THE DJURUS OF PENTJAK SILAT
By Cassimore Magda
Silat is a term generally
used to define the indigenous arts of Indonesia, Malaysia, and
the Southern Philippines, countries comprising a cast archipelago
of islands stretching 2000 miles in an east-west direction and
1600 miles in north-south direction. In Java, Indonesia, it is
known as Pentjak Silat. The term, "Pentjak" loosely defined,
refers to the 'training for the application of the fight' and 'Silat'
being the 'fight' or 'application' itself. In Malaysia, it is known
as Bersilat., the 'Ber' meaning 'to do Silat.' In the Southern
Philippines it is known as Silat or Kuntaw. 'Kuntaw' being a newer
slang term of Chinese origin but representing an art closer to
Indonesian Silat in terms of combative structure.
The practice of Silat,
according to martial arts researcher/hoplologist Donn Draeger,
was known to be in use as early as the 6th century AD, although
in a crude form. Pentjak Silat evolved and as Draeger notes, "...was
by the 14th century polished and the technical property of the
nobility - the Majapahit sultanas and their court officials. Commoners
were excluded from learning its tactics."
There are at least
150 recorded styles being practiced in and throughout these island
areas and the differences between all of these styles are subtle.
All Silat styles to a greater or lesser degree involve various
complex and intricate empty hand and foot strike maneuvers, clever
and unique multiple joint locking, sweeping and throwing manipulations.
The training regimens
of many Silat systems consist of the following elements:
Langkah - Footwork
used for application of the Djurus.
Sambut - Formalized
technique application against one or more opponents.
Djurus - Fundamentals
of upper body motions used for attack and defense.
Use of Weaponry.
Some Silat systems
start beginners with Langkah and others begin with Djurus. The
Djurus consist of empty hand movements and postures. Within these
movements and postures we find throws, locks, and grappling maneuvers,
like using the hands, elbows, knees, shoulders, head, hips, as
well as foot and hand maneuvers used for covering, parrying, evading,
blocking, off balancing, trapping, pinning, pivots, breaks, wrenches,
and chokes. The Djurus, when performed resemble the katas of kung
fu and karate, but have a unique flavor of movement that is all
its own. They are by comparison very flowing in execution and are
very short in length.
Within the Djurus
we find all the "on guard" positions. It is interesting
know that a Silat man in his "on guard position" does
not look like he is "on guard". Because of training in
the Djurus, he is made aware of the fact that from all positions
and postures he can produce defensive counters to attacks. When
asked what is the best position to fight from, Pendekar Paul de
Thouars of the Serak system answers, "The best position to
fight from is whatever position you are in at the time."
Postures from various
Djurus can be combined to give the enemy a false impression of
vulnerability. Experienced practitioners can "read" what
another Silat opponent is doing or "what he is up to" (i.e.
how he will move in terms of what defenses and attacks he can expect).
The familiarity with movement patterns is extrapolated from the
Djurus. Not all systems of Pentjak Silat have Djurus or use Djurus
the same way.
In some styles of
Pentjak Silat, the Djurus are a technique sequence shadow boxed
(without a partner). If a partner was used, then the exact same
moves in sequence would be executed. In some styles like Bukti
Negara Serak, the moves do not represent a technique in sequence
at all. This can be confusing to martial artists watching the Djurus
because the dance like moves don't seem to make sense to them.
The fighting applications of the moves are not obvious, so they
will wrongly conclude that the moves have no combative function.
You have to be an "insider" to understand the Djurus.
Elders of the Serak clan insist that this is the way of the old
fashioned systems of Silat. They maintain that the Djurus are not "mini
katas" that have applications in the order that they are sequenced
because that would be too limiting. You are limited to only one
application which is the sequence. The Djurus, as taught in the
older systems are thought of as conceptual and expansive learning
tools. One motion of a Djuru with certain modifications is a key
to unlock a plethora of practical applications.
An analogy given
by Paul de Thouars explains as follows:
The Djurus are like a bag of flour. You can make many things out of
the flour - pies, croissants, donuts, cakes, bread, cookies, etc. but does
it say you can make all these things on the bag? No, you have to be shown
how to make all these things.
of unlocking the Djurus for their interpretations can only come
from teachers who have the experience and knowledge of the breakdown
of the system. An analogy by Pendekar de Thoaurs describes this
"Old Way" Silat
is devoid of any dilution from the "New Way" techniques
from martial arts such as judo, karate, boxing, etc. practiced
today as sports throughout the world. Harder to understand at
first, but leaves a lifetime of techniques once the understanding
Such teachers and
practitioners are obviously hard to come by because such an understanding
does not come overnight or in a short time. Only many hours and
years of practice results in the explanations of the Djurus being
of satisfaction to the trainee.
Knowing the Djurus
does not mean you can fight with them or use the movements. The
movements must be related to technique and the practical applications
of these techniques. (There are no names for all these techniques
since because there are too many of them, it is not practical to
try to assign a name to each and every one.) Each interpretation
must also be learned left and right because you never know what
you will encounter. Thus, this teaches one not to have a favorite
The Djurus teach
you that there is no favorite technique because that would be to
limit yourself. As De Thouars says, "I have no favorite technique.
All techniques become your favorite when you understand them." Students
who are learning the Djurus are taught a method of thinking that
integrates with the process of studying and applying the Djurus.
They must learn the Djurus perfectly because each movements has
its own story to tell. Students are taught to examine the movement
as a whole, then to dissect it into parts, the ending position,
the transition motion, the reverse motion, the starting position.
Techniques are then derived from each of these motions and positions.
By this method of
examination and inquiry, the student may see a move that is unfamiliar,
then proceed to go back and analyze his Djurus and try to find
that motion. Once found, then that part of the Djurus becomes a
mental prompter that reminds him of that technique. This is another
reason why a Djuru can never be interpreted literally, The student
must ask for himself the understanding of it (i.e. What is the
value and meaning that can be produced out of these movements?).
Practicing students are drilled to pay attention even to the smallest
detail. As Pendekar De Thouars says, "You must value every move
in the Djurus, otherwise they become empty moves. Like bullets
in your gun, they better work. Why have a gun with bullets in it
that don't work.? There are many reasons for each movement so you
must make each movement count when you practice."
the Djurus are instructed to be deadly serious in attitude. Why?
In order to be a martial artist, you must act like a martial
artist. Attitude and motions determine the variations in the techniques
that are in the Djurus. Some attitudes that determine variations
When you train the
Djurus you can be training for different purposes such as:
of breathing to technique
of more than one enemy
of a single technique
The use of
On a spiritual level
the Djurus are said to be a test and judge of character. If you
watch a man perform his Djurus you can tell what kind of character
he is. You can tell whether he is impatient, or a show off, whether
he is quick to anger or if he is superficial. You can see by his
physical execution of the movements whether he understands what
he is doing, and if he has an attitude of commitment to what he
is doing. This is what is meant when the elders of the Serak clan
say: "You 'fight' with the Djurus." It is also a mental
and spiritual fight with yourself because if you are not mentally
committed to practicing and your "heart" is not into
it, then the Djurus will become boring exercises of no value. So
you must constantly be careful to take the Djurus seriously and
put your spirit into them when you practice. This will motivate
you to look for answers. This will ultimately give meaning to your