is not locked in by a single paradigm but understands that his knowledge and perception is limited, humility and nobility is his character and reflected in his behaviour. In many cases the Pendekar is also a religious leader in his community. Frequently he would have travelled extensively and studied under many masters of different styles. The Pendekar may teach an amalgamation of these styles but not giving any name to the art form that he teaches. He normally chooses to teach in small groups of students and often the best teach in this manner.

To a layman, the Pendekar may not be recognisable as a fighter. They are quite often small in stature typical of the people from this region, soft spoken and gentle, moving with the grace of a dancer. When a Pendekar executes the 'Bunga' silat, a flowery dance like form typical of Silat styles you see grace and very little power.

And yet when a Pendekar explodes into action, the whole body moves with grace, precision and power, making full use of the opponents own momentum to subjugate and destroy him. Often, it is the opponents own aggresiveness force that defeats him for the Pendekar will flow with the attack, never confronting force with force unless it is absolutely necessary.

You will not see a Pendekar moving in an uncoordinated manner, he will normally stand still upright in a relaxed stance not quite what a layman expects. At times he may assume postures to confuse or entice an enemy to fall into his trap.

He may simply stand with both arms to his side even in the face of an agressive opponent calmly devoted to the remembrance of his Creator even as he faces his enemy. His attitude is that all his opponents and he himself are encompassed within the power of their Creator, there is no power that can subjugate but the Creator's and it is to HIS will does the Pendekar submit.

A true Pendekar will teach his students this for when the opponent is full of rage, we must be calm, for in calmness via this remembrance will, god willing, victory come to us. Rage will reduce our intellect and by so doing the full execution of our Silat is not possible. Fire must never be fought with fire but with elements that will douse that fire.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is a response to a simple punching attack to the solar plexus. As the punch is executed by the opponent, the Pendekar who may stand upright in a normal standing position rotates his body by explosively rotating his hips, putting his weight on the balls of his foot. Force is generated by the rotation of the of the hips, ball of foot, shoulders, which is also flexed at the instance of striking, and a flick of the wrist so that the full force of his body and arm arrives as a highly focused one or two finger strike to the opponents throat.

He makes no move to block the punch at all and the opponents fist may actually hit him but because he has rotated his body the punch has lost it's lethal power. The Pendekar realizes that a strike is only effective if it is focused, move beyond the range of this focus even a little bit and the opponents strike is of no consequence. A simple movement will suffice. Why run when we can walk?

A term for this kind of close range combat is called 'sepadi'. 'Padi' is a grain of rice, so this word means that the distance between us and the opponent is just one grain of rice. The style of flow is called, 'angin se angin, colek secolek' which is a bit difficult to translate. 'Angin' can mean wind or breeze, 'colek' is like a gentle playful stroke or prodding with our finger. Roughly it conveys the meaning that we move like the air striking with precision, often the finger or toe is used as nerve strikes. Light taps are used to unbalance the opponent keeping him under the Pendekar's control.

This is the essence of Silat, subtlety, speed, flow, often seemingly gentle to the point of impracticality and utilization of the human intellect. A Silat style as practised by the PENDEKAR reflects the culture and attitude of the Malays, a race known to be gentle, polite, soft spoken and yet fierce when provoked.

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Copyright Abu Mansur Manaf