Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Upcoming Video

I came across this while I was looking for something else -- it's a short clip from what was a June, 2010, seminar. 

The technique in the teaser is a block and biset (foot-drag) takedown. 

Maha Guru Plinck, to the left in the b.g.,  sports his Yul Brynner look. 

I haven't heard from Guy Bowring, at Resonant Video, when it will be available or what it will cover and cost, but as a heads-up for Sera fans, there's the link. 

Guy doesn't make any real money at this, it's a service for the instructors and students of the art, and there are a couple of vids by Guru Plinck, one on the knife, and another that is a multi-instructor seminar in Las Vegas. If you are lucky enough to train with Guru Plinck, you know how terrific the quality of instruction is; if you can't make it to a seminar, the videos are worth having.


This, from Edwin:

"It is available, to people registered on the Resonant Video website student as Serak students, at least: I've had them for a few weeks now.

The set is four DVDs, one for Friday, two for Saturday, one for Sunday.

• Groundwork and Why to Train It
• Entering - "Meaningful" Training
• Entering - Receiving with Structure
• Entering - Structure vs. Movement
• Entering - Correct Timing & Shoulder Line
• Entering - Second Shoulder Line
• Entering - Coordinating the Hips
• Entering - Receiving with the Lower Art
• Entering - Generating & Receiving
• Entering - Understanding of Sambut 1
• Entering - Q&A (Training Entries)
• Knife - Grip & Range
• Knife - Protecting the "Backup Hand"
• Knife - Timing & Entering
• Knife - Using Sera Basics
• Knife - Q&A (Range)

Saturday (Disc 1)
• Using Partner's Intent to Train Your Timing
• Critique of Attendees' Jurus
• Why Train Jurus this Way
• Structure for Correct Timing & Movement
• Defensive Sambut 1
• Defensive Sambut 2
• Taking Applications from Sambuts 1 & 2
• Defensive Sambut 3
• Defensive Sambut 4
• Defensive Sambut 5
• Defensive Sambut 6
• Defensive Sambut 7
• Defensive Sambut 8
• Defensive Sambut 9
• Defensive Sambut 10
• Defensive Sambut 11
• Defensive Sambut 12
• Defensive Sambut 13
• Defensive Sambut 14
• Defensive Sambut 15
• Defensive Sambut 16

Saturday (Disc 2)
• Guru Bob - Receiving Without Stepping
• Guru Bob - Receiving & Taking a Step
• Guru Bob - Shoulders, Hips & Moving
• Guru Bob - Hip Orientation & Movement
• Guru Bob - Arm Structure
• "Short & Sweet" Combinations
• Sera Punch Strategies
• The Application of Hard/Soft Training
• Attacking Sambut 1
• Attacking Sambut 1 (Using Jurus 2 & 3)
• Attacking Sambut 2
• Attacking Sambut 3
• Guru Plinck's Personal Sambut Variations
• Sambut Summary & Analysis
• Level 1 of Juru Understanding
• Juru 1 with Level 1 Understanding
• Juru 1 with Level 2 Understanding
• Juru 1 with Level 3 Understanding
• Juru 1 with Level 4 Understanding
• Level 5 Understanding
• Q&A - The "Level Down" & Pukulan
• Honesty About Your Training Progression
• Juru 2
• Juru 3
• Juru 4
• Juru 5
• Juru 6
• Q&A - Juru 3, Juru 4, Juru 5

• Introduction & Guru Bob - Juru 5 Applications
• Recognizing Stylization in Sera• Importance of Position as a Defense
• Footwork to Change Structure & Position
• Understanding Upper Art, Lower Art & Distance
• Guru Plinck's Preferred Variations
• Tiga - Applied with Understanding
• Tiga - Transition from Training to Real Timing
• Tiga - Defensive Footwork Using Attacking Sambut
• Tiga - Defensive Sambut 15 Applied with Understanding
• Footwork Changes the Flavor of a Juru
• Adjusting Technique Based Upon Distance
• Footwork is the Key to Timing
• Juru 6 & Weapon Principles
• Knife - Recognizing Disarm Opportunities
• Knife - Disarming with Leverage & Efficiency
• Knife - Cover High/Low & Strive for Position
• Knife - Countering with Empty Hands & Checking
• Knife - Dealing with More Realistic Attacks
• Knife - Intent & Attacking Sambuts
• Knife - Recap & Summary
• Knife - Transfer to Inside Using Upper Base
• Knife - Transfer to Outside Against Upper Feed
• Knife - Distinguishing Sera Knife from Other Styles
• Knife - Importance of Stab with the Transfer
• Knife - Transfers as Counters & Training
• Knife - "Checking" as Transfers to Gain Position
• Knife - Training Transfers
• Knife - Anticipating Opponent's Transfers
• Knife - Transfers - How to Train
• Machete - Basic Movement (Solo & 2-Man Drill)
• Machete - 2-Man Drill - Creating an Opening
• Machete - 2-Man Drill - Stabbing & Wing Block
• Machete - 2-Man Drill - Counter Low Attack
• Machete - Q&A - Footwork
• Q&A - Sliwa Demonstration
• Q&A - Turnaround & Variations
• Q&A - Training Drills & Footwork"

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sera Class With Obstacles

Kind of dark, but you can see we're also doing a bit of dog-fu here ...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I liken my martial arts training (and most everything else I'm learning) to a spiral, a shifting helix, like a stretched-out coil spring that ascends around a core. Each time it cycles, it is at a slightly different angle to the subject. Sometimes almost at the same level, sometimes maybe a bit below; what I hope for is that it is slightly higher than when I passed the same spot before.

Still looking at the same vista, but from a little different viewpoint, you can see things that maybe you didn't see last time. And if you are paying attention, you can add to your knowledge.

So after a long time playing with knives, we are back to basics again -- doing combinations, which everybody knows don't work in the real world, but which we do to learn the ways in and out of them. You may never get to throw that killer nine-strike combo, but you might find yourself in a position wherein one piece or another would be perfect, and you might have it -- if you've played with it a time or twelve.

It's not about going through the whole sequence, as it is figuring out once you do this or that, then what can reasonably happen from there? What if he blocks the first shot? Or the second?

Every attack has a counter, as does every defense. You won't have time to dick around with too many of these, but you might really need more than one.

Where are your balance and focus? How can you get offline, past his attack, to his side, or behind him? (We spend a lot time doing that in platform-based training. You can meet the attack head-on, you can retreat; you can slip the attack by moving offline, and change the relative positions. You can alter the timing -- meet, advance it, retard it.

How you do these requires practice. What tool you use requires experience using it.

Djuru Eleven works if you are behind the attacker; that level change won't do if he's right in front of you. How you get there from here is good to know.

You learn things of limited use for that one time when it comes up. Traps and locks against a full-power attack are iffy for anybody less than really expert -- like those accupressure spots that knock somebody cold with just a touch. Hit it dead on, you are golden, but in the heat of fury, pinpoint accuracy, or reaching for a figure-four lock is apt to get you smacked real good.

If you soften somebody up, rack 'em in the nose with a good shot, then maybe that suddenly-floppy arm or acupressure point will open wide, so it's good to have the tool. Just maybe not so smart trying to use a tack hammer when what you need is a nine-pound sledge.

Um. Anyway, we have some newbies and relative newbies, plus us old guys could use another pass around the core, so we have been mining the first and second djurus again, and there are some real diamonds to be found. Fascinating how I come across the odd epiphany now and then, one of those head-smackers where you go, "Oh! Yeah! That's what that means!"

I confess that doesn't happen as often as it used to happen. At this level, it's getting to be about precision and, I hope, instinctive mastery of this or that. I feel that I have plenty to use if I need it.

Point is, it never hurts to go over the basics. Chances are, if you ever have to use your training, it's the basics that will save your ass. That's why you learn them first ...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Basic Knife Notions

Maha Guru Plinck taught a knife seminar a while back in Colorado, and Resonant Video was onhand, and put together a short vid.

Just under half an hour, it touches on subjects that students of the blade might find interesting.


• Introduction
• Gripping the Knife
• 4 Quadrants of Attack
• Reverse Grip Defense vs Common Grip
• Check, don't Block a Knife
• Positioning your Feet for Knife Fighting
• Reverse Grip Defense vs Common Grip #2
• How to use Checking in Knife Training
• "Give and Take" Drill
• Ending the "Give and Take" Drill with Takedown
• Countering within the "Give and Take" Drill
• Drill Progression: "I Win, You Win"
• Options for Interrupting the Drill
• Hand Transfers Within the Drill
• Reverse Grip Structure
• Flowing with "Give and Take" Drill
• Options for Closing the Gap with Knives
• Knife Elements & Ranges

Running Time: 29 mins

Now, this isn't going to turn you into a knifefighter. And it is really basic material; however, if you are curious about Sera, this offers an introduction to some of the building blocks.

You can get it here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


One size doesn't fit all when it comes to martial arts techniques. What you hope to learn is enough so you have options when the need arises, and that your practice allows you to choose the right tool in the moment without having to stop and ponder on it.

A system that offers responses for most of what you are apt to run into isn't perfect, because you might run into something for which you have little or no practice; still, it's a numbers game, and you are trying to shade the odds in your favor. There are no guarantees.

We believe that the laws and principles we learn offer a certain consistency of motion; that the general is as important as the specific. The first time I realized this was inherent in the art was when my teacher invited a punch to demonstrate a technique. "Which hand, left or right?" I asked.

"Doesn't matter," he said.

This was contrary to every other martial art I had studied before, and that alone was enough to sell me had I been skeptical that I was dealing with something different.

One of the things we spend a lot of time learning is how to close and move in on an attacker. Having had little in-fighting or grappling before, I found this a lack in my skills, and something I wanted to learn. This smother-the-attack-and-close attitude permeates what we do. We aren't real big on backing up, though we can for pure evasion. And we can also jink to the side or aslant to avoid collisions when need be, it'll depend on the situation and the opponent.

We have spent most of the last sixteen months in our class working primarily on the knife. Since this is a blade-based art, this maybe isn't a surprise, but much of that has been baby steps -- going from static drills against single attacks, dealing with more involved multiple attacks and uncommitted feints and such while moving. Learning how to read an attack and respond effectively is the core of what we have been trying to achieve.

Biggest thing we learned was, of course, if somebody pulls a knife, run away real fast. Failing the ability to not be there, or to leave in a hurry, the what-then? stuff kicks in.

All along, I have been fighting the tendency to smother the attack and move in. We weren't going there because we hadn't learned the safest -- a relative term -- way to do so. But I've always known that was coming, especially with the reverse (icepick) grip against the saber grip. Knives being equal length and combatants near the same size, the saber (common) grip gives you more reach. In a knife fight, generally speaking, longer is better and for obvious reasons: If I can reach you with my blade and you can't reach me with yours? My advantage, other things being equal.

The consistency thing here is, if you what you train for most of the time won't work if you suddenly go from bare to blade or vice-versa, then you need to reëxamine your art. And what we have gotten to is that going in, while scary against a blade, can be the safest place for you to be -- if you do it right.

That's the trick, of course, doing it right ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Genesis of an Art

Zan and Zu Pike

I get asked this now and then -- where do new arts come from? -- and while I can't get specific about most martial arts -- speaking here of older ones, not those of recent creation -- I can get general.

Generally speaking, a martial art can arise from all kinds of reasons. Probably the most likely are 1) a perceived need for something better or 2) a philosophical shift in the mind of a player.

For example, if you live in a culture where everybody is forbidden to carry any kind of weapon and few people carry them, what is apt to develop is different than it might be in a society where everybody hauls a sword around or is packing a gat. If every man-jack and his kid sister has a knife tucked into their sashes and a razor in their shoe, it would behoove one to come up with methods to deal with short-blade attacks.

Yeah, I know, well ... duh! but some folks don't see the connection. I have heard from more than a few martial artists in the US of A who have allowed as how they don't carry any kind of weapon other than their bare hands, and they won't -- don't like 'em, don't see the need.

If they are that good, I surely don't want to mess around with them. I suspect most of them are less adept than they think they are.

So a stand-up only fighter runs into a grappler and gets his ass handed to him. Surely anybody who wants a functional art in that circumstance is going to try and come up with ways to deal with wrasslers?

A fighter from an art that favors kicking range might have trouble if he runs into somebody who prefers elbow distance and who can get there. And in order to get there, the elbow guy has to figure out how to get past kicks, too.

On the philosophical end, you might have somebody who has a workable system, but who looks up one day and realizes something about it limits its attractiveness. An art that needs speed and power probably works better when you are twenty-five than when you are seventy-five. At forty, you look up and wonder if you will still be able to do it thirty or forty years down the line and realize that if you can't, you better find something else. Or alter what you have and make it something else.

An art that offers extreme violence might run afoul of a mindset that wants to do minimal damage to an opponent. You injure somebody gravely, and it bothers you. So bash-'em-with-a-brick morphs into toss-'em-into-a-soft-lawn. You can make the change from a jutsu into a -do. Maybe you don't need some of the tools, so you stop working with them. I understand the early judo players were every bit as kick-ass as the ju jitsu players for most places they needed to be.

You either have to adjust your opponent, or adjust yourself, or some combination thereof, and if he's waving a knife and your art doesn't have a way to deal with that, something has gotta change.

See a need and deal with it. And if the current method isn't doing the trick, you try and come up with a better way.

Beat a better path and the world will build a door to your mouse trap ...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Martial Arts Seminars: Pro and Con

I've spoken to this before, but a question came up, so ...

For the purposes of this discussion, "seminar" here means an intensive training session, ranging from a day to a few days. The focus can be sharp -- one instructor offering specifics about a single art; or several instructors trading techniques from multiple arts.

Generally, I feel, students of a particular art get more from a single teacher in their system working from what they already know.

On a typical weekend gathering, something like this: Students and teachers arrive on Friday evening, do meets-and-greets. Sessions start early Saturday morning, run all day, different teachers leading the class, or, if it is large enough, breaking into sub-groups with teachers rotating through. When the Saturday session is through, students and teachers hang out, eat, drink, have a fine ole time, crash, and then crank up again Sunday for a half-day before everybody heads home.

An example of a larger one was the Las Vegas gathering for Guru Plinck's students in '08. I spoke of it here, and that included some comments as to what I found most and least valuable about it.

The gist of that report was that having a chance to meet and cross hands with others in one's art, or arts that are in the same general ballpark, is high on the list of good things. The camaraderie can be great. That guy you thought was an idiot when you read his postings on the net turned out to be okay in person. (Or vice-versa.) You get a chance to see people who have a lot of years training and who have put their spins on how best to do it, and how what you know works or doesn't work compared to that.

I think newbies tend to benefit from multiple-art seminars more than folks with a lot of training in one style, and that's because they don't have all that baggage to get in their way.

If you don't know anything about a subject, it's all new and you can get into it without a lot of unlearning. If you are several years deep in an art and you have internalized the principles, then training that goes against those principles tends not to stick. If you are a good student, you will listen to the teacher and make an honest attempt to do it the way s/he tells you to do it. You are supposed to leave your rank and sense of superiority at the door, but it's harder to leave your skills there, whatever they are.

A simple example: In Sera Plinck, we generally try to cover both high- and low-lines. One hand high, one low, one near, one far. Even if both hands aren't always positioned that way, mentally, you designate them so that both lines are theoretically-covered. The right hand might be higher than is optimal for low coverage, say, but you know that it's your low-line and have it ready to move where it needs to be.

Obviously there are going to be transitions where this won't be possible, and you hurry to get there, but the only time you leave a big opening on purpose is when you are inviting an attack, trying to draw it in, because you have something in mind.

If you are attacking high-line with a knife, and the other guy throws up an X-block, then everything from his armpits down is open and if you have any training with a blade, chances are good that you can exploit that. Plus you have your back-up hand. He'll be playing catch-up, and action is faster than reaction, so chances of him getting his hands down before you gut him or use your back-up aren't really very good.

So when you go to the seminar and a teacher gives you a technique wherein your low-line is left uncovered, you are apt to feel uncomfortable. You know that you could go there if your opponent offered it thus, and the temptation is to do that.

Another problem is in arts that are similar but not the same. The kali instructor tells you to hold the stick this way. The escrima guy offers his method, which is different. Either might work, but both teachers are adamant that their version is correct and anything else is wrong.

When I was starting junior high school -- called middle school now -- we had a study block called MAS -- music, art, and speech -- each of which ran three months. In the first music class, the teacher asked rhetorically, "What is the universal language?" Her answer was, "Music." Standard notation was the same everywhere in western music.

Music is the universal language. We all nodded sagely. Of course.

Later that morning, I had a shop class, drafting. (This was back in the day when the boys all took shop, and the girls, home economics.) So coach -- and all male teachers were called "coach" then -- said, "What is the universal language?"

My hand shot up. I know, I know! "Music!"

Coach started at me as if I had turned into a giant horsefly. "Music? If you are trying to tell a chinaman how to build a house you gonna sing it to him? Not music -- pictures! You draw him a picture -- that's the universal language!"

I came to suspect in later years that the music teacher and coach got together and set this up to make us feel stupid, but in that moment, I surely felt like a fool. And I remembered it all this time.

What is correct in the moment depends on who is asking and what s/he believes is the answer.

And listening to the kali guy and the escrima guy, both of whom were offering stuff that didn't really jibe with my silat principles? It wasn't as confusing, because I had long since come to realize that one size seldom fit all, but still, it is something of a conundrum to newbies when they hear the contradictions.

So while I tried to do what the various teachers offered at the seminar, and respected that their way wasn't necessarily wrong, just different, there were times when I just shook my head and kept my mouth shut, even when I was pretty certain that trying a technique their way would get me smacked flat or maybe killed. Based on my knowledge that if they tried it that way, I could probably smack them flat or kill them, and I'm not even very good at this.

It's generally not encouraging when you look around the room as somebody is showing a technique and you see students grinning behind their hands at what is being shown. Yeah? Right? I'll do that when hell freezes over, thank you very much.

I admit it: My teacup, while not altogether full, is, at this point in my life, not empty, and being able to empty it in this situation simply isn't possible. It took me a fair amount of time and practice to replace my Okinawa-te responses with those of Silat Sera, probably a couple of years. I know I won't have the wherewithal to do it during a weekend seminar.

There are people who see this as a major flaw. That I'm locked into stuff that will cause me more trouble than it will solve. They could be right, but I don't believe it. If an art is going to be useful at speed and power, it can't rely on conscious thought once action commences. You won't have time to think, so if you haven't built something almost reflexive, you'll be behind the speed and power curve. Either you figure out a short-cut or you don't catch up. Waiting to figure that out on the fly and in the moment doesn't seem likely to me.

And finally, the problem with doing a two- or three-day intensive session is information-overload. If you come away with one or two useful things, you are doing good. It is, as I saw recently on a martial arts website, like trying to drink from a fire hose. Plenty of water there, but moving at such speed and pressure that it will be hard to quench your thirst.

These days, I mostly confine my seminar experiences to those taught by my teacher, or as in the case in Las Vegas, others who have mostly been his students and who have branched out. Life is too short to learn everything ...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Argumentative Martial Artists

Been quiet on the southeast Asian front of late, thank goodness, and this is not an attempt to fan any fire from the embers, but to address something I got an email about:

Amongst martial artists, arguments about any and all things connected to the subject happen almost as often as anybody talks about it.

Why, my correspondent wondered, is that?

Well. There's a can of worms. Let me lift the lid just a hair ...

It's not just in silat, though we certainly have more than our share of disagreements, but pretty much across the board. Speak publicly of something you do, and a student of another art -- or a branch of your own -- will step up tell you how they do it differently. Which is okay -- until they get to the part about how their version/their teacher/they are all way better than your version/your teacher/you.

I've thought about this, and here's what I think:

Partly, this is due to the natural tendency to think that what you've spent so much time and energy studying is worthwhile, and this bespeaks an honest wish to share your belief. Like a reformed smoker, somebody on a diet, or someone who has found God, you truly want to get the good word out. Paving the road to hell and all, but the intentions aren't bad.

Partly, it's because folks who get into martial arts are contentious, else they'd be spending their time doing something else instead of trying to figure out the best way to beat people to pulp.

In an activity where the goal is to be the last man standing -- or last woman -- when push comes to shove, one wants to believe that what one is studying will do the trick. If somebody comes to your house and allows that what you are studying is a bullshit waste of time and energy, you can see how this might lead to a disagreement. You'd think anybody who had the brains God gave a rutabaga would see how this might be offensive, but somehow they don't. Blinded by their own light.

This often arises from the One-True-Path™ approach -- and one can sum that up thusly: If I'm on the road and you aren't on the same one? Then yours must be wrong, 'cause mine ain't.

One of the problems is that like life in general, there are always a large number of insecure, overly-egotistical, and obnoxious folk in the arts, and a lot of them develop the One-True-Path™ mindset. Like religious fanatics, you can't talk reasonably to them. (I've learned this the hard way myself.)

Yet another problem: Even people with real skills will sometimes pad their resumés; or worse, just offer out-and-out cut-from-whole-fantasy bullshit. If you see this, it makes what they say hard to take seriously. If one gets one's Ph.D from the prestigious Plain Brown Wrapper Mail Order University for $19.95, the credential might not have the same cachet as one that takes six years of study from, say, Eton.

I was once at a rock festival when the founder of a certain universal-life church got up on stage and, with a wave of his hand, ordained the whole crowd as ministers. I didn't figure that gave me leave to start calling myself Reverend Perry and performing marriages and such.

When the TV series Kung-fu became popular, it was amazing the number of schools that'd had "karate" signs in front of them somehow morphed into kung-fu schools overnight.

When ninjas got hot, teachers magically appeared. (Of course they would; they were ninjas.)

When grappling started winning in the ring, a lot of stand-up-only arts suddenly remembered they actually had some grappling, stashed behind that old suitcase down in the basement. Dust it off, and look! as good as ju jutsu!

I'm good with the idea of stealing stuff from other arts. It is a time-honored and perfectly valid concept. That's how you deal with tricks you maybe didn't think much about before. In the end, the good stuff is all mixed-martial arts; everybody borrows from everybody else. What makes it different is how your system puts it together, the principles you use.

But there is always a supply of smoke, mirrors, and bovine feces around, of which some folks feel compelled to avail themselves. And when you see and hear it, sometimes you feel just as compelled to call them on it.

So my advice to my correspondent was simple this: Take anything anybody tells you -- including me -- with a grain of salt.

If you hear something that sounds hinky, poke around and check it out. We live in the information age, if you hunt for it long enough, you can find all kinds of information.

Bear in mind that most older martial arts come from an oral tradition, and the history there is sometimes less than precise. (Ever notice in the genesis stories how the founder of the art, once he came up with the new system, was always unbeatable? Obviously these founders must not have run into each other, or if they did, always fought to a draw ...)

And when you get right down to it, the history isn't that important anyhow. What somebody did in the old country two hundred years ago probably isn't relevant to the guy trying to break your nose next Friday at at bank's ATM. You probably won't stop them with a history lesson:

"Wait! Before you strike, consider what Master Chan said about the mantis and the tiger!"

"Oh. Wow. Right. You know, when you put it like that, the error of my ways becomes manifest! Sorry, dude."

And try not to take it too seriously or personally when somebody starts blowing smoke. I confess that I have spent too many hours getting het up about this, and it is rather like trying to teach a pig to sing: It only wastes your time, and it annoys the pig ...

The Bumper Sticker

I had this on the back of my Miata for a couple years before it finally peeled off. Just next to the peace sign ...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

General Information - Sources for Silat

Silat is such a big tent that the only thing some of the styles have in common is that they are from the same part of the world.

The seminal work on silat in English is Donn Draeger's
Weapons & Fighting Arts of the Indonesian Archipelago. There are various versions of this around, you can probably pick up a used version in trade paperback. He has a couple other books on the subject, like Javanese Silat, but they are just okay.

O'ong Maryono's English version of his book,
Pencak Silat in the Indonesian Archipelago is good.

You can download Ian Wilson's thesis from the Murdoch University School of Asian Studies, in Western Australia (2002),
The Politics of Inner Power: The Practice of Pencak Silat in West Java. Wilson lived in the country and speaks the language.

Most of the books and tapes out there have some use, and though I'm not too impressed with some of the Paladin Press stuff, my teacher did a video for them on Bukti Negara, the daughter art Pendekar Paul and his senior students created, drawn from Sera. It's good for what it is.
Paul did an eight-tape series on Bukti, but I haven't seen it for sale on his site for years. Might find it used online somewhere.

There is material out there on some of the blades -- best books on the keris are from Holland, with a Dutch/English side-by-side text and hand-glued in pictures, but they are spendy:
De Kris, by Tammens, three volumes.

Best guy to see for buying the hardware lives in Australia, Alan Maisey, there's a link to his page here.

Lot of YouTube stuff on the kerambit.

Bobbe Edmonds silat videos on YouTube are good. He spent some time in the old country training, knows his stuff, despite the fact he came down with yesterday's rain.

Best general work on weapons:
Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago, by Albert van Zonneveid. A coffee-table sized book and also expensive.

You can get Maha Guru Plinck's vids from Joe Daggy, at Lexington Films:


And, of course, you can order my e-book,
But What if I Did This?! and get a PDF for $5, if you don't already have it. Just click on the PayPal button up there under the header.

There are bits of history and philosophy on our art ladled into my musings ...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Few Words About the Logo

A few words about the image: Pendekar Paul's logo is a garuda (eagle) with a tiger's head emerging from the bird's chest, with the eagle's talons wrapped around a pair of traditional Indonesian weapons, tjbangs, short tridents that are somewhat like the Japanese sai.

Stevan's logo honors the design, but changes it to American tropes: The bird is a red-tailed hawk, the cat is a mountain lion, and there is a Bowie knife and a tjabang in the hawk's talons.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Basics in Silat Sera - Questionable History ...

Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck
(Blame me for this one)

This information was gleaned from various book and magazine articles, along with letters, emails, and/or conversations by or with: Paul de Thouars, Stevan Plinck, Willem de Thouars,, Cass Magda, Todd Ellner, Chas Clements, and other Sera(k) and Kun Tao players.

DISCLAIMER - PLEASE NOTE: There are many disagreements among the leading practitioners about historical items, no consensus on dates, and some family contention over other issues that may color certain recollections. I have tried to present the material as best I could interpret it. Bahasa Indonesia and Sundanese dialects sometimes have variations in spelling, so there may be errors in such renderings on my part.

SPECIAL NOTE: An earlier version of this history featured several items regarding Pak Victor de Thouars. Mr. de Thouars has informed us, through one of his (former) senior gurus, that he considered his characterization in the article “unflattering,” and has asked us to “remove all mention” of him from our website. We have complied with his request, and believe the subsequent revision more valid as a result.

Any other mistakes in transcribing the material are mine, and none of this is in any way "official," but my own research. Frankly, it could all be fantasy -- there's no way to tell. It's a good story, though, and one of the first things you learn as a writer is to never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, so ...

The term "sera(k)" (generally pronounced with the "k" silent, or without the letter at all) has several meanings, depending on spelling and accent. It can mean "hoarse." It also means "owl," and thus "wise," and with the accent on the first syllable, it means to "confuse," or to "scatter confusion," and thus "to decoy" or "deceive." It is also a shade of red. (I use as my reference here, the Indonesian dictionary
_Kamus Lengkap, _1985 edition, by Wojowasito, Poerwadarminta, and Wasito.)

“Sera” is a nickname, and what the actual meaning of the term, vis a vis the art, means is a point of contention. It has been argued that he was hoarse, wise, sneaky, and perhaps he even had red hair. All we know for sure is that the art is named for him.

One of Maurice de Thouars students posted a note to a website a couple years back, and in it, said Sera was nicknamed that because he had a hoarse voice, among his other physical problems, and that his real name was Eyang Hisak, aka H. Muhroji.)

Bapak Sera's precise date-of-birth is unknown. He's been listed as having been born as early as 1783 A.D.; however, this seems unlikely given the known lineage -- the dates don’t work -- and it is more likely Sera was born no earlier than the the 1830's or ‘40s, possibly even later.

If he was ever born at all. History outside the Sera family doesn't seem to mention Pak Sera, and one wonders at that, but to go on:

The birthplace and tribe of Pak Sera are also open to question and are the subjects of some contention among the senior practitioners of Sera -- as well as practitioners of other arts who also argue that Sera never existed at all, and who claim Mas Djut as one of their own. Such claims are dubious at best.

Some claim Sera was of the Badui. Since not much is known about the Javanese tribe called Badui -- the White (or Inner) remain cloistered even today, admitting few visitors to their villages -- this would seem difficult to determine. If Pak Sera was of the Blue (Outer) Badui it would seem more possible, but even this is unlikely, since the Badui, especially the White, seldom, if ever, traveled outside their villages.

How a man who was limited to his home village and not allowed to have visitors, save from his own tribe, managed to learn and master several fighting arts from which he distilled his own is a particularly intriguing question.

Others say Pak Sera was born in Tjirebon, on the north coast of Java, about 130 miles east of Batavia (now Jakarta.)

There is no consensus on this point, nor is there likely to be. Real evidence for Pak Sera's history is hard to come by.

Family history indicates that Pak Sera trained in Silat Banteng, which comes from the area of Serang, in northwest Java. From his exposure to Tjimande, which is it said he studied, and with his training in Banteng, Sera developed his own system, tailored to his physical handicaps -- he had one shortened arm and a clubfoot, and all the major players agree on this point. Despite this, he was reportedly a fierce fighter, having developed a system that relies on position and timing rather than speed and power.

According to the Indonesian silat player and writer O’ong Maryono, The most prevalent style of pentjak silat in the capital of Java, Jakarta, is Silat Betawi, one much influenced by the Chinese martial art kuntao, and one would assume that Sera would have seen this. One also has to assume that Sera was also influenced by Pukulan, and there are silat players (Dr. Philip H.J. Davies, for one) who say that Serak looks very much like Northwestern Javanese pukulan.

Maryono also says that kuntao was likely a major influence on Javanese silat, though Chinese influence are a touchy subject with Indonesians, and that the former term was used as a generic one for fighting in the area until relatively recently (WWII.)

Although the exact dates aren't known, it was probably sometime before the turn of the 20th ecentury that Mas Djut or Djoet (b. 1860? - d. 1938?) met Pak Sera, and subsequently helped Sera formalize the system. Mas Djut was reportedly trained in Silat Kilat, kun-tao, and probably Tjimande and pukulan. Who Mas Djut was is another of those points of contention, and there is at least one other art who claims him for its own, according to one of its senior practitioners.

Silat players are a contentious bunch, and it seems too often that it is not enough that what they do is valid, but that what others do is not. Lot of ego in this venue.

If both Mas Djut and Pak Sera studied Tjimande, that art's influence on Sera can hardly be denied. Indeed, it is the belief of some of the senior Sera practitioners that the art was at least partially devised as an answer to Tjimande, which was a much older and more established system popular at the time, if not an actually offshoot of Tjimande. (We use the old spelling here. The word is also rendered as "Cimande," just as "Pentjak" is also spelled "Pencak.")

The contention is that Sera and Mas Djut would have expected to face Tjimande players, and while this is admittedly speculation, it makes sense.

Whatever the influence, however, Sera is today not Tjimande, and the differences are apparent to practitioners of both, thought there are some similarities.

Enter the Dutch-Indo businessman, Johann (Jan) de Vries, (b. 1880, West Java.) de Vries eventually oversaw a plantation southeast of Batavia (Jakarta), in the Garut region, and in the early 1900s was a silat player who knew and trained with Mas Djut.

Jan de Vries apparently had little patience as a teacher, so later he had his sons, who included Ferdinand, Ernest, and John, trained by Mas Djut, instead of teaching them himself. Apparently there were other family members, brothers or cousins, as many as eight, total, who also trained at one time or another with Mas Djut. Recollections here are, not unexpectedly, somewhat spotty.

Another instructor, who reportedly trained under Sera, (who supposedly had four senior students who learned the entire system,) was Mas Shroen (Mas Rhun), who also reportedly partially taught Ernest de Vries.

John de Vries took the Djut lineage (supposedly after it was declined by Johann) shortly before Mas Djut's death.

Brothers Maurice and Paul de Thouars began to learn Sera’s art from Ernest de Vries (their Uncle) in Siam, beginning primarily in 1946. Willem went elsewhere for his training, not in the family art, but in Kun Tao, before branching into other styles.

The brothers de Thouar are often contentious, and while this is their business, it should be taken into account when listening to various versions of history. People who have axes to grind sometimes do so, and as seems the case with most martial arts, who did what, where, and when, can be as divisive as opposing sects of any major religion.

After leaving Indonesia, Paul continued his studies in Amsterdam under John de Vries, in the 1950s.

Maurice also continued his studies in Holland, with his Uncle Ernest.

Paul moved to the U.S. in the 1960's, and in the 70's, was given the Sera lineage by John de Vries. Supposedly, it is Paul who added the "k" to Sera, and that spelling has theoretically been trademarked by Victor.

At one time, Paul trained and taught with Rudy ter Linden, who later went on to create his own style of silat, Ratu Adil. There is some evidence that elements of Kung Fu San Soo might have been added by one or the other or both players. Martial arts tend to pick up bits here and there that get blended in and forgotten down the line. In an art based on principles, individual tools have less importance.

An early article on "Spice Island Fighting Men," featuring Paul and Rudy, was written for Black Belt Magazine in June, 1965. These men later had a falling out, resulting in bad feelings from some of the senior players on the ter Linden side, and almost certainly justifiable.

Paul created the system of Bukti Negara ("Witness to a County.") in the mid-to-late eighties, partially as a way of thanking America for taking him in. Partially, it was a way to teach the principles of Sera(k) without having to reveal directly what he considered a "closed" system to Americans. If you complete the Bukti training, you may then be deemed worthy to learn Sera, and for some teachers, Bukti thus becomes a kind of filter, even though it is an effective fighting style on its own.

The lineage holder of Bukti Negara is Danny Huybrechts.

Stevan Plinck (b. 1954, Holland) began training in Soeti Hati Silat with his grandmother as a boy, studied various arts, including Sumatran silat from his uncle, and eventually began training with Pendekar de Thouars after training for some years with a de Thouars senior student, Guru Besar Arthur Rhemrev. Later, as a senior student of Pendekar de Thouars, Plinck was instrumental in the early stages of Bukti Negara's creation, earned the rank of Guru Pangkat Tua in that art, and was recognized as a Senior Practitioner of Serak. No longer associated with Bukti Negara, Plinck now teaches Sera in Washington state, and his senior, and only finished student in the area is Narin Latthitham. (Some of the senior players -- this writer among them -- consider Maha Guru Plinck's version of the art to be an advancement over what he learned, and while I mostly refer to what we do simply as "Sera," now and then, I will call it by the full designation: Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck, which seems only right.

Basics in Silat Sera - Laws and Principles

A series of articles by Todd Ellner and Tiel Ansari, from Guru Plinck's website:

Laws and Principles of Sera

These can be loosely interpreted as "rules for doing things." The items listed here can be seen as rules for correct movement: technique that conforms to these rules will be efficient and effective. They can also be seen as tactical rules that maximize the Sera player’s chances of success in a fight.

A distinction should be made between laws and principles. Laws are ccommon to all situations, whereas principles offer choices. For example, Weapon Before Body/Body Before Weapon- can be considered a principle, because the Sera player chooses which to use depending on the needs of the moment. On the other hand, Fighting is Positional is true in any situation, and therefore qualifies as a law.

Laws can be broken under certain circumstances. (Some of these circumstances are mentioned in the discussion of the individual laws.) But it’s only after you understand the law and the reasons for it that you become able to judge when, how and why to break it. Therefore, as a beginner, you should regard the laws of Sera as absolute. In the following discussion, we will mostly not distinguish between laws and principles.

Sera’s principles are highly interdependent, and it’s therefore difficult to present them in any particular order. We’ve chosen to present them in a way that emphasizes the relationship of each principle to the sequence of events that might take place in an idealized encounter between two Sera players. Notice that the principles most closely related to Entering, which occurs at the beginning of an encounter, are usually the last to be trained. Understanding of these principles comes through sparring, and as explained below, sparring is not part of beginner training in Sera.

One of the goals of Sera practice is to condition the body of the student to move in accordance with the principles. As with most physical training, it’s initially the responsibility of the teacher to correct the student’s movement: "You’re not separating your bases", "You left the low line open" "Where’s your opposite lever?" These corrections have to be applied to all aspects of training: djuru practice, two-person drills, basic technique, and eventually sparring. (The knowledgeable student will observe that many of the core drills of Sera are not only in agreement with the principles, but designed to help ingrain them.) No part of Sera is exempt.

Initially, the student learns the principles associated with Positioning and Finishing. Over time, these principles become habitual, and the student no longer needs to think about each motion to ensure that it’s correct with respect to them. Sparring in Sera is usually deferred until this stage, because the student will now reflexively respond to a threat with correct movement. If sparring is introduced too early, whatever erroneous habits the student still has will be further ingrained.

It’s important to understand that "correct movement" does not imply that there’s a single correct response to a given situation. Any movement that gets you closer to your goal (whatever that happens to be) is correct. Movement that conforms to the principles will be tactically advantageous and mechanically efficient.
Fighting is Positional

"Positional" refers to the position of your body and limbs relative to those of your opponent. This relationship determines what options each of you has at a given moment. One of the strategies of Sera is to gain positional advantage, i.e. to create a position in which your opponent’s options are limited and therefore predictable, but which does not restrict your options.

At long range, we gain superior position through footwork. The ideal is to place the opponent in a position in which we can predict exactly how and when she will respond to an entry. The geometric relationship determines what tools the opponent can bring to bear. The distance determines the timing of the opponent’s response: she will strike when the attacker comes within range.

At arm’s reach or less, a superior position is one which gives you control of the opponent’s body. In this range, position is gained by a combination of good structure and sensitivity. Good structure, for the purposes of this discussion, includes footwork. At this range, footwork becomes one of several factors.

Close range is extremely dynamic, in the sense that minute changes in one person’s body alignment, balance and limb position can drastically alter the other’s "optimal" tactics. Therefore there is no single, static "good structure" that will serve throughout the encounter.

Sensitivity helps the Sera player create appropriate structure in response to a rapidly changing situation. The Sera player must maintain the criteria of good structure while accomplishing various other tasks, such as striking and throwing. This doesn’t imply that the Sera player consciously thinks about structure while fighting. Good structure comes from following the principles associated with Positioning, and as stated in the Introduction, these should have become instinctive by the time the student is introduced to sparring.

Guru Plinck says: "Understanding is the transition between stances and position." "Stances" here has a static connotation. The beginning student learns correct stances, because it's necessary to start somewhere-- as Guru Plinck also says, "You have to learn to stand before you can learn to walk". But position is dynamic, and as the student gains understanding, position replaces stance.
Separate Your Bases

"Base" in this case refers to the shoulder girdle and feet. In application, this principle might be expressed as follows: when moving your feet (sweeping, kicking, stepping), do not rotate your shoulders; when moving your upper body (powering a strike with upper body rotation, unbalancing your opponent for a throw), your feet should not move.
This principle exists because you need a stable base from which to generate power. There is an exception: when being completely evasive (for instance, getting out of the way of an incoming attack), it’s okay to move both bases at once, because you are not applying power and have no need to generate any.
Base, Angle, Leverage

These are the three components needed to set up a Sera-style throw. Most throws can be executed using two out of the three, but for safety’s sake, you should try to have all three. Successful execution of many Sera throws depends on precise use of these components. Though the terms are now in wide use, it's important to understand exactly how they are defined in this context.

"Base" in this context means the strength of the connection of your upper body to your lower body, and of your lower body to the ground. Often (not always) the placement of your feet will prevent your opponent from moving his feet to adjust to the forces you’re applying to his upper body. Your djuru stance provides a good base for throwing.

"Angle" means force applied along the weak angle of your opponent’s stance. Every stance has a weak angle, usually more than one. You can usually find one of your opponent’s weak angles by pulling one of her arms toward the point of a triangle on the ground, the other two points of which are defined by her feet. Correctly applied, angle should bring the opponent’s weight toward the foot that you plan to sweep, because sweeping an unweighted leg will have little or no effect on the opponent. Also, the more weight your opponent has on that leg, the less able she will be to move it and get away from the sweep.

"Leverage" means force applied to your opponent’s body in a different direction than the angle, and in a different direction than the force applied by the sweeping foot, creating Opposite Levers. In combat, leverage is applied as a strike— in a class setting, it’s usually applied as pressure.

The three components can be initiated in any order, but once a component has been initiated, it should be maintained until the throw is completed. You should not, for instance, give up angle in order to apply leverage, though the weak angle may change as the opponent’s balance shifts. The net effect of angle and leverage is to move the opponent’s center of gravity off the supporting foot, after which gravity takes over.

In the classic sapu, the sweep is followed by the upper-body unbalancing, while in the classic beset the order is reversed. In application, either order is permissible with either type of sweep. It's important to stress that, if unbalancing the opponent's body requires moving your upper body, this cannot be done simultaneously with the sweep. To do so would violate Separation of Bases.

Control at the Root

One of the favorite strategies of Sera is to control the movement of the whole body by controlling the spine. If the spine isn’t directly reachable, Sera players do the next best thing by controlling limbs as close as possible to where they join the spine. Thus, the arm should be controlled above the elbow and the leg should be controlled above the knee.

This also reduces the opponent’s ability to maneuver. For instance, if you hold an opponent’s arm at the wrist, he can still strike with the elbow or shoulder of that arm, or turn to bring the other arm into play. If you pin his upper arm, he cannot strike with the elbow, fist, or shoulder, and if you are on the outside, he cannot bring the other arm into play except by a spinning move.

Another reason to attack the root is that it is the part of the limb that moves the slowest. Intercepting a fast punch at the hand requires extremely good timing and hand speed. However, even on a very fast punch, the shoulder hardly moves at all. Stopping the motion of the shoulder will prevent the punch from reaching its target. The same applies to the hip, in the case of a kick.
Weapon Before Body for Speed/Body Before Weapon for Power

For a given technique, there is a tradeoff between speed and power. (It’s a mistake to assume that more powerful techniques are necessarily slower.) To deliver a technique at full power, the body should lead the motion. This is almost always slower than the same technique delivered without body involvement.

To enter, we usually need to deliver fast strikes to disrupt the opponent’s timing and allow us to move the body into close range. Full-power techniques are used as finishing shots, when the opponent is off-balance or already damaged, and timing is less critical.
Always Have Backup

Backup is one of the most fundamental concepts of Sera, and also one of the most complex. In the most general sense, the backup concept is that you should expect each technique to fail and be ready to follow up with something else. However, launching one independent strike after another may not be the most efficient way to accomplish this.

In Sera, the concept of backup implies that each technique should set up its own follow-up options.

One of the simplest formulations of this concept is the rule stated by Pendekar Paul de Thouars: "One hand never goes into battle without the other." This rule is exemplified in the djurus by the reinforced punch, in which one hand backs up the other. The reinforcing arm physically supports the lead arm, creating a structure like a brace, which can withstand a great deal of incoming force. It also allows the entire upper body to be involved in powering the strike, if desired, rather than just the arm muscles. In addition, the reinforcing hand is immediately available for a follow-up.

This should not be construed to mean that the hands are always right next to each other. Backup and reinforcement can mean a variety of things. Simple proximity and direct reinforcement are useful training tools for the beginner to give him or her a simple physical application to illustrate the concept.

Within this simple geometric relationship, either hand can be either hard or soft, embodying a number of different attitudes. "Hard" and "soft" are terms that mean many different things to different martial artists. The usages defined below should be regarded as strictly local: they may not be valid elsewhere in the martial arts world, or indeed, elsewhere on this page. Even in this context, "hard" and "soft" can imply a number of different things.

A physical interpretation might be that a hard hand is prepared to deliver a strike: if the strike is a punch, the hand should be clenched into a fist. In contrast, a soft hand is open and relaxed, able to monitor or pin one of the opponent’s limbs, deliver a strike, clear an obstruction, etc. In a more tactical interpretation, a hand that is hard is committed to a specific objective. A hand that is soft is able to improvise in response to a changing situation.

Another way of looking at it is that "hard" designates the hand that is contributing the most force to the strike, even though it may not be the one that is actually making contact. This is deceptive, because the opponent will usually expect the line of the strike to be determined by the striking hand. If the strike is in fact being guided by the rear hand, the line will be subtly different. (See "Lead hand soft/reinforcing hand hard" below).

We have the following possible soft/hard combinations, with examples of how they might be applied:
Lead hand hard/reinforcing hand soft-- Front hand delivers a strike, rear hand can deliver whatever follow-up is desired.
Lead hand soft/reinforcing hand hard-- Pressure from the rear hand can be used to slightly change the angle of attack of the front hand, circumventing obstacles.
Lead hand soft/reinforcing hand soft-- Neither hand is committed to a specific course of action, leaving the greatest number of follow-up options.
Lead hand hard/reinforcing hand hard-- This combination is tactically risky, because it restricts the sensitivity of both hands and leads to too much reliance on strength.
The hands can back each other up in many ways besides one reinforcing the other. Some of these, with examples, are:
Same line, same weapon-- Two rapid-fire hits are delivered in the same line: if the first one is blocked, the second one will usually get through. (Note: the first strike should not be regarded as a "fake". If the first strike is not blocked, it should hit. This is a general rule of Sera.)
Same line, different weapon-- Closely related to reinforcing. If the lead hand is blocked, the rear hand immediately strikes in the same line.
Same weapon, different line-- The rising punch in Djuru 2 is a good example of this. The opponent directs a countering technique to the line he expects the punch to be on, only to find that it’s not there.
Cover and hit-- The backup hand goes slightly ahead of the striking hand and clears away any obstruction that it finds.
Bait and switch-- Expect the first strike to be blocked; the contact signals an immediate switch to a backup strike delivered in a different line, usually with a different weapon. (Again, note that if the first strike is not blocked, it hits.)
Backup need not be restricted to one hand backing up the other. Here are some more backup concepts:
Anatomical-- Any body part can back up any nearby body part. For example, if your punch is blocked, it is easy to simply fold forward and strike with the elbow of the same arm. Or, you might step in and pivot to strike with the shoulder of the same arm.
Upper body/lower body-- Another formulation of the backup concept was stated by Pendekar de Thouars as "Hands don’t go into battle without feet." (It could just as easily be "Feet don’t go into battle without hands".) If you find your arms tied up, consider delivering a kick or knee or using footwork to change the position and give yourself more control. If your lower body is being attacked with a sweep, you can use your upper body to support yourself.
High/Low, Inside/Outside, Left/Right

A useful way to think about Sera technique is to classify it in terms of root motions. You can generate whole families of techniques by applying the same root movement to your opponent from different positions. Guru Plinck states this as follows: "What you can do high, you can do low. What you can do inside, you can do outside. What you can do left, you can do right."

The beset family is a good example. Beset luar and beset dalem are the same motion, applied either from inside or outside. (Note that in beset dalem, you are positioned outside the opponent’s arm but inside her foot: in beset luar this relationship is reversed. These are examples of Opposite Levers.) Both throws can also be done as low sweeps. And obviously, both can be done whether the opponent is in a right or left lead. In all cases, the root motion is the sweep.
Take the Line

Blocking is not encouraged in Sera. A block may keep you from getting hit, but generally does no damage to the opponent (unless you train in a style that conditions heavily and delivers destructive blocks). More importantly, blocking puts you a beat behind and, because action is faster then reaction, it’s very difficult to catch up. The common "block, then hit" strategy is likely to lose against an opponent who is your equal in speed, or even slightly slower.

Instead of blocking, Sera players hit. The hit has the effect of blocking the incoming strike, but it’s important that the goal is not to block: the goal is to hit. The blow is directed in such a way that it covers the incoming line. This is what is meant by "taking the line". If the blow reaches its target, it will have blocked the incoming strike.

Taking the line also brings your tools deep into the opponent’s territory, where you can begin to gain Control at the Root over his tools and limit his options.
Cover High and Low

Your opponent is likely to launch a mixture of high-line and low-line attacks. It behooves you to cover both lines at all times. In this context, "cover" does not necessarily mean "physically occupy": it means that you have something available to respond in that line.

An obvious way to accomplish this is to cover high line with one hand and low line with the other. For example, in the context of reinforcing, the Backup hand can be thought of as covering the high line if the strike is being delivered low, and vice versa. A low stance is very helpful here, because it means that your upper body tools can cover more of the target area. When standing upright, most people’s fingertips reach about to mid-thigh; in a crouch, your fingertips can easily reach to the knees or below.

Less obviously, a hand can be used to cover high line and the elbow of the same arm can cover the low line. Or a hand or elbow can be used to cover low line and a shoulder can be used to cover high line. These approaches can be very useful at close range.

Hands and arms can cover the high line and legs can respond in the low line. This is one of the reasons single-weighting is important: one leg or foot is always free to respond to a threat.
Control Center

The center plane (often referred to as the center line, or just the center) is the plane that connects the vertical axis of your body to the vertical axis of your opponent’s body. On the human body, most of the attacking tools are located at the periphery (knees, fists, elbows, feet: the head is a major exception). But many attacks tend to be aimed towards the center, where the preferred targets are located (face, throat, solar plexus, groin). Such strikes are seen as entering the center plane from one side or the other, and can be prevented from connecting by controlling access to the center.

In Sera there are several ways this is accomplished.
Occupying center This is usually done with a strike: the reinforced punch is a good choice for this, as it is structurally strong enough to withstand a collision with an incoming blow, and also protects against strikes coming in from many different angles.
Cutting center Also generally done with a strike, this is an example of Taking the Line. Cutting center differs from occupying center in that the strike is delivered at a slight angle across the center plane, instead of within it. This gives you the option of crossing to monitor and control tools on the far side of the opponent’s body. Cutting is the most effective approach against a hook or horizontal elbow: in this case the strike is aimed at the shoulder (Controlling at the Root).
Yielding center Against overwhelming force, center can be yielded by rotating the body parallel to the attack, allowing it to slide past. This can be viewed as an example of an upper-body Alleviation.
Clearing center An example of this is seen in the first move of the first djuru. Clearing center is closely related to cutting center, but is less aggressive and involves more Alleviation of the incoming strike.
Repositioning center This generally involves footwork, such as stepping off the line of an incoming attack. Notice that purely evasive moves are not a favorite in Sera: ideally, repositioning should gain you a better position in addition to keeping you from getting hit.
Offsetting from center If you have occupied the center plane, your opponent may try to strike slightly to one side or the other. You need to be prepared for both possibilities. But if your occupying tool is offset to one side, you make it much more likely that your opponent will attack to what he sees as the open center.
In practice, a Sera player will often use one or more of these in combination. For example, she might clear center and create an offset to guide the opponent’s next move. Or, she might deliver a strike that cuts center while repositioning herself out of the line of an incoming attack.
Right Tool for Right Range

The most basic application of this principle is one that many martial artists are familiar with: Use long weapons at long range, because short ones simply won’t reach; use short weapons at close range, because they take less time to deliver, and long ones are more easily jammed at close range. For instance, most boxers will rely on the jab and cross at long range, but at close range will use more hooks and uppercuts.

Broadening the definition of "tool" points up some of the other differences between ranges. For instance, position is extremely important at both ranges, but is gained in different ways (see Fighting is Positional).

At long range, you rely on vision to keep you informed of what your opponent is up to. At closer ranges, you must rely more and more on sensitivity. (Try to imagine a blind kickboxer, as compared to a blind wrestler.) The same is true of our opponent. At long range, we deceive our opponent by misleading her perception of distance, timing or position through the visual sense. At close range we mislead her senses of contact, balance and proprioception.

Long range and close range also require different attitudes. At long range a fighter should be eager to close, but not so eager that he rushes in blindly: he must be patient enough to create an opportunity to enter safely. Close range requires alacrity and commitment. It should be noted that both ranges require detachment, complete attention and intensity. Cultivating this set of emotional attributes should be looked on as a life-work, not a prerequisite.
Opposite Levers

"Always have an opposite lever"-- Pendekar Paul de Thouars

The more different unbalancing forces you apply to your opponent, the more difficult he will find it to compensate. Most people can keep their balance pretty well if a single force is applied to them. If two forces are applied, it becomes much harder, and is even harder if the two forces are not symmetric (not directly opposite from one another). The Base, Angle, Leverage formula with sweep applies three forces to the opponent, all in different directions.

If you pull or push on your opponent’s upper body, his natural reaction will be to step towards or away from you to keep his balance. There are two common ways of preventing this. One is to bring a substantial part of the opponent’s weight onto the foot he would naturally step with, so that he can’t lift it without losing his balance. The other is to trap the foot to keep it from moving. The "Opposite Levers" principle helps to create these traps. For instance, if you are pulling your opponent to your left, you should be planning to sweep his foot to the right, and this places your sweeping foot in the correct position to block him from stepping even if you don’t execute the sweep. ("Left" and "right" here shouldn’t be interpreted too literally, as the angle direction and sweep direction aren’t directly opposite from one another.)

A related concept is that people cope with steady forces much better than they cope with changing ones— this is sometimes stated as "People make better speedometers than accelerometers." This is why many throws become more effective if the directions of the forces being applied change in the course of the throw.

The throw known as puter kapala combines all of these concepts. The head and arm are used as opposite levers. As you bring the head towards you, the opponent’s weight shifts onto his front foot, so that he can’t lift it without losing his balance. (You can also trap the opponent’s front foot with yours, but it’s usually unnecessary if you are applying correct angles.)

Puter kapala is often described as a spiral or circular throw: the head is brought towards the ground in a smooth spiral. In this approach, the forces being applied are smooth and steady. An opponent with some sensitivity will extrapolate the motion and adjust to it. Puter kapala becomes much more effective if the forces are applied in a series of short jerks at different angles.
Long-Range Weapon Before Short-Range Weapon

This principle helps to create the efficient entries that are one of the strengths of the Sera style. Long-range strikes are used to disrupt the opponent’s timing and create an opportunity for the attacker to move to close range and bring to bear the more powerful short-range weapons, and eventually execute a throw. Entering with a short-range weapon is much riskier, because the opponent is in full control of his faculties and can counter easily.

One of the strategic assumptions of Sera is that our opponent is stronger than we are. Therefore, we do not resist force with force. One option is to evade the incoming force altogether: the drawback of this is that it does not necessarily improve our position. Alleviation refers to a dissipation or diversion of the incoming force with minimal movement and contact that is perceived by the attacker as very light.

In Sera there are several modes of alleviation, and most can be used in combination with one another. It's important to practice them independently. One should also keep in mind that more alleviation isn't necessarily better, and that upper-body-based alleviations are generally faster than footwork alleviations.

In tool-only alleviation, a tool (usually upper-body) is used to deflect the incoming strike. No other part of the defender’s body moves. Conversely, in upper-body alleviation, the upper body is rotated parallel to the attack, and no tool is used. Footwork can be used to reorient the upper body, but this will tend to be slower, and should not be resorted to unless it gains some other advantage.

Footwork can be used to alleviate by itself. Against an incoming attack, a Sera player can move along the circumference of an imaginary circle centered on the opponent, to get off the line of attack without changing the distance. Or, he can move out or in along the radius of the circle so as not to meet the attack at its point of maximum power. These effects can be combined in a step along either a tangent or a chord of the circle.

A level change can also be used to alleviate, removing the target from the line of attack without changing location.
There are two somewhat more specialized modes of alleviation that deserve mention here. In the mode known as "receive and give", the Sera player absorbs the incoming energy, storing it mechanically in the elastic muscles of the midsection, and then uses the stored energy to power a return technique. To an onlooker, it appears as if the player recoils slightly and then explodes forwards.

"Bypass and enter" describes an alleviation in which the player deflects the incoming blow and advances, leaving the deflecting tool where it is. This is a deceptive move. Since the contact point remains still, the opponent is (briefly) prevented from realizing that the player has entered.

Guru Plinck uses the term "english" by analogy with pool, where english refers to spin placed on the cue ball. Here, english means a circular, corkscrew, or rotating movement. An example of motion with english can be seen in the first move of Djuru One, where the wrist is rotated through its entire range of motion.

Notice that if you are moving forward while executing a circular motion, it becomes a three-dimensional corkscrew.

Genuinely two-dimensional circular motions are rare in Sera, but the terms "circular" and "corkscrew" are sometimes used interchangeably.

English is frequently used in Alleviation with a tool, to soften the contact and deflect the incoming strike. In one way of doing this, the alleviating tool executes an english movement such that the strike is nearly tangent to the circumference of the circle described by the english. The direction of rotation is almost parallel to the strike. This minimizes the opposition between the force of the strike and the alleviating force.

Another use of english is in the type of Alleviation referred to as "Receive and give". In this case it’s the body— specifically the hips— that execute the english motion, absorbing the incoming force and storing it on the first half of the movement and releasing it towards the opoonent on the second half.

This suggests that english can also be used to generate power, and indeed that’s the case. Body english involves most of the major muscle groups and thus can generate far more power than a tool alone can provide. It should be noted that techniques powered in this way will be slightly slower than tool-only techniques: see Weapon Before Body/Body Before Weapon.

English can also be used to generate power at the tool-only level. The forearm is a common striking tool in Sera. Consider the forearm as a cylinder: if it is rotated around its long axis, the outer surface is the part that rotates the fastest. This rotation can be added to a forearm strike to create a shearing effect.

One final note on english: unlike a corkscrew, the radius of an english movement need not be held constant. Such a motion might start very small, to efficiently alleviate a strike, and expand to cover the opponent’s torso (Controlling Center). Or it might start as a large arc, Taking the Line of an incoming attack, and spiral in to a strike.
Step With a Purpose

Every step you take in an encounter should accomplish something: never step just for the sake of stepping. There are many purposes that a step can have. Footwork is how you control distance; through distance, you control the timing of the encounter. Footwork is also how you control position; through position, you control your opponent’s options.
Most of the Sera sweeps and kicks are derived from the movements used in walking. Because of this, these motions are very natural and easy to learn – after all, you walk hundreds if not thousands of steps every day. Also, a step can be converted into a kick or sweep at any time, if a suitable target is available. So the purpose of a step could be to deliver a kick or sweep.

Footwork is what moves you from long range to close range. A good Sera entry should lead directly to a throw. This implies that the last step of the entry should accomplish at least two things: it should bring you into throwing range, and it should create a strong Base from which you can execute the throw. It may also serve to deliver a kick, knee or sweep; trap the opponent’s foot to keep him from adjusting his balance; add power to the delivery of an upper-body strike; or help pull the opponent off-balance.
Move Less, See More

At close range, this could be restated as "Move less, feel more." It is true in many martial arts that a good structure will defeat a flurry of techniques. Unnecessary movement is a waste of effort and time that an efficient martial artist would do well to avoid.

Movement also implies temporary loss of structure: even if you are in transition from one good structure to another, there is a space of time where you are not in good structure. During that time, you cannot capitalize on any opportunities that may appear, and you are vulnerable to attack.

Elsewhere we discuss the idea of dividing time into full beats and half-beats. A movement creates at least a partial beat, and this is a unit of time that you will find extremely difficult to subdivide. Put another way, if your opponent is alert and attacks you in the middle of a movement, you will find it hard to respond until you have finished your motion.

Moving divides your attention, making it more difficult to maintain your focus. It can also telegraph your intentions. Purposeless movement tends to fall into a rhythm, which helps your opponent predict what you're about to do.