Wednesday, September 09, 2009


In our martial art, the basic short forms are djurus -- upper body -- and langkas -- footwork. We practice on various geometric platforms -- straight line (lurus), triangle (tiga), square (sliwa) , cross (sekurum), and a combination of these, pantjar. Though they are two different things, what we usually mean when we say "djuru," are both hand- and footwork, done in concert. Technically, you can do most of our djurus sitting down, and the footwork without any hand stuff at all.

We have eighteen of these basic forms, and while they vary somewhat from teacher to teacher, it is interesting to see, if one knows them, the similarity of the motions from place to place.

And from time to time ...

I recently had a chance to compare a couple of videos of students doing the djurus from Pendekar Paul de Thouars silat lineage. The first video, shot on 8mm film in what looks like the early 1970's, to judge from the disco-style hair and clothes -- mullets and shags and bell-bottoms, oh, my! -- had in it a couple of young men doing the forms. First student did sixteen of them, skipped seventeen, then did the last one. The second would stop now and then, and ask, "How's this one go?" but he did all eighteen.

In the old days, the djurus were taught fairly quickly and then the applications addressed. In our version today, you learn a djuru, work on the applications for it, then move on. Same difference in the long run, perhaps, but different teaching philosophies.

Back then, you might learn all eighteen in a year or two; now, we learn one or two a year, and sometimes not even that many. Slower -- but you don't need a memory trick to keep track of them. And you get most of what you'll likely need in the first two anyhow, so there's no hurry to learn them all.

Contrasted with that thirty-five or so years ago take was one shot last year, wherein one of Stevan Plinck's senior students did all eighteen of the forms.

To my mind, the earlier versions were too fast and sloppy. Now, the upper body moves have gotten smoother and crisper, and the langkas are definitely better. (If you come up onto your toes when you do a sweep --sapu --- you won't have the balance that you do if you stay low -- a straight knee isn't as good as one that is partially bent.

Thirty-five years ago, the two players rose like ballet dancers en pointe when they did their sweeps; last year, the player doing the demo swept low and stayed low every time. In martial arts in general, a lower center of gravity is usually a good thing. Not that the former won't work; only that the latter works better.)

Too, the more modern version uses the body, the hips and shoulders and torso drive the motions, and there seems to be a focused intent; whereas the disco-era version seems to be all tool, and a race to see how fast they can get them done ...

Supposedly in the old country, teachers believed they could tell who the victor in a fight would be by watching a pair of students do their djurus. If you know what to look for, you can see centered and balanced motion.

If you can stay centered and balanced, you are better off than somebody who cannot.


Anonymous said...

I think back in the day most people learning martial arts over here had a fairly one-dimensional view of combat for a while - develop alot of muscle and power, and if your faster you automatically win.

All along it was body positioning and timing that really mattered.

With the evolution of different forms of combat, and the spread of MMA gyms across the country, people are beginning to have their awareness of what's really effective in martial art greatly expanded.
Though in my opinion, apart from the lack of "stickiness" in MMA, they do have yet to actually utilize completely practical techniques in combat.

Sorry. I wish I could have given a better comment than this but I just got him from work and am very tired.
Great post though.

Internet's being wonky today so I can't sign in, but this is TracelessTiger, for the record.

Stan said...

"If you can stay centered and balanced, you are better off than somebody who cannot."

Sounds as much like a "Life Lesson" as a martial arts critique!

Thank you, Sir