Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Go Look, It's a Golok ...

A golok (pronounced "go-lock,") is an Indonesian blade, mostly used for chopping. They vary in size and shape -- some are blunt-tipped, some have a point, and they can be as short as a long knife or equal to a short sword. They don't have a guard. Like cane knives or machetes, they are primarily tools. Since, in rural areas, they are apt to be handy, they are useful as weapons, should the need arise. If you can lop off the end of a coconut with one, you can lop off other things.

(An aside: Once, on a visit to Hana, on Maui, Hawaii, I went to a little general store. Hasegawa's, I believe. On the wall behind the counter were dozens of cane knives of different sizes and shapes, for cutting, trimming, hollowing-out, way more than I'd ever seen before. Goloks are like that. There is a kind of general look, but many versions.)

Lately in our silat class, we have been working on attacks and defenses with the golok-style blade. We are still at the most basic level, waving our sticks at each other while standing still, learning how shift our weight. Just getting to the point of adding in footwork. For this, we use ersatz goloks, and think of them as blades and not as sticks, so we have to be mindful of our edges. (There are arts, mostly FMA, that use a stick or sticks as weapons, and speak to them as such, but a stick is not a blade.) Thanks to Edwin, several of us got heavy black plastic practice bokkens from Cold Steel and shortened them; since they have a blade-shape, these work well, and have stood up to some pretty good drills banging them against each other.

Until I got into silat, I had no love for short blades. When I reached for a non-projectile weapon to play, I favored the staff, or a Japanese katana. My only real experience with swords came from a form in Okinawa-te, and then from kendo. I spent most of a year in a kendo class, getting whacked on the head and shoulders and ribs through bogu, practice armor by a bamboo sword, a shinai. These are a bit longer even than a katana, and in bladework, length matters.

I also developed some really thick callus on the balls of both feet, since we scooted back and forth on a wood floor shoeless and the basic kendo move is less a step than a slide.

Silat Sera Plinck is a system, and it all hangs together. The principles are a through-line. The moves have to be modified somewhat, because the assumption is always that you'll be facing somebody who knows as much as you do and is as well, if not better, -armed, so you have to allow for a different distance. An attacker who is two feet short of hitting you with a punch can shave your ears off with a golok, and it behooves you to know that, and how to deal with it ...

Fascinating stuff, this close-combat business. Always something new to learn ...

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