Monday, November 11, 2013

The King is Dead ...

Long live the King!

This is the traditional announcement on the death of the king, and refers to two kings–the one who has just passed, and the one who replaces him.

Sometimes the replacement is a tad on the iffy side …

Most of the visitors here are students of Maha Guru Stevan Plinck, and there are a couple of things I think you should know, if you don't already. Some of you have heard this before, but some have not.

When Pendekar Paul passed away, I spoke to it, briefly, knowing there would be a scramble by some of his students to see who became, in effect, the new lineage holder. There is a Board that supposedly shares the duties of continuing the system, and certificates and letters and whatnot have blossomed all over Facebook indicating who they are and how they stand in the pantheon of Bukti and Sera(k), and why they have the right to run the show. I'm not arguing with that.

Silat folks have joined one faction or the other and as these things go, things will eventually sort themselves out and a de facto leader will likely emerge at some point and claim that he is the "real" lineage holder. 

Understand, here, my teacher doesn't want the lineage, and is perfectly happy to go on teaching as he has been doing for decades. However, I want to set some things straight. 

So ...

For those of you who don't know, Bukti Negara was originally created so that Paul could teach westerners, because Sera(k) was a closed system; he said his teacher told him he had to limit it to family, or friends who were dedicated students.

(And if you think this art sprang full-blown into the Pendekar's head complete and all of a piece? You need to rethink that. Paul was aided by his then-senior students in devising the techniques of Bukti. Nobody really talks about that, but it's true.)

When I started training in Bukti eighteen years ago, Maha Guru Stevan Plinck was a senior Sera(k) student/teacher and one of the senior-most Bukti teachers. How it worked was, if a student who was diligent in his practice of Bukti and who learned the abbreviated curriculum entirely wanted to continue on, he (and even she) would be allowed to begin training in the parent art of Sera(k). The Pendekar didn't have any women students in Sera(k), but there were Bukti gurus who were female.

And from here on, I'm dropping the (k) because isn't what we do.

Bukti was then essentially a filter. It was fine in and of itself, but there was another whole system that was richer on the other side of that door and if you stuck with it, you could be invited through that door.

At the time I joined, Guru Plinck had only three or four students who had become Bukti gurus and were beginning to learn Sera, and those did so with Paul's approval. This is what Paul wanted, and this is what Guru Plinck did.

Somewhere along the way, the "Board" decided that Bukti teachers needed to come to SoCal every couple of years to be recertified. Since this involved paying a fee, that added a certain amount of income for those involved. Read: Paul.

Guru Plinck was asked, a couple of years after I started training, to teach a seminar back in the midwest somewhere, I recall it as being in Ohio or Indiana, but I haven't looked at that recently, so I might be off. 

The Bukti Board got wind of this and gave the seminar organizers a call:

We hear that you are having Guru Plinck come out to teach.

Yes, so?

Well, we can't vouch for his abilities because he hasn't come back for recertification in a while.

Oh, really?

So the seminar organizer passed this on to Guru Plinck, who was somewhat disturbed at the notion that he wasn't considered "qualified" to teach an art he had helped create, and that he needed to go test before a group of teachers, some of whom he had taught? 

So he called Paul and asked him, what's the deal here?

And Paul essentially said, Hey, it's the Board, I have nothing to do with it.

And washed his hands of the matter.

Loyalty is a sword that cuts both ways.

Guru Plinck had been a dedicated student, an obedient teacher, who did as Paul told him. He waited until Paul had put out his own Bukti videos before he did one. And for his loyalty, he was rewarded by a shrug. Can't help you, it's the Board. 

Which Board, of course, did exactly what Paul told it to do. And most of the members of it–if not all of them–today aren't the ones who were on it originally.

One thing that happened frequently if you were a de Thouars senior was that you were apt to fall from favor and get booted out or get which was the wind was blowing and leave on your own. Count the numbers of announced lineage holders who held that designation briefly before going away. 

Guru Plinck was more than a little disturbed by Paul's lack of support. At our class the next day, he stood in front of us and told us what had happened, then said, Well, I'm no longer certified to teach Bukti Negara, so I'm just going to teach no-name silat. If that is a problem for anybody … ?

Nope, no, no problem, Guru! I was on Bukti Djuru #6, as I recall, and probably a year away from being a Bukti guru, but that was fine with me, because what I knew of Sera, little as it was, was that it was a much richer art, more flowing and flexible, and where I wanted to go anyhow. From that point on, I stopped doing any of the Bukti forms, never looked back.

Bukti has evolved, so it doesn't look like it did when I was training it; in that day, there were no weapons-work, and the stances in the eight djurus were high and stiff. The joke was, it had been created for cripples, old people, and Americans. 

Over the years since, Guru Plinck has continued to evolve his own training and teaching, has reached back and retro-engineered stances and moves based on the old-style of teachers who pre-dated the current seniors, and while what we do now bears a resemblance to what other branches of Sera(k) do, it's not the same. I call it Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck, and that's how I see it.

Better? Worse? Well, I know what I believe, but I won't make any claims save that I am thrilled to be in the presence of a world-class teacher who cares more about the art than the politics of it, and behaves accordingly. 

If you are a student of Maha Guru Stevan Plinck, you should be thrilled to have that opportunity, too.