Friday, May 21, 2010

Basics in Silat Sera - Langkas

More from Todd and Tiel:

What are Langkas?

Langkas, or platforms, are usually described as footwork diagrams. But note that when when describing a langka as a "footwork diagram", one should be aware that this does not just mean "a diagram for stepping". Among other things, langkas define the correct angles for sapus and besets. Each langka also represents a different strategy or set of strategies, which translates into a particular mindset.

Langkas are defined relative to the Sera player's location: wherever he is, he should be aware of a set of platforms defined by the present locations of his feet. Each time he moves his feet, these langkas are destroyed and a new set is created. Therefore the Sera player is always in position to sweep.

Langkas are also defined relative to the player's stance. The length of a side of Tiga or Sliwa, an arm of Sekurum, or a step of Miring, should be equal to the distance between the student's feet when the student is in a comfortable djuru stance. Players with longer stances should practice on larger platforms.

Students are expected to practice their djurus on langkas. The student begins by executing her djurus on the straight line. Once the student has at least three djurus, she moves to the Tiga or triangle. After the student has four or more djurus, she adds Sliwa or square to her practice. Sekurum is usually introduced at about Djuru 10.

As explained below, Miring or the staircase is a basic drill (though it is often referred to as a platform, which is why we discuss it here), and so is usually introduced very early in the student's training.
Jalur (Straight Line)

The straight line teaches the Sera student to enter directly. The mindset of the straight line is quite aggressive. The goal is to enter and take control of the space now occupied by the attacker. Guru Plinck has often referred to "Safety in the heart of danger". What this means is that the Sera player achieves safety by taking control of the situation, and this is most easily done at very close range. The straight-line entry is the shortest (though not necessarily the best) path to control.

One of the reasons that the Sera beginner works exclusively with the straight line is that this training forces the student to overcome any habitual aversion to entering close to an opponent. Evasion may be tempting, but at this stage, evasion is simply not offered as an option.
Tiga (Triangle) and Sliwa (Square)

These two platforms are very closely related and are most easily illustrated in comparison. Tiga can be characterized as being used for infighting, and Sliwa for long range, but it should be understood that these designations are relative. Sliwa (also known as Empat) is often used effectively at ranges that are much closer than what many martial artists would consider long range.
Finding Weak Upper Body Angles with Tiga and Sliwa

Proper angle for the basic Sera throws can be created by directing part of the opponent's upper body, (head, shoulder or arm) toward a correct point on the floor. The points are the point of the opponent's Tiga or the corners of the opponent's Sliwa, defined by the current position of the opponent's feet. These angles work no matter where the sweeper is standing relative to the opponent.
Controlling Center with Tiga and Sliwa

Occupying center is related to Tiga, cutting the line can be associated with Sliwa. Notice that many of the short-to-medium range strikes of Sera, such as the vertical elbow of Djuru 4 or the sansot of Djuru 3, are applied along Tiga lines. By contrast, line-cutting techniques can be thought of as following the diagonal of the Sliwa.
Sekurum (Cross or addition sign)

Sekurum is used to defend against multiple opponents. The mindset is often described as "standing ground". On Sekurum, the Sera player always keeps one foot at the center point, while the other foot can move from any endpoint of the Sekurum to any other endpoint. Thus the player can face out along any of the arms: all directions are equally accessible. Sekurum also, of course, describes a set of angles useful for sweeping. Sekurum also allows the Serak player to move his or her body out of the line of an attack very subtly and quickly.
Sweeping Angles with Tiga, Sliwa and Sekurum

Sapus in Sera are angled movements, not circular. Note that the returning part of the path is a rising motion, but the sweeping foot must make contact with the ground at the far point of the sapu. The sapu will be effective if the opponent's foot is located anywhere within the region of the sapu.

In all the sapu diagrams shown, if the opponent's left foot is presented, Sapu Luar will result: if the opponent's right foot is presented, Sapu Dalem will result. In the beset diagrams, if the opponent's right foot is presented, the sweeper will execute Beset Luar: if the opponent's left foot is presented, the sweeper will execute Beset Dalem.

Notice that two methods of executing the beset on Sliwa are shown. Also notice that on Sekurum, the moving foot is never the one at the center.
Alleviation with Tiga, Sliwa and Sekurum

Sliwa footwork is described as being evasive. It's important to note that "evasion" in Sera does not usually mean "getting further away from". Instead, Sera evasion means getting off the line of the incoming force, or repositioning the body to avoid the incoming force, ideally while gaining a better position relative to the attacker. Sliwa can be used to enter, while at the same time shifting laterally so that your center is no longer exactly where the attacker expects it to be. This can be called alleviation by repositioning.

Like Sliwa, Sekurum can be used to evade or alleviate by repositioning the upper body.

In Tiga, alleviation usually requires the use of an upper body tool: if the student visualizes an equilateral triangle with its base along her shoulder girdle and the point touching the opponent in the center plane, an incoming attack can be deflected along either side of the Tiga.

Pancar is the combination of all the other platforms. It is not a platform in itself so much as it represents the student's understanding of the basic platforms and their relationship to one another. In particular, the student needs to understand the advantages and disadvantages that the different langkas have over each other. We will only give a few examples here.

Consider an extremely powerful committed straight-line attack. Tiga sweeping is not always effective against such an attack, because it provides very little alleviation: the sweep may be executed successfully, but the attacker crash into the sweeper anyway. Sliwa or Sekurum is more likely to be an effective counter to this attack, because both can be used to remove the sweeper from the path of the incoming force.

In general Sekurum and Sliwa work well against straight line and Tiga, alleviating their attacks without giving up space. (The straight line, in particular, is all about taking space.) Sekurum tends to be more efficient than Sliwa, because it requires less motion.

Sliwa changes the relationship between the two players. It can be used to make the center point that the Sekurum-based player is holding less advantageous. So Sliwa can counter Sekurum.

Tiga can counter Sliwa because it is generally faster. Thus a possible sequence might be: a straight-line attack is countered by a Sekurum movement; the attacker shifts to a Sliwa attack to neutralize the Sekurum; the defender promptly attacks on Tiga.

In Indonesia, sparring and challenge fights are part of the tradition of Pencak Silat. One way in which damage is minimized in these contests is to hold a sweeping contest: combatants do not use their hands, but try to sweep one another's feet. It's generally understood that if one person can sweep the other at will, he could just as easily have delivered an effective strike. Clearly a Silat player without a detailed understanding of sweeping angles would be at a tremendous disadvantage in such a contest. Pancar is the means by which Sera conveys such understanding.

Pancar also shows that the upper and lower body can work on different platforms. In the form called Djuru Sempok, the footwork is primarily on Sekurum while the upper body work is mainly on Tiga. Thus a player performing Djuru Sempok might visualize Pancar to help keep the proper relationship between her upper and lower body.
Miring (Staircase)

Miring is not a platform in the sense that the langkas discussed above are: i.e. there is no particular strategy encoded in it. It is best regarded as a template for a drill. Miring is used to practice sapus and besets, alternating sides: the sapus and besets can be combined with silo, kicks and other footwork drills. The student can thus practice remaining on his baseline while executing a variety of different movements.

Miring can be based either on right angles or on 60-degree angles such as would be found in the Tiga.


  1. I have been training Silat for just under 5 mos and have had the privilege to train with Guru Plink 1x. Much of this is over my head at this point mainly because of lack of knowledge of the language, but what I do understand makes alot of sense and has added a piece to the puzzle. Thanks

  2. What is the proper measurement for tiga triangle? 16" , 18 " ?

  3. Proper measurement for tiga? Should be based on your stance width. Generally, the taller you are, the longer the legs of the tiga. It should be the same as your djuru stance.