IPSI : Indonesia Pencak Silat Federation

Source : An Introduction to Pencak Silat
by Central Board of The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association

IPSI : Indonesia Pencak Silat Federation

Pencak Silat is a compound word. Pencak and Silat have the same meanings and are parts of the culture of people of Malay race, that is, the ethnic group who are the native inhabitants in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

The word Pencak is commonly used by people in Java, whereas the word Silat is commonly used by the people who live in the other regions of Indonesia as well as in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

The combination of the words Pencak and Silat into a compound word was made for the first time when an organization of the unity of Pencak schools and Silat schools in Indonesia was founded in Surakarta in 1948, which called Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association), abbreviated as IPSI. Since then, Pencak Silat has become the official term in Indonesia. This term is also used by the schools in many different countries which teach Pencak and Silat derived from Indonesia.

In the international communities, Pencak Silat has become the official term since the international federation organization was founded in Jakarta in 1980, which was called Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa, abbreviated as PERSILAT, (The International Pencak Silat Federation). Nevertheless, people use the words Pencak and Silat separately as a single word due to the dialectic habit.

The following analysis is the resume of some important things about Pencak Silat included : history, philosophy, kinds, styles, schools and pendekar, research and writing, development and dissemination and challenges against Pencak Silat. The whole analysis will be summarized as a general conclusion.


The principal needs of human being are security and prosperity. To fulfill those needs, men invent and develop various means (techniques) and equipment. The men's invention concerning the need for security, are physical means and equipment to deal with and overcome many kinds of threats, challenges, obstacles and annoyances. The means are among others then so called jurus and weapon.

Jurus is a technique of effective physical (body) movement for self-defense or attacking with or without weapon. It's early stage form was very simple. It was an imitation of animal's body movement conformed with human's anatomy. Then it was developed continuously, coinciding with the development of men's culture. The used weapon was also developed in the same way.

The Malay ethnic people are agrarian society and their social relationship is accomplished through paguyuban (Gemeinschaft) system. The social characteristics and social relationship of such a system have shaped the wisdom and way of life which hold the religious values and principles and the people's morality in high esteem.

In accordance with the social system mentioned above, jurus should be used in a responsible way. It can be accomplished if the performer practices self control. Jurus can only be used for self-defense. Man also invented means (techniques) and equipment in different kinds to fulfill his prosperity (welfare), among others by developing jurus into artistic and sports forms which can supply physical and mental welfare.

Through their social and cultural development, the Malay ethnic people have absorbed foreign influences into their life, which are in harmony with the religious and moral values and principles they hold in high esteem. Related with that development, the Hindu philosophy has been absorbed and applied to put the wisdom and the way of life of Malay ethnic in order.

Then this philosophy is applied in relation with the control of using jurus. Since this applied philosophy focuses its attention on the budi pekerti luhur or noble mind and character, or sublime ethic, so it is called the philosophy of sublime ethic. The control of self defensive, artistic and sports jurus with its philosophy based on the high esteemed religious and moral values and principles by the Malay ethics as a unity and oneness, is called Pencak Silat.

Thus, the identity of Pencak Silat is determined by 3 principal things, that is :

1. The culture of the Malay ethnic people as its source and pattern.

2. The philosophy of the sublime ethic as the spirit and motivation of its usage.

3. The substance of Pencak Silat itself which has mental spiritual (self control), self defensive, artistic and sports aspects as a unity.

Pencak Silat with such identity came into existence around the 4th century, when there were kingdoms which became the cultural development centers in the living regions of the Malay ethnic people. At the time of these kingdoms, firstly Hindu, secondly Buddhist and lastly Islam, Pencak Silat was developed and spreading widely.

When the living regions of the Malay ethnic people were under the authority of foreign colonial powers from West Europe, the education of Pencak Silat which was regarded as a means to grow nationalistic spirit, was restricted and the prohibited. But the educational activities of Pencak Silat went on secretly.

During the Japanese occupation, the colonial government allowed the people to develop their culture freely in order to get their support for the Japanese warfare against the Allied Powers. At that time the education of Pencak Silat was conducted again as it was in the beginning and was spreading widely.

After the living regions of the Malay ethnic people had been freed from the foreign authorities and then independent countries emerged such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, the growth and dissemination of Pencak Silat became faster, particularly after the founding of national organizations of Pencak Silat in those countries, namely Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (IPSI) or The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association, Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia (PESAKA) or The Malaysian National Silat Federation, Persekutuan Silat Singapore (PERSISI) or The Singaporean Silat Federation and Persekutuan Silat Brunei Darussalam (PERSIB) or The Brunei Darussalam Silat Federation.

Pencak Silat has also developed and spread outside its original countries, particularly after the founding of Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antara Bangsa (PERSILAT) or The International Pencak Silat Federation.


The Philosophy of Pencak Silat is called the philosophy of budi pekerti luhur (noble mind and character), because it focuses its interest on the sublime ethic. According to this philosophy a peaceful, secure, orderly and prosperous society can be created maximally if all of its members keep the code of sublime ethic. Therefore, the way of life which should be made their principle is the one that forms noble mind and character in themselves. Budi is a dynamic psychological aspect of human being which possesses the elements of cipta, rasa and karsa. The three of them are the dynamic forms of akal (reason), rasa (sensibility) and kehendak (volition). Budi (mind) can be seen in the form of pekerti (character). All of them must be luhur (noble/sublime/ideal). What should be achieved in shaping this sublime ethic is the ability of self control, especially in using the technique of effective physical movement for self defending or attacking which is called jurus. Jurus should be used only for keeping up truth (righteousness), honesty and justice in relation with the exaltation of the religious principles and people's morality as well as for creating masyarakat tata-tentrem karta-raharja (a peaceful, secure, orderly and prosperous society). In other words, the exalted ethical philosophy can also be said as the self controlled philosophy.

With his noble moral (ethic) and highly self controlled ability, human being will be able to fulfill his exalted moral obligation as God's creature, individual creature, social creature and universal creature, that is to devote himself to God, to raise his personal quality, to put the people's interest above self interest and to love his living environment. A man who is able to fulfill his noble moral obligation is a man of high dignity.


Based on the aspects inherent in its substance, Pencak Silat can be categorized into four kinds. The performance of each kind of those Pencak Silat has its own purpose and based on that purpose the performance will emphasize a certain aspect but without ignoring the other aspects.

The four kinds of Pencak Silat are :

1. Mental-spiritual Pencak Silat or self-controlled Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to strengthen the ability of self control and therefor emphasizesmental-spiritual aspect more strongly.

2. Self defensive Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to defend oneself effectively and therefore it emphasizes self defensive aspect more strongly

3. Artistic Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to show the beauty of movement and therefore it emphasizes artistic aspect more strongly

4. Sports Pencak Silat, whose performance has the purpose to gain physical fitness and sports achievement, therefore it emphasizes sports aspect more strongly

The other aspects which do not become the focuses still can be seen in different degrees of proportion, some of them are obvious and the others are disguised. Therefore, all kinds of Pencak Silat always have four aspects as a unity and oneness.

The performance of jurus Pencak Silat of any kind, is practiced in various styles. A unique style with its outstanding characteristics and easily distinguished from other style. Whatever unique the performance of a style is, the values of the four aspects of Pencak Silat, that is, ethics, techniques, esthetic and sports as a unity, must exist and can be seen. If not, it has no values as a style of Pencak Silat.

It is not easy to distinguish the styles of Pencak Silat and only those who are experts and who understand various jurus Pencak Silat thoroughly, can do so. The difference of the styles is only concerning the physical practice aspect and it is not concerning the mental-spiritual and philosophical aspects. Therefore, the styles is not the system or sect. No matter whatever kind or style of Pencak Silat, it is always inspired by (based on) the sublime ethic philosophy and has mental spiritual aspect as its self-controlled aspect.

In self-defensive Pencak Silat, there is a style which uses paranormal or a kind of supernatural powers in performing its jurus. Paranormal which is called tenaga dalam (inner power), debus or ngelmu kanuragan is a kind of strengthening jurus or physical invulnerability. Not long time ago there was a theoretical explanation about the paranormal and the practices of how to achieve the skill, but the explanation and its proof were not based on the result of intensive scientific research. The existence of the style used paranormal has enriched Pencak Silat.

The meaning of Pencak Silat school is often confused with Pencak Silat style. Pencak Silat school is an education institution where one can berguru or be a student of Pencak Silat.

Berguru or to be a student has a connotative meaning of studying (learning) intensively and the process of which is observed, guided and supervised directly and completely by a teacher, so that the progress of the ability and morality of the student can be known clearly. The teacher will not educate and upgrade anyone nor extend his education to anyone whose mentality is regarded unworthy. For that reason, it was not easy for a person to be a student or member of Pencak Silat school in the old time. One should take hard or difficult tests concerning mental attitude and pass them before he was accepted as a student.

In view of the kinds of taught Pencak Silat, there are four categories of Pencak Silat school, that is :

1. Mental-spiritual Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education intensively on the mental-spiritual aspect of Pencak Silat with the purpose of building a high ability of its students or member.

2. Self-defensive Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education on the self defensive aspect of Pencak Silat for its students, with the purpose of building high technical skill of self defense by or without using various weapons.

3. Artistic Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education on the artistic aspect of Pencak Silat with the purpose of building the skill in performing the beauty of Pencak Silat movement of its students or its members, with or without traditional music accompaniment and by or without using weapons, in accordance with the rules of wiraga (basic bodily movement technique), wirasa (creativity and improvisation which make the bodily movement more beautiful) and wirama (harmony and conformity of movement with the music rhythm accompanying it).

4. Sports Pencak Silat school, which emphasizes its education on the sports aspect of Pencak Silat with the purpose of building the ability of practicing Pencak Silat techniques which have sports values for the sake of keeping physical fitness or competition. For the sake of competition, the education is conformed with the valid rules of contest.

The self defensive Pencak Silat school are the most popular of all, some of which teach paranormal or physical endurance and skill which can be seen like paranormal. Since 1970's, there have been many self defensive Pencak Silat school which teach sports Pencak Silat on behalf of competition with the purpose of making their students or members be permitted to participate in the Sports Pencak Silat championship, because only this kind of Pencak Silat is competed. But since 1990 there is another kind of Pencak Silat can be competed, that is Artistic Pencak Silat. Self defensive Pencak Silat and mental-spiritual Pencak Silat are not competed, but matched in the forms of show and performance.

In view of demand of the modern era development, Pencak Silat schools can be categorized into 3 groups, that is :

1. Traditional Pencak Silat school, and its outstanding characteristics are among others :

a. the top leadership of the school is hereditary

b. The acceptance of its students is through selective test and strict probation period

c. The education method is monological

d. The violation of the school disciplines is punished with the dismissal as a member

e. It has no attributes or written forms regarding the school and its education

f. If does not collect school fee or contribution from its members

g. The activity cost of the school is paid by the leader (owner)

2. The modern Pencak Silat school, and its principal characteristic are among others :

a. The leader and the officials of the school are elected from its cadres who are regarded as reliable candidates

b. It is open and free for anybody in accepting students

c. It does not arrange probation period, but it applies educational period as the primary level

d. The school disciplines are enforced through guidance speech

e. It has attributes and written forms concerning its school and education in limited number

f. It does not collect school fee but it does not refuse contribution from its members

g. The activity cost is paid by the leader and contribution

The implanting of philosophical values and moral-spiritual education an all Pencak Silat schools is not carried out specifically but is inculcated while training is held in the forms of brief instructions, taking the oath of allegiance or loyalty to the school.

In conformity with the demand of social development which becomes more rational, all the traditional and transitional Pencak Silat schools will develop and change into modern ones with professional characteristics of management and education.

In general, the qualification of the leaders of Pencak Silat schools is pendekar which is the highest status related with the grade of skill in performing Pencak Silat according to its rules (principles) or the facts of applying the philosophical doctrine of Pencak Silat consistently and consequently which is worth following as example.

In modern school society, the term pendekar is used as a title of a grade of a grade of skilled ability of Pencak Silat, and there is also such a title which is graded into ranks. The usage of pendekar seems to follow the Japanese model of self defensive school which gives the graded title of Dan to its member who has mastered a high skill of self-defense. The title of pendekar or Dan is translated into English as grand master or principal master.


The scientific research or writing on Pencak Silat has not been done a lot until nowadays. In general, the research and writing which had ever been done, were focused on the technical aspect of Pencak Silat. They lacked of or had no interest on non-technical aspect, whereas both aspects formed a unity.

The books on Pencak Silat which have circulated widely were the works of Amy Shapiro entitled Martial Arts Language and Don F Draeger entitled Weapons and Fighting Arts of the Indonesian Archipelago.

In the book written by Amy Shapiro, the writer distinguishes Pencak from Silat in their meanings. According to the writer, literally Pencak means skilled and specialized body movements and Silat means to fight using Pencak. Don F Draeger also distinguishes Pencak from Silat, in his book, but both of them can not be separated. According to him, based on the concept of Minangkabau people, Pencak is a skillful body movement in variation for self-defense and Silat is the fighting application of Pencak ; Pencak without Silat is purposeless.

In accordance with the explanation described in the Preface, the words Pencak Silat are derived from the language of Malay ethnic people and both have the same meanings. This is in conform with the explanation about Silat in the dictionary compiled by WJS Purwodarminto.

According to Hisbullah Rahman in his book entitled Sejarah Perkembangan Pencak Silat di Indonesia or the History of the Development of Pencak Silat in Indonesia, in the glorious age of Sriwijaya Kingdom, the University of Nalanda in that country had become the developing center of Buddhist religion and the spreading center of Pencak Silat as well. Many Chinese people came there to learn Pencak Silat and then spread it in their country later.

The books on Pencak Silat in Indonesian language which are circulating widely in Indonesia, were written by Mariyun Sudirohadiprodjo, Mohamad Djumali and Januarno. All the three books are about technical guidance of learning or training of sports Pencak Silat.

Malayan language magazine Pendekar published in Malaysia, gives special attention on information about Pencak Silat. Pencak Silat magazine published by PB (Pengurus Besar) IPSI or Central Board of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association, whose first publication was published in May 1990, also gives special attention on the same things. Information about Pencak Silat techniques is given a lot in some magazine published in different countries.

Source : An Introduction to Pencak Silat
by Central Board of The Indonesian Pencak Silat Association



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