More from Todd and Tiel:
Every martial system of which we are aware includes patterned movement in its fundamental training methods. There may be many of these - Wah Lum Preying Mantis Kung Fu has over a hundred forms. Boxing has shadow boxing and combinations.There may be few. They may be long or only a few movements long like the combinations a boxer practices in bag work. They all attempt to ingrain the habits and principles of movement of the system in the practitioner.
A common term for these patterned movements in the Indonesian martial arts is djuru. Some of them are long and involve the entire body and weapons. Some traditions use djurus which are actually two (or more) person sets of techniques. Systems like Sumatran Harimau do not use djurus. Transitions from stance to stance and position to position fill the same purpose.
How to Recognize Poorly Taught Djurus
One of the signs that a martial art is losing contact with its roots is when the patterned movements become mere rote disconnected from the techniques that people actually use. When a teacher says that the forms are "for art" or express some higher purpose not tied to the application of the system in combat or competition it is a sign of his or her lack of understanding. Some systems have been irretrievably lost because the comprehension that went with the movements has disappeared. All that is left is waving the arms and legs about with a vague understanding that somehow it is supposed to work.
Another sign of this is an overabundance of new curriculum. If djurus multiply to the point where a normal person can not remember them the style has grown too much. A teacher may be hiding a lack of depth by making a show of breadth. This is not to say that recombination and integration are bad. That is how every new system has been created and how old ones evolve to meet new conditions. But there has to be a core that can be encompassed, understood, and internalized if the style is to be useful. If these fundamentals are not in accord with the formal curriculum one or the other is a waste of time.
Djurus in Serak
We have been fortunate to study with a teacher who learned the old fashioned way and has chosen to transmit it to the next generation of Sera players. The djurus are the heart of practice.
Serak's djurus fit a very specific pattern. Some schools teach up to twenty four. Most senior practitioners agree that the first eighteen djurus contain everything essential. They all begin either with the entire first or second djuru. Some of them such as Djuru 10 include footwork; for the most part they are expositions of the upper body movements and principles of the system. Integration with the lower body part of the art comes through the practice of langkas and exercises which combine the two.
In general the djurus are practiced "low, slow, relaxed and with attitude". Speed and power come later with practice. In the beginning it is more important to practice correctly.
The first two djurus are the most important. They teach the student how to enter. They incorporate the most important technical principles of the system. And they give good basic defense and attack. While the movements in each can be used defensively or offensively the first djuru primarily teaches defense and the second offense.
With the rudiments of distance, a series of planned, practiced responses, the ability to defend and attack and a goal in mind ("Get in. Hit him. Take him down. Hit him again.") even the fairly new student has tools which will increase his chances in a confrontation.
Djurus in the Class Setting
Class starts with djuru practice to give the teacher a chance to assess progress and the students an opportunity to get in the correct frame of mind to practice in harmony with the principles of the system.In some sense, the lesson can't begin until the students have shown their djurus. Until that time the teacher is not in a position to decide what needs to be emphasized in that class.
Most instructional classes (as opposed to classes concentrating on conditioning or free sparring) center on some aspect of the djurus or langkas. It tends to be done in one of two ways which I refer to as "outside to inside" and "inside to outside".
The first approach starts with a technique or principle derived from the a movement or combination of a few movements in the djurus. The situation progresses from the straightforward to the more difficult. At first everything goes right. Then complications and contingencies are added. A simple straight punch becomes a combination of punches. Or the aggressor counters the defender's response. The beginning student leaves with a selection of simple effective techniques. The more advanced one gets to the point where he has identified the underlying principle and can use it or the root movement in a variety of ways. He has a physical reference, a somatic hook to hang his understanding from.
In the other approach the student is told how and why something works. Technique is derived from the appropriate part of the curriculum to illustrate the point. This could be as simple as entering with long range weapons and finishing with short range ones using Djuru 2 or very complicated.
The goal of both training methods is to combine simple movements with sophisticated understanding so that particular techniques and applications invent themselves on the spot and are done spontaneously with good form. A good sign that the students are progressing is when the teacher hears exchanges like "That was great! What was it?" "I've got no idea, but it seemed like the thing to do."
How to Stand
In Serak the upper and lower body work together but independently. Power comes up from the ground, through the legs and the muscles of the core, and out the arms. The fundamental assumption is that the attackers are bigger, stronger and faster than you are, so structural strength and superior position are more important than your muscular strength and speed.
The basic djuru stance reflects these things. It is not a training-only stance. And it's not a stance you stand out of to fight; it isn't very efficient for that. It's a way you stand once you have are entering on your opponent.
In the basic djuru stance the torso and hips are turned forward. The tailbone sinks, and the shoulders relax and round. The front leg is bent, and the center of gravity is moved forward so that it is over the front foot. The back leg is straighter than the front but not stiff. Most of the weight is on the front leg so that you can move the back leg to step, kick or sweep without shifting weight.
As the stance deepens the position changes. Weight is more even distributed. The back leg may move outwards slightly so that the heels are no longer in line - at least for men; women seem to have an easier time keeping the same hip-foot relationship.
How to Breathe
In and out.
Seriously, at the beginning stages just the fact that you keep breathing in a relaxed fashion is all that is important. Later on you learn to coordinate the breathing with the djurus. Fortunately the djurus are designed so that with just a little instruction the form and the breath coordinate well. The fundamental idea is that when one is alleviating or receiving force one breathes in. When generating or giving force one breathes out. Since any movement can be used to receive or give you can completely reverse the breathing pattern on any djuru.
Breathing should be done without raising or overly expanding the chest. An old silat trick is to attack when the opponent is inhaling. Moving the chest a lot in breathing gives away valuable information to the skilled attacker.
If you are breathing correctly practicing djurus should energize you. If you find yourself out of breath, panting, drooling or dizzy (we've done all of these) you need to slow down and re-coordinate the breath with the body.
How to Walk
In order to step without falling down a person needs to move his center of gravity over one foot, step with the other, and move the center of gravity appropriately. In the first footwork pattern, langka jalur, the front foot is turned out suddenly. This moves the center of gravity slightly forward, off the front foot. The back foot moves forward and steps into another djuru stance.
In cross-stepping (sempok and depok) and kicking the rear leg can move without the weight shifting. This allows you to avoid commitment until the last instant.
How to Look
The effects of stress often begin with tunnel vision and proceed from there to effects which are incompatible with effective fighting. An attempt must be made to develop a "soft focus" which makes best use of peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is more sensitive to movement and allows a wider field of view.This is particularly important in confrontations with more than one opponent.
How to Train
Speed and power will come with time. In the beginning it is more important to do things correctly. Practice the djurus slowly. Relax every muscle that you aren't actually using at that instant. Increase intensity gradually. Don't move anything that doesn't need to be moved - e.g. don't bob your head up and down or wind up before throwing a strike.
All well-developed training programs of which this author is aware are made up of training methods which do more than one thing. In a short combatives course this may be as simple as combining anaerobic conditioning with aggressive attitude. In longer term programs there may be many subtle things, some of which only come into full flower after years of training. In this martial art one of the important long term goals of training is to change the student's response to confusion and stress from panic or non-productive anger to intensity and relaxation. Ultimately, at the highest levels, it leads to faith and acceptance.
Giving and Receiving
Any particular movement can be used in many different ways. One of the most important parts of training is dissecting the djurus in order to get everything you possibly can out of them and to figure out all the ways they can be used.
Perhaps the most important analytical tool in this exercise is the idea of giving and receiving. Any movement can be used to give - striking, unbalancing, cutting a line of attack. It can also be used to receive - blocking, dissolving, alleviating, storing the power of an opponent's strike to release it back at him (something we are just beginning to learn).
What You do Left You Can do Right…
It would be exhausting and frustrating to catalog every single way djurus can be transformed into one another and every single variation in technique. You can go a long way by remembering a very simple principle. "What you can do left you can do right. What you can do high you can do low. What you can do inside you can do outside."
This means that the movements in the djurus are equally valid if they are applied at different levels, on different sides of your or the opponent's body or in different orders. In a typical Serak class one might apply the same movement or couple of movements from a djuru in a wide variety of situations.
…But Not at the Same Time
The left and right sides of the body (and the upper and lower bases of the body for that matter) almost never do exactly the same thing at the same time. This increases coordination and gives the student the ability to use different parts of his or her body differently at the same time. It also affects the opponent. A single force along a straight line or a symmetric grab with both arms are easier to perform and easier for the brain to process than two different forces at the same time or a hold that affects the sides of the body unequally.
Other than the first movement of the first djuru, which has the very specific application of keeping a knife out of the guts there are almost no times when a Serak player practicing his djurus is doing the same thing symmetrically with both sides of his body or applying equal force to both sides of the opponent at the same time.
In the first two thirds of the curriculum the only other places I can think of where this happens are covering the head briefly in djuru seven and one movement in djuru eleven. And even in that one the force is only applied symmetrically if you happen to pulling the opponent's head down and backwards.
Connected with this is the idea of separation of the upper and lower bases of the body. If both are moving at one time it is difficult if not impossible to generate power. And there is no margin for error. If the situation worsens one part of the body can not come to the rescue of the other. So, unless they are being completely evasive, Serak players tend to move the upper and lower bases (shoulder girdle and legs) independently and to use one half of the body to back up or reinforce the other. The stable base and the supportive parts of the body can and should be able to change immediately.
Pictures and Examples From the Djurus
This will be coming Real Soon Now. I recently bought a new copy of Poser 5 and need to get through its learning curve. Check back around the last part of July 2003