Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not Pretty, But

Twelve or thirteen years ago, my silat teacher Guru Stevan Plinck, did a video for Paladin Press: Pukulan Pentjak Silat: The Devastating Fighting Art of Bukti Negara-Serak.

The shoot would have been about the time I started training with Guru Plinck, and I heard about it, but had no part in it.

Paladin eventually put it out. It sold moderately well, and was an introduction to Silat Sera's daughter art, Bukti Negara. This was an abbreviated system developed and used as a way to offer entry-level material to Americans, since the senior teacher in the U.S. had a closed-door system for Sera(k). Bukti was designed for old people, cripples, and Americans, so the saying went ...

You can still get the vid on Amazon.com, here.

In those days, if you weren't Indonesian or Dutch-Indo and male, you couldn't study Sera(k) under my teacher's teacher, Pendekar Paul de Thouars. Still can't, if you are a woman.

Bukti was a stripped-down, stand-up, fairly-stiff version of the more complex mother art, had fewer parts, didn't get into weapons, and was, when I began studying it, considered a screening system. This is to say that, if you completed the curriculum, and demonstrated proper respect and attitude along the way, you might be allowed to get past the American handicap and allowed to study the parent art of Sera(k).

That "k," at the end is pretty much silent, and the source of all manner of debate. I don't use it any more when I talk about what we do in our branch.

Um. Anyway, the video was a basic primer, pretty cut-and-dried and by-the-numbers stuff. Bukti teachers eventually added more material, the style evolved, and moved on, and while not yet Sera(k), doesn't seem to be what it once was.

My teacher, who was instrumental in developing this stuff, also moved on, and no longer teaches Bukti, only Sera.

The attached video is the opening few seconds of the Bukti vid, which, as you can see, isn't something that would translate very well to the silver screen for an action movie fight scene. Not pretty, doesn't look like he's really doing very much. It looks fake.

Guru said, I'll walk down the alley, you four come at me as you will, let's see what happens, okay?

Nobody was moving at full speed and power and he knew they were there and going to jump him. It was but a demo; however, it was unrehearsed, it was the first take, and what you see is what happened, save for the kick at the end, which was cut in because Paladin wanted a kick in it.

I have talked to a couple of the guys who were in the demo, and they allowed as how the floor of that alley was not at all soft, and the little namby-pamby throws Guru Plinck was doing felt a lot more effective than they looked ...

Check it out:

video

14 comments:

AF1 said...

Yeah, not something that would galvanize movie theater audiences.

Travis said...

I don't know, around the 20 second mark it looks like he throws the guy by his junk. I'm kind of cringing still.
Of course I watched it like eight times...

Irene said...

Same thing sometimes when he's demonstrating something live: it looks like his dummy is just giving up, faking it for him. But when you're being the dummy, you realize it's just not so...

Steve Perry said...

Martial artists who have spent a lot of time training are more impressed with this demo than people who don't know anything at all. That's because they can see what's really going on.

Real stuff is ugly, and you don't get the neat Bruce Lee bird-kiai pose between attackers.

You can feel that third guy hit the ground in your chair at home watching it on the video ...

It's why I started training in silat -- I knew some stuff, and realized when I saw it that it wasn't nearly as much as I'd thought.

You did notice that the reason the guy hiding behind the dumpster got the first response was because he had a knife in his hand, right?

J.D. Ray said...

In the spectrum of "doesn't know anything" (zero) to "martial arts expert" (ten), I'm hovering somewhere around one, maybe one point five on a good day. Bear that in mind when I comment.

Watching the video, it seemed to me that his main tactic was to disable his opponent's immediate offensive capability (grab the knife, twist the wrist, whichever), then make a compound move to put the guy down while getting behind him (presumably out of reach of further action from punches or kicks, which are hard to deliver aft). Watching the one guy get thrown to the ground by the throat looked particularly uncomfortable.

Steve Perry said...

Yep, multiple opponents require fancy dancing if you stay on the floor. In real life, he'd have just hot-footed it down the alley at the first sign of trouble. But this isn't a how-to-run video, you don't need a martial artist to teach you that.

Nobody was getting smacked, just thrown, and these are usually finishing techniques. They work better if you thump somebody's nose or temple and drop them while they are dealing with that. But with several, you can't take the time to whack each one soundly, you have to avoid getting tackled. Going to the ground has its uses, but not so much if you are one against four.

Stan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan said...

(Hate Typos...had to fix it!)

True, each "battleground" requires an adjustment to your tactics and plan. When you get to four, or more, attackers at once you usually have only a couple of options: be elsewhere (which involves engaging with anyone as little as possible while you imitate "The Flash"); or create such a spectacle with one unfortunate volunteer that the "mob" loses heart and breaks up.

Plan A has a much higher success rate, regardless of where you score on the 0-10 scale! Even knowing that, it is truly amazing how many people (guys, in particular) allow their ego to talk them into writing checks....

Some guy said...

I still kick myself that I didn't follow up on a friend's offer of introduction to the Dethouars - (I live in Colorado) - years ago; I could have actually learned something practical.

Anyway, a friend in Japan (with a severe muscular disability) wants me to send him silat books, but he wants illustration-and-instruction books, rather than just general background, history, and color. I've sent him Draeger's Weapons Art of Indonesia but he wants books with more that he could actually practice. Any suggestions, Steve, or anyone who knows of any such silat books, for that matter? (I know of Pentjak Silat by Draeger et al, but probably can't afford it.)

Thanks in advance for any suggestions...

Steve Perry said...

SG --

There are all kinds of silat books out there, but none from our particular version. I've seen some that break down the motions to step-by-step, but to be honest, I don't think you can learn this stuff out of a book or from a video without some hands-on supplementation. It's not about the tricks, but about the underlying principles, and it's hard enough to get those with a teacher showing it to you.

What it looks like from the outside is not as important as how it feels from the inside, if that makes any sense.

If you have a b.g. in silat, you might could make sense of a book or vid on the subject, but without that, you'll probably learn just enough to get yourself in trouble if you try to use it.

AF1 said...

It's not bukti's fault that what looks good on screen and what is effective out on the street are two totally different things.

Maybe he should have thrown in an X block agaisnt the knife, along with that kick. ;)

taintmonger said...

What an entertaining 10 seconds of video! I neglect your blog for a few days, Steve, and this is what you give us? I should ignore you more often! Ha!

It's amazing how seemingly effortlessly he keeps something between himself and the knife -- sometimes other people, sometimes the wielder himself. He makes the fight a mess, but that's by design to keep from being easily assaulted. Better to be in the eye of the storm, I suppose.

The bump at :21 by the guy in black was pretty nasty -- great audio with it. It definitely wasn't the most controlled fall, as he lands on his side, and doesn't use his hands to help absorb the impact.

Normally, these guys would have pads and gatorbacks on. And their baggy attire would suggest that's just what they did. But if you say that's not the case, I believe you.

I almost wish there were a few more seconds in the clip so I could laugh/rock out to the cheesy music at the end.

Steve Perry said...

JL --

I think the jackets were because it was a chilly day. Shot in, I think Eugene? Maybe Salem? We have winter up here, remember.

I supposed there could have been padding under the coats, but nobody I talked to admitted to it, and they don't look that bulky.

Some guy said...

Thanks. I'll relay that to him. The how-it-feels-from-the-inside being critical, and the visuals being relatively unimportant absolutely does makes sense to me; (I'm often giving a close variation of that answer to people who want to learn tai chi by video or watching a teacher.) It seems unlikely, but maybe he can find a silat teacher in Japan somewhere...