Friday, August 01, 2008

Brooms and Sickles

Somebody asked a silat question, and rather than answer it in the comment thread, I thought I'd address it here. Take it with a grain of salt, I am but an egg. (An old egg, but still, you get the idea. And you non-violent folks can skip this one.)

A bumper sticker I once had read:

Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera —

(If you have to ask, you don’t need to know ...)

But I'm mellower these days .

There was a reference to a kuntao-silat video, here. What we do is somewhat similar to what Gartin does in the vide, at least superficially. (People who don't know the stuff would probably think it looks the same, but there are some differences.)

I have to say, if you watch the vid, the male peacock in full mating array is somehow most appropriate to a silat vid, as is the flying saucer at the end ...

Sapu -- means "broom," or "sweep," is moving the foot toward your center; biset, is away from your center. Again, biset kinda looks like a reap, but the mechanics are different. In our biset, the foot doesn't leave the ground; it usually does in a reap. Nothing wrong with a reap, it's a fine technique, it just isn't the same move. Once we get into grappling range, we like to keep both feet on the ground as much as possible, though there is always a kick or knee if the opening presents itself. If the attacker his holding his bloody nose or falling over, and you have his center, then some leeway is allowed.

Because we are big on position, we tend to keep our hips square with our shoulders when we do the sweeps (sapu) or foot drags (biset). We call it corking, as in "turn your hips like seating a cork in a bottle." We believe this is a much stronger position, and it's easy to test: try a sweep with your hips open, i.e., shoulders and hips not parallel, then try it with them closed, or corked. You won't have the same reach, but it takes a lot less muscle the latter way, and it is more stable. Tearing your own groin muscle taking somebody down is not the way to go.

If your leading shoulder is pointing at the attacker's sternum, you are probably in a pretty good tiga position

When we do sapu we also keep the heel down and toes up. Gartin is doing it heel-up and toes-down, and while that'll work okay, we like to have the heel hit the ground to break the attacker's traction -- and to be able to hook the foot behind his ankle or leg when he tries to step out.

He also uses the front stance, as in Bukti Negara, where most of his weight shifts onto the forward leg as he steps. We tend to wait until we plant before we shift (and for those of you not martially inclined, you can't sweep with your rear leg if there is any weight on it, so you have to, well, un-weight it. Doesn't matter if you do it while stepping or after landing, but we prefer the latter because we believe it gives us a better base. Different strokes.)

Sweeps and drags depend on distance, and this primer is for the ankle-to-ankle or shin-to-shin spacing. Farther out than that, you can't easily get the stand-up sweep, Going to the ground will give you more reach, albeit will be much slower, in what is essentially a whole-body biset.

Closer than this distance, contact could be with a thigh or hip, and the foot doesn't matter as much; still, might as well practice it that way all the time, in case somebody gives you the classical look-at-me-ma! poser set-up. It could happen.

We assume an attacker is going to be good enough to step out of a sweep, and if you have good contact with your instep, you can control this reflexive step better. Best if you also give him something else about which to worry, e.g. hit him somewhere hard, so he's not concentrating on your finishing take-down.

In biset, (which isn't always done with the heel, sometimes we use an inside biset with the side of the foot,) the foot is kept flat, to keep a good base, or with the toes up, to get the hook in play.

In classical tiga training as we do it, you do aim for the points for sweeps and drags and steps. Pivoting is okay, though we like to move one foot slightly faster than the other, and keep them low.

We avoid what we call moving two bases at once, that is, two planes -- we don't step and turn at the same instant, one leads the other -- doesn't matter which, but twisting and moving in a line at the same time is, we believe, not as strong and solid.

If you look at Guru Plinck's Sera vids, you can see how we do it. The goal is to keep it low, slow, and relaxed.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent response.

I tend to see beset in the context of osoto-gari, and as specific techniques, rather than as a module to be applied in certain more generic situations, and I'm trying to gain a more general understanding of it based on triangle throwing (vertical triangles and ground triangles).

Can you explain a little more about executing sweeps from a "corked" or shoulders-and-hips-parallel position? I know about "reaching" for the reap, which can incidentally end up as a very nasty throw or you can find yourself without the leverage to do much of anything. Maybe that's close to what you're getting at here.

Steve Perry said...

The sapu -- or the biset -- is about angles. There are several platforms -- straight-line, (lurus) triangle (tiga), square (sliwa), cross (sekurum) and combinations of them. In classical Sera, the big platform embracing them all is pantjar.

To move on them in balance, you need a good base. The corked-hips position does this.

It is counter-intuitive, but once you start to understand it -- I'm just getting there -- you can really feel the difference if you don't use it. It is instrinsically stronger and more stable.

In tiga:

Stand facing somebody with your feet angled at forty-five degrees and your shoulders squared with your hips. If they step in, you have a sweep with your rear foot/leg. Doesn't matter which foot they put first.

If you turn your upper body to face them but leave your feet angled -- think of a horse-stance at 45 degrees -- you will probably have to sweep past your own center-line to take their balance. And insstead of using abs and psoas and thigh to do the move, you will have to use your groin muscles -- sartoris, adductor, gracilus, none of which are particulary strong. So even if you keep your balance, you risk straining these muscles.

Naturally, in a real-world application, footwork is going to be looser and adjusted to fit as needed, but the tools are all in there.

Langkah and djuru are usually done together, but are separate bases, so you can practice one without the other.

In a classic sapu, if my left foot is leading and on the base point of an equilateral triangle, and my right foot is on the other point of the baseline, then the sweep is to the third point, and it doesn't matter where it impacts with the attacker's leg -- ankle, shin, knee, thigh, hip, the motion is the same. Closer your are, the higher the point of contact.

Part of what we do is try to protect our centerline, and this can be with hands or feet or whatever. If you properly cover centerline with a move, it catches anything coming in. So you don't target a punch or a kick, you cover the line and your hit or sweep will intersect and intercept the incoming attack.

I'll post a picture showing the differences if I can.

Anonymous said...

Any amount that you felt like expounding on the footwork patterns would be good by me. I've tried hard over the years to develop an understanding of this but there's very little material out there that actually explains it.

On the other hand, if you sit and really think about it, you can figure a lot of things out yourself, at least with the sweeps and triangle throwing.