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What is Silat?

Silat: A counter-offensive martial art

Silat is an umbrella term for the hundreds of martial arts styles originating from the Malay archipelago – a geographic region that includes southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines. 

The martial traditions of this region were forged over a period of more than a millennium – evidence of this are the depictions of warfare and warrior arts in the stone carvings at the 8th century Borobudur temple in Java. Centuries of warfare between rival empires, piracy and incursions from foreign powers allowed for the testing and sharpening of the martial arts that are today known as silat.

Silat Gayong – a counter-offensive martial art

The styles of silat that we have today are as diverse as the peoples that inhabit this part of the world, drawing on the different cultural expressions of the different ethnic groups of Nusantara, as well as the region’s varying terrain. Some styles draw upon the movement of animals, while others are inspired by the wind or lightening; some seek to reflect sacred symbols while others place an emphasis on moving in a way that is distinctly human. 

While the different styles contrast expression and emphasis, it can be broadly said that silat is a bladed art which employs a broad range of traditional weaponry, including traditional farming tools like the parang (machete) to purpose-build weapons of war like the wavy-bladed keris.

The empty hand forms of silat naturally prepare the student for handling and countering extended weapons like knives, staffs, daggers, staffs, swords and flexible weapons.

The Silat Gayong philosophy is that it is a counter-offensive martial art, where attacks are responded to with a devastating coounter attack/

Silat Gayong

Silat Seni Gayong is a martial art that was brought by Bugis warriors to the Malay peninsula. There, it was developed, sharpened and flavoured with the customs and traditions of the Malay people. In many respects, the martial art is itself an expression of Malay culture, which can be seen in both its ceremony and combat application.

The original name for Silat Gayong was Silat Sendi Harimau, or ‘tiger joint silat’. The name reflects the system’s emphasis on locking and breaking of the joints.

Mahaguru Dato’ Meor Abdul Rahman [Front, left] woth some early students of Silat Gayong

Students of Silat Gayong undergo an athletic transformation that develops strength, agility, flexibility and precision while learning the various combat techniques of the system. Beginning with empty hand combat, the Silat Gayong student then progresses to using and countering extended weapons.

While encompassing all aspects of combat, including ground work and weapons, Silat Gayong also emphasises the spiritual aspect of learning one’s self through your martial arts journey.

As an organisation, Silat Seni Gayong was Malaysia’s first officially registed silat group, founded by Dato’ Mahaguru Meor Abdul Rahman in 1963. Today, it remains one of the country’s most popular styles.

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