Mar­tial arts plan stride into global spotlight

Af­ter se­cur­ing Asian Games place, govern­ment is hop­ing ‘pen­cak silat’ will gain Olympic glory

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Jakarta

Some fight with me­ter-long ma­chetes, oth­ers are armed with dag­gers curved like the claws of big cats, while other com­bat­ants rely on only their minds.

This is the world of “pen­cak silat”, or In­done­sia’s mar­tial arts, which are now bat­tling for greater global recog­ni­tion. Hav­ing se­cured a place in theAsian Games, the govern­ment is now hop­ing for Olympic glory.

They are held dear by many In­done­sians be­cause of his­tor­i­cal links with the coun­try’s strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence when anti-colo­nial groups used the­mar­tial arts to take on the ar­chi­pel­ago’s then Dutch rulers in the 20th cen­tury.

But de­spite be­ing prac­ticed for cen­turies across South­east Asia, pen­cak silat has strug­gled to re­ceive the same in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion as other Asian mar­tial arts, such as karate and taek­wondo.

The In­done­sian gov­ern­men­tis seek­ing to change that.

Pen­cak silat will fea­ture for the first time in the Asian Games when they come to In­done­sia in 2018. Of­fi­cials then want to take it to the Olympics.

“Pen­cak silat has it all — the sport, the art, the spir­i­tual side,” said Eriza­lCha­ni­ago, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the In­done­sian Pen­cak Silat Association.

“That is what makes it unique and spe­cial when com­pared to mar­tial arts from other coun­tries.”

Pen­cak silat is an um­brella term for a fam­ily of about 800 re­lated In­done­sian mar­tial art forms. They are linked by their em­pha­sis on de­fense rather than at­tack, and are char­ac­ter­ized by fluid, dance-like move­ments.

Some styles use full-body com­bat in­volv­ing strikes and grap­pling, oth­ers fo­cus on weapons, while some in­volve per­form­ing moves as a kind of dance show with no con­tact.

One of the best known is the “tiger-claw” style prac­ticed on west­ernSu­ma­trais­land, where prac­ti­tion­ers stay crouched down­lowto the­groundas they take on their op­po­nents.

Java is­land’s “Ka­nura­gan” is linked to lo­cal mystic be­liefs, and sup­pos­edly gives its prac­ti­tion­ers su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers, in­clud­ing pro­tec­tion from at­tacks by weapons.

Some “Ka­nura­gan” ex­perts are said to have proven their mas­teryof the style­bystab­bing and cut­ting them­selves with­out sus­tain­ing any in­juries.

Re­cently at a gymin the cap­i­tal Jakarta, a 12-year-old boy stood still as a coach smashed bricks over his head and stom­ach dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion in a form of the mar­tial art called “Pen­cak Silat Ba­sic En­ergy”.

The style mixes tra­di­tional moves with spe­cial­ized breath­ing tech­niques and is meant to help the body with­stand strong blows.

“It makes me con­fi­dent enough to do any­thing,” said par­tic­i­pant In­dra Surya Pringga, 28, adding that the mar­tial art had helped him re­gain strength and re­cu­per­ate af­ter a se­ri­ous lung in­fec­tion.

The ver­sion that will fea­ture in the Asian Games is likely to be one of the tra­di­tional fight­ing styles.

But of­fi­cials con­cede get­ting pen­cak silat into the Olympics will be tough. To be­come an event, a sport must first be rec­og­nized by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee and then a long cam­paign is nec­es­sary be­fore a fi­nal de­ci­sion is taken.

Still, pro­po­nents are up­beat and want pen­cak silat to be cen­tral to a drive to pro­mote In­done­sia glob­ally.

“It is just like when South Korea was try­ing to pro­mote K-pop,” said sports min­istry spokesman Ga­tot Dewa Broto. “We should make pen­cak silat part of cul­tural diplo­macy.”

GOH CHAI HIN / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A teenage stu­dent is hit in the stom­ach with a brick dur­ing a demon­stra­tion of his mar­tial arts skills in Jakarta.

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