Friday, May 21, 2010

Basics in Silat Sera - Disclaimer

More from Todd Ellner and Tiel Ansari, from Guru Plinck's site:


This website represents the understanding of Tiel Jackson and Todd Ellner, a pair of students of Pencak Silat Serak of the Djut, John de Vries, Paul de Thouars, Stevan Plinck lineage. We are beginners, albeit ones with solid instruction under a very skilled teacher. The material here reflects this; there will be mistakes, innacuracies, and omissions. This is not a definintive treatise on the system. It is a work in progress which will evolve with our knowledge, skill, and understanding.

There are also things which Guru Plinck has requested that we not include such as the offensive use of weapons and advanced attacking. These are reserved for long term students of proven character.

The terminology and analyses you see here come strictly from the Paul de Thouars and Stevan Plinck cabang (lit. branch). Some are found in other martial arts. But it's essentially a product of the minds and hard work of these two remarkable men. It should not be necessary to say this, but we feel compelled to. Many of their insights have been appropriated by others in the Silat community.

This is a good thing of itself; that is how progress occurs. But not when it is done without giving credit. As a case in point Guru Plinck came up with the analytical tool of describing techniques in terms of "Base, Angle and Leverage". After he had presented it as a teaching tool and his student Steve Perry had included it in the Tom Clancy Netforce books other Pencak Silat teachers started using it without acknowledging the source. And getting it wrong, we have to note.


Serak comes from the Western part of the island of Java. It is a cultural art of the Western Javanese closely related to styles such as Cikalong, Sabandar and Cimande. The style was brought to the West by Dutch-Indonesian refugees after Indonesian independence. It owes much to these peoples.

But everything changes over time. Lifestyle, physiognomy, local conditions, and exposure to people with different fighting and weapon preferences all leave their mark. In the same way that the indigenous fighting arts of Indonesia were affected by Indians, Arabs, Chinese, and Dutch they have altered to fit circumstances in the Netherlands and the United States. We recognize this. So while we try to stay true to what is important and precious in the art it will continue to be adapted to the needs of its practitioners.
Magic, Mystery, and the Need for a Well-Tuned BS Detector

Indonesian culture is marvelously syncretic. The high cultures of India, Arabia and Europe have been fit into the national character. Spiritual life is no exception. Animist, Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu influences can all be found in the world's most populous Muslim country and in its indigenous practices including martial arts.

Some of these are explicitly religious. Or they can be the result of a world-view which we in the West would consider "magical" but which makes sense to someone who grew up with it. Others are actually training exercises designed to develop mental and emotional attributes. Some are pure charlatanry dressed up in mystic clothing. Some are the perception of less-skilled opponents who couldn't believe that they lost to an opponent with greater skill and understanding. Some may be the results of phenomena which can not be explained by current scientific understanding - although we must hasten to say that we have never seen such things personally. And some flow from the nearly universal desire to have a good joke at the expense of a gullible foreigner.

In any case they can not be separated from the society in which they came to be. An outsider who takes up practices from a culture of which he or she is not a member is always in a difficult position. Whole sets of associations that a native would learn from childhood are simply not there. The foreigner's emotional and spiritual structure will react differently.

As Americans we think and act like Americans. We haven't grown up in a society where the call of the muezzin and the reading of the Ramayana are parts of everyday life. So while we respect the culture that the art came from we recognize that we are not and never will be part of it and must adapt the mental and spiritual aspects to our internal structures. And we can still smile mysteriously and say nothing when we throw someone who says "That couldn't have worked. It had to be magic!"

Even in Indonesia and Malaysia these practices are not universal. Devout Christians and Muslims will shun activities which a Hindu or Animist would engage in and vice versa.


  1. are you teaching classes anywhere in Portland or Vancouver? I see links that mention Serak in the area but have been unable to find info about classes, etc.
    thanks for your time and hope all is well

  2. Guru Plinck is currently teaching a weekly class in Vancouver. Give me an email, I'll forward it to him.

    1. Is Guru Plinck accepting new students?

  3. As far as I know, Guru is still taking on new students. Drop him a line and ask directly: