Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Winds Blow ...


Though I don't spend much time there, now and again I get a note from Silat.TV. The latest pointed me to a couple of proclamations by Willem de Thouars, who refers to himself as "Sir Willem de Thouars," and "The Manggoose of Denver." (sic).

In these posts, Willem, the brother of the late Paul de Thouars, goes on at some length about the state of Sera(k). Aside from really needing to get somebody fluent in English to edit his posts, Willem could also do with a memory refresher, since his previous posts about this subject seem to offer more than a couple of contradictions. 

For years, Willem disclaimed any connection with the family art. Not him, he said, he was Kun Tao Silat de Thouars, got his training elsewhere, wanted nothing to do with Sera(k).  Didn't get along with Paul, nor Victor, and leave him alone.

Now, it turns out, he was actually the first de Thouars to learn the eighteen Sera(k) djurus, at the tender age of ten years, from Uncle Ventje.

Wow. Who knew? 

In his latest ramblings, Willem allows that Paul told him in confidence that he wanted the lineage to go to his son, Marcelino, and so Willem has taken it upon himself to show his support for that: "MARCELINO DE THOUARS IS NOW THE HEAD OF MY BROTHERS SYSTEMS."

I knew there would be a scramble coming for those who wanted to step up and claim the lineage, said so here, and allowed as how Maha Guru Plinck wasn't interested in playing that game. 

Willem's also offers his support of his "adopted serak son," Santiago Dobles, to help his nephew Marce further the arts of Sera(k) and Bukti. I have to say, I'd be surprised if Santiago doesn't step away from this in a hurry; given as how he is running Maha Guru's FaceBook page, and Willem is allowing that "Plinck has nothing to offer ..." and "a big ego."

Neither he (Stevan) nor his students are welcome in Willem's home. Don't call, don't drop 'round.

Aw, gee. Really? Breaks my heart. 

This was put forth, along with several other choice tidbits about how little Plinck, his arrogant students, and Paul's other students know, in a post entitled "No More Support of Stevan Plinck, By the magus of Denver" on June 30th, just past.

It would be funny, if it wasn't so sad. 

Well, actually, it is funny and sad ...

UPDATE: So I reached out to Santiago in an email and asked him about this. Went back and forth. He wanted me to call him, but I said, it's a yes-or-no question: Willem said such-and-such about Guru Plinck -- do you agree? 

He wasn't willing to answer in email. 

Make of that what you will.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Steel




Check out the parang Jeff Crowner is building for Guru Plinck ...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Blade Work


We have been working on long and short knives in combination recently. These are relative terms, "long," and "short," of course, but in this case, the short knives bear six-inch blades (15 cm) and the long ones are about 15 inches (38 cm.) Plus or minus a bit.

The longer blades are shorter than a machete, but more than twice the length of the sheath-style knives, and we work them as primary and secondary tools, respectively.

Guru's comments are that these camp-length knives are apt to be more useful in urban situations than machetes or swords. Don't see a lot of folks carrying swords these days ...

Length matters: the ways one uses a sword are different than the ways one uses machetes, camp-knives, belt-knives, or folders. Similar, but timing and distance have to be factored in when the reach changes. 

There are practice blades one can buy that are the right length, but our own Todd Ellner has gotten some of that heavy-duty plastic, and sawed out some practice blades of his own, or other students' designs, one of which he did for me, pictured above. He does them in black or white. I did a little filework and some sanding to finish it, and it is as good as any of the commercial models I have seen. Heavy, thick, and able to withstand a class of banging it against similar instruments, no problem.

Other news:

I would be remiss in not pointing out that Santiago Dobles has put up a blog/web page for Maha Guru Plinck. There is a lot of good information there, and it's worth checking out if you are a Silat Sera Plinck player. History, background, photos, contact information. 

(I would also be remiss if I didn't point out that Santiago and I have had some heated disagreements, and I am not his biggest fan; however, he and Guru have their relationship, and it's not about me, it's about what serves our teacher ...)

Monday, November 11, 2013

The King is Dead ...

Long live the King!

This is the traditional announcement on the death of the king, and refers to two kings–the one who has just passed, and the one who replaces him.

Sometimes the replacement is a tad on the iffy side …

Most of the visitors here are students of Maha Guru Stevan Plinck, and there are a couple of things I think you should know, if you don't already. Some of you have heard this before, but some have not.

When Pendekar Paul passed away, I spoke to it, briefly, knowing there would be a scramble by some of his students to see who became, in effect, the new lineage holder. There is a Board that supposedly shares the duties of continuing the system, and certificates and letters and whatnot have blossomed all over Facebook indicating who they are and how they stand in the pantheon of Bukti and Sera(k), and why they have the right to run the show. I'm not arguing with that.

Silat folks have joined one faction or the other and as these things go, things will eventually sort themselves out and a de facto leader will likely emerge at some point and claim that he is the "real" lineage holder. 

Understand, here, my teacher doesn't want the lineage, and is perfectly happy to go on teaching as he has been doing for decades. However, I want to set some things straight. 

So ...

For those of you who don't know, Bukti Negara was originally created so that Paul could teach westerners, because Sera(k) was a closed system; he said his teacher told him he had to limit it to family, or friends who were dedicated students.

(And if you think this art sprang full-blown into the Pendekar's head complete and all of a piece? You need to rethink that. Paul was aided by his then-senior students in devising the techniques of Bukti. Nobody really talks about that, but it's true.)

When I started training in Bukti eighteen years ago, Maha Guru Stevan Plinck was a senior Sera(k) student/teacher and one of the senior-most Bukti teachers. How it worked was, if a student who was diligent in his practice of Bukti and who learned the abbreviated curriculum entirely wanted to continue on, he (and even she) would be allowed to begin training in the parent art of Sera(k). The Pendekar didn't have any women students in Sera(k), but there were Bukti gurus who were female.

And from here on, I'm dropping the (k) because isn't what we do.

Bukti was then essentially a filter. It was fine in and of itself, but there was another whole system that was richer on the other side of that door and if you stuck with it, you could be invited through that door.

At the time I joined, Guru Plinck had only three or four students who had become Bukti gurus and were beginning to learn Sera, and those did so with Paul's approval. This is what Paul wanted, and this is what Guru Plinck did.

Somewhere along the way, the "Board" decided that Bukti teachers needed to come to SoCal every couple of years to be recertified. Since this involved paying a fee, that added a certain amount of income for those involved. Read: Paul.

Guru Plinck was asked, a couple of years after I started training, to teach a seminar back in the midwest somewhere, I recall it as being in Ohio or Indiana, but I haven't looked at that recently, so I might be off. 

The Bukti Board got wind of this and gave the seminar organizers a call:

We hear that you are having Guru Plinck come out to teach.

Yes, so?

Well, we can't vouch for his abilities because he hasn't come back for recertification in a while.

Oh, really?

So the seminar organizer passed this on to Guru Plinck, who was somewhat disturbed at the notion that he wasn't considered "qualified" to teach an art he had helped create, and that he needed to go test before a group of teachers, some of whom he had taught? 

So he called Paul and asked him, what's the deal here?

And Paul essentially said, Hey, it's the Board, I have nothing to do with it.

And washed his hands of the matter.

Loyalty is a sword that cuts both ways.

Guru Plinck had been a dedicated student, an obedient teacher, who did as Paul told him. He waited until Paul had put out his own Bukti videos before he did one. And for his loyalty, he was rewarded by a shrug. Can't help you, it's the Board. 

Which Board, of course, did exactly what Paul told it to do. And most of the members of it–if not all of them–today aren't the ones who were on it originally.

One thing that happened frequently if you were a de Thouars senior was that you were apt to fall from favor and get booted out or get which was the wind was blowing and leave on your own. Count the numbers of announced lineage holders who held that designation briefly before going away. 

Guru Plinck was more than a little disturbed by Paul's lack of support. At our class the next day, he stood in front of us and told us what had happened, then said, Well, I'm no longer certified to teach Bukti Negara, so I'm just going to teach no-name silat. If that is a problem for anybody … ?

Nope, no, no problem, Guru! I was on Bukti Djuru #6, as I recall, and probably a year away from being a Bukti guru, but that was fine with me, because what I knew of Sera, little as it was, was that it was a much richer art, more flowing and flexible, and where I wanted to go anyhow. From that point on, I stopped doing any of the Bukti forms, never looked back.

Bukti has evolved, so it doesn't look like it did when I was training it; in that day, there were no weapons-work, and the stances in the eight djurus were high and stiff. The joke was, it had been created for cripples, old people, and Americans. 

Over the years since, Guru Plinck has continued to evolve his own training and teaching, has reached back and retro-engineered stances and moves based on the old-style of teachers who pre-dated the current seniors, and while what we do now bears a resemblance to what other branches of Sera(k) do, it's not the same. I call it Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck, and that's how I see it.

Better? Worse? Well, I know what I believe, but I won't make any claims save that I am thrilled to be in the presence of a world-class teacher who cares more about the art than the politics of it, and behaves accordingly. 

If you are a student of Maha Guru Stevan Plinck, you should be thrilled to have that opportunity, too. 





Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pendekar Passes


Paul de Thouars
1930-2013

The Pendekar has died, and I need to speak to it here. He was my teacher's teacher, and though what we learn now isn't quite the same, the genesis of our art came from Paul de Thouars. For that, I am grateful.

I never knew him personally. We talked on the phone a couple of times, back when I started Bukti training and I bought some videos from him. I have trained under one of his most senior students for almost eighteen years.

He was a most knowledgeable martial artist. He was the man who first brought Silat Sera (later Serak, and then Serak™) to the United States. He and his brothers, Willem and Victor, were among the earliest teachers of silat and kun-tao in the U.S., and over the decades, Paul's teachings eventually helped produce some outstanding teachers.

He was, back in the day for our art, the man.

Not that there is agreement on that, but that's what my teacher said, and he would know.

I used to engage frequently in the silat word-wars. I spent way too much energy doing so, and it was, I realized, a waste of time, so mostly I stopped doing it. Now and again, I'd stick my head up and see who was back-biting whom, and the accusations of lying, cheating, stealing, homicide, and my-style-is-better-than-your-style pomp and ceremony were (and still are) always evident.

When Paul passed, it was in full swing, and paused but briefly for condolences:

He is a miserable lying son-of-a-bitch! What? He died? Oh. Well, in that case, he was a swell teacher and a fine human being ...

One isn't supposed to speak ill of the dead, and I won't go very far down that road; then again, I'm not going to gloss over it. I will say what everybody involved with the brothers de Thouars already knows: They were a contentious family, with each other, and with their students. That more than a few of their best students went their own ways, and as often as not, involuntarily so. 

The old joke about Sera players is, you aren't anybody until you've been kicked out of your system at least once, but I was there, I saw how shabbily my teacher was treated by his teacher, and it wasn't funny, it was ugly.

Loyalty is supposed to be a two-way street, but it isn't always. 

Somebody will step up to take Paul's lineage, though who the best-qualified teacher is will be hotly debated as much as anything else. Lineage-holders in our art have been changed more often than a diarrheic baby's diaper. Yesterday's fair-haired boy, who spent a decade or two of close personal study with the head guru and was deemed one of only a couple finished students, will, as often as not, be today's ne'er-do-well ungrateful know-nothing who, when the guru tells it, studied only a couple of weeks, and didn't really learn anything.  

Odd that that happens, but it surely does. Look around.

It won't be Maha Guru Stevan Plinck stepping up to claim Paul's lineage. When I jokingly said maybe we should start calling him "Pendekar," he said, "Please, don't!" Not even as a joke.  

Paul de Thouars has passed on, and it was, for a number of reasons, a sad thing. I mark his passing with mixed emotions. This is not a political post; it's the truth as I see it. 





Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Passage

I just saw this on Facebook:


Well, the news is breaking, so I feel safe to post. It is with great sadness that to say that Pendakar Paul DeThouars of Bukti Negara passed away last night. My condolences to his friends, family and students. In particular, my prayers go out to his brothers, who have always been kind to me. We lost a hugely influential martial arts teacher. Godspeed.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Perils of the Pit




The river that was Guru's yard has been diverted, and it has been dry enough this summer for us to re√ęstablish the sand pit for silat training.

Not so much a pit, actually, as a big pile of sand spread out for a gelanggang–a circular workout area. It tends to creep down the slope toward the chicken yard and needs be shoveled back uphill, but it makes for a nice slow-your-feet-down training surface. 

Churning in ankle-deep sand is not the same as moving on dry ground or a nice concrete garage floor. If you need lightning foot-speed to make a technique work, you need a workaround, 'cause it isn't happening there.

Of course, falling onto sand is somewhat softer than the concrete. Then again, dropping onto a knee repeatedly to practice shoots for single- or double-leg takedowns, and then being tossed by the defender hither and yon for continued groundwork does involve some abrasive action to one's bare skin.

Note to self: Don't wear shorts to class in the sand. Those sand burns take longer to scab over and heal than they used to take ...