Friday, October 21, 2011

Pusaka - New Djuru

Pusaka is a Sanskrit word; it means, "heirloom," or "treasure." In silat, you sometimes see this term applied to mean that the art is thus immutable–the moves are treasures, and supposed to be passed down without any changes. 

In this view, if the founder of the art did it a certain way a hundred and fifty years ago, then you are supposed to do it exactly the same way today. Exactly.

This is pretty much impossible no matter how hard you might try. Each student, each teacher, will internalize a move and adjust it to suit his or her physiology and psychology. If you don't think so, watch a group class practicing the djurus. No two of them will look exactly alike.

Nor should they. Martial art forms are not synchronized swimming, nor ice dancing. Adjusting an art to suit your physical characteristics is necessary to keep it alive. A five-foot tall hundred woman won't move the same way as a six-and-a-half foot tall, two-hundred-and-fifty pound man will, and it would be unrealistic to expect that they would.  

One size does not fit all.

So there is going to be a certain amount of drift over time, even if your intent is to keep it the same.

Ever ask a senior student to show you a move, then later have the teacher correct it? Every martial artist I have ever talked to about this has had this experience. We aren't cutting cookies here, we are not clones. We don't all look alike, nor do we move alike. The essence can be the same, but the fine details will sometimes differ. 

Then there are going to be those changes that are deliberate. 

I've spoken to this before. In our Djuru One (as taught by Maha Guru Plinck), his teacher's teacher began it with a lowline move, because in the old country, attacks to the body were more common. (Hit somebody in the face or head, you risk a tooth ripping open your knuckles or maybe breaking your hand, neither of which are good things in a place where the nearest medical help might be a long way off. The human mouth is full of germs; the human skull is harder than a finger bone. It is harder to support your family if you are dying from blood poisoning or your hand is busted.)

Guru's teacher moved to America where, he realized, that American fighters were headhunters, so he adjusted the first move to cover that line instead.

Guru Plinck looked at the form and decided that both moves were valid, so he does them both–you cover highline, and then lowline. That's how our branch of the art does it.

He explained how he came to this choice, and who did it which way before, and that has always been part of the teaching as long as I have been involved, coming sixteen years next month. 

(As a watermark, you can tell which branch of Sera a student is from by watching the first move of the first djuru–we do it this way; they do it that way.)

So. All if this is to say that if you are a student of Maha Guru Plinck, you will, if you haven't already, be seeing some changes in the way we do djurus. 

Don't panic. We aren't throwing anything away. The basic motions will be mostly the same. Punches, elbows, wipes, all like that; however, there will be adjustments in the stances and angles and the focus. 

Guru has studied this for a long time, and he's come to the conclusion that there is a better, more effective way, and next time you see him to train, you'll likely be exposed to it.

This is in line with the immediately previous post, talking about a teacher's personal evolution. If you see a better path, why wouldn't you consider taking it?

This isn't the first adjustment. Several years back, Guru incorporated more of a pukulan aspect to the djurus, smoothing out the wipes and highlighting the hip-driven whip-action to add power to the moves. The new focus will augment that even more, incorporating what he sees as beneficial tweaks. The old way isn't wrong, it's that the new way adds something to it. 

If, as I have, you've been doing the djurus for a long time, this refocus is going to require some getting used to. Motions with a deep groove need a conscious, mindful intent to alter. If you have done it one way for ten thousand times, then doing it a different way won't come easy. 

I can already feel the differences in the delivery, but it will take a while to be comfortable doing the new version. 

Just a heads-up for those of you who are in our branch. Stay tuned.


  1. Cool, looking forward to seeing changes, are there still eighteen djurus or ahve they been shaved?



  2. Hmm, are Americans headhunters because medical help is more readily available here?

  3. Nah, it's cultural. Prize-fighting, boxing, movies, all feature socks to the jaw, punches to the nose. We grew up with those tropes. Plus we weren't big on knives.