Friday, February 11, 2011


The Southeast Asian dagger, the keris (also spelled "kriss," or "kris," and usually pronounced like "crease," with a tongue-roll of that "kr" sound) comes in two basic varieties: straight, or wavy. There is a lot of lore about these blades, the kinds of magic that arises from the shapes, the dapur; or the patterns hammer-welded into the metal, the pamor, and encyclopedias written about what they mean. 

There are kerises for health, wealth, and to prevent your house from catching fire. Some for warriors, executioners, and those designed to enhance your faith, sex life, or to protect you from being eaten by tigers. 

The combination of dapur and pamor make the various kinds of magic, and expert empus, master bladesmiths, can do some amazing things in the construction of the the black steel (which is usually made from soaking iron, nickel-laced blades in arsenic and citrus juice.)

The number of waves in a blade is easy enough to determine, and I've done this short vid to show you how to count them. 


My teacher likes to say that your silat is only as good as your legs, and at our most recent class, we once again learned that our legs aren't world-class when it comes to being fit. Not national-class. Not even neighborhood-class ...

In working with multiple attackers, one must spend some time learning evasion, i.e., getting the hell out of the way. At the same time, pure evasion only does so much, especially if you are in an enclosed space and can't, like Elvis, leave the building, thank you very much.

Part of our silat is to be sneaky and to cheat, and part of that is to gull somebody coming at you into thinking you are going to zig when you are going to zag. This is one time when a relatively slow back- or sidekick can be made to work–the attacker leaps in and impales himself on your foot because his speed added to yours surprises him: You are going that way, but your kick is going the other way. Once he is committed, that can be an nasty oops!

We have been working with an abbreviated version of the Djuru Sepok form, which requires level changes and low, wide and cross-stepped siloh stances, sempok, depok, going to the ground, and such. The lower the stance, the harder it works your leg muscles, and it's not just pure strength, but more about stamina. And flexibility. 

You watch a tennis match and one of the guys is in his early thirties, sometimes the announcers talk about how his legs are gone, he's over the hill. Yeah, he still has a game, but he runs out of steam after a couple of sets. He stops chasing the ball.

When you are twice that age, stamina becomes a real factor. I can put ten plates on the leg-press sled and push them for a couple sets. But a few minutes in a horse stance, front, then turned left, then right, burns more than just moving the iron for a couple minutes. Once your legs start to quiver, it gets to be a real act of will to stay down ...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Lamps for Old

The thing you have to love about Maha Guru Plinck is that he's always looking for a better, more efficient way to do things. He studies this and that, he contemplates something that's been knocking around in his head for a while, and when it gets ripe, he brings it out.

Here, he says. Have a look at this ...

As your circles get smaller, what you teach tends to get more precise. Small adjustments here and there make a difference. Not changing any basic principles, but a little fine tuning on position or stance or timing, and bap! all of a sudden, it's as if you've over-sharped a lens. Yesterday, you had 20/20 vision and that was the norm and good, but today, that focus tightens just a bit, and of a moment, you are at 20/10, and you can see more clearly.

Some of this has to do with his own study. Some of it has to do with the students being ready to see something they might not have been ready to see before; or, not really being able to integrate it. 

Could he show this new trick to beginners? Sure. Would they appreciate it as much? I don't think so. 

There are plenty of people who will argue that if you can't get the meat of an art down in a year or two, then you're wasting your time; that all the extra training after that is superfluous. I think you can say that about basic principles. Basics need to be simple. But as a lot of folks have said over a lot of years, "simple" does not equal "easy."

A couple of years of diligent study and you'd have the basics of our art, the key word here being "diligent." But to get to the dialed-in-smooth, don't-have-to-think-about-it kind of mastery, we head toward that ten-thousand hour thing, while it doesn't take that long to make it useful, the world-class player is not the same as the good-enough-to-get-by player.

I won't live long enough to get there, but I'd rather shoot for world-class than not. 

All of which is to say, that there was a new toy with which to play at the most recent class. Not a major, omigawd! movement, just a little adjustment–and if I say it had to do with the basics, that's not much help, but that's what it was–that makes a noticeable difference.

Was what we were doing before wrong? No, it worked just fine. 20/20 vision, you don't need glasses.

20/10?  You can see better. 

Simple thing. But not necessarily easy. There'll be some adjustments in how we do things, and in the short run, that will require thinking about it. After a time, once it is dialed in? It will be better. 

One of the things about being in this art for a while is that I can see that, and could feel it right away. 

And we just keeeep on truckin' ...