Some General Information about Pencak Silat
Pencak Silat is a martial art originating from Indonesia. There are more than 13,000 islands, 360 spoken languages and a population of approximately 200 million people in making up the Indonesia Archipelago.

With over 1.800 different styles of Pencak Silat throughtout the islands of Indonesia, you can imagine that no two styles of Pencak Silat look exactly alike. Each style depicts the area of origin and its' ethnic group with their own characteristics. On this page, I will focus on the Pencak Silat of West java.

WEST JAVA: The beautiful rice fields, tea plantations and rubber tree crops are the result the rich earth that is surrounded by volcanoes making West Java beautiful and colorful in the scenery, culture and the arts. The West Javanese people, otherwise know as the Sunda people, are easy going and happy.

The Term "Pencak Silat"

The word pencak is originally from Java and it refers to the martial arts of that area.  Penca, without the k is the original spelling of the Sunda language.  Pencak with the k , comes from Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia and refers to the movement or beauty of the martial arts.  The word Silat comes from the areas of Sumatra, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and others.   Silat refers to the actual fighting.

In West Java, the application of Pencak is called Maenpo which means to do Pencak.  In the past the word Maenpo was referred to when challenging people to a fight to the death.  Maen, the Sudanese spelling, literally means "to play".  The word Main is the Bahasa Indonesia spelling of the same word.   Po means "forget" so the translation of Maenpo is "forget to play".  This terminology is rarely used today.    In Indonesia, Pencak Silat was originally taught as a secretive art to the family and to members of the village.  Now there is a modern version of Pencak Silat which caters to the public.  It is taught in the school systems starting in elementary schools and continuing throughout the colleges and universities.

In West Java during the 1940's through the 1970's you could see Pencak Silat routinely performed in village ceremonies.  It was most commonly seen at weddings, celebrations of the rice harvest and circumcisions.  It was especially important to perform Pencak Silat at circumcisions because it is believed when a boy is circumcised he changes from a boy to a man.  Pencak Silat was a reflection of his manhood and it also helped divert his concentration from the pain of the procedure.   This ceremony can still be found in some villages but it is rarely performed in the big cities.

The names of the Pencak Silat styles come from various sources such as the name of the village it originated from or the name of the founder or creator of the system.  Most villages in West Java start with "Ci"   Ci means pointing to a particular village or Chi which can mean water.  This is why many of the rivers start with Ci.

There are three major styles of Pencak Silat in West Java.   These are Cimande, Cikalong and Syahbandar.  There are other styles in West Java but I will discuss these three since they are the most widely practiced of the original Pencak Silat in West Java.  


Cimande is the name of a village, a river and a style of Pencak Silat in West Java.  Cimande has simple jurus and applications.  The Cimande style is found in three different villages Cimande Tarik Kolot, Cimande Tengah and Cimande Girang.  Tanah Sareal is the area where Bah Kahir , the founder, is buried.  Bah is a title that comes from Abah which means grandfather.  Eyang or Mama are also titles with the same meaning.  The founder is referred to by one of these titles, which title depends on the origin of the person speaking his name.  Each of the following terms is correct: Bah Kahir, Eyang Kahir or Mama Kahir.  Selup is a trademark movement of Cimande and anyone who studies this system will know this movement.  

Cimande has a reputation throughout Indonesia for healing bones.   They use a special oil called "balur" for the purpose of healing the bones.  Balur is often used after training to heal injuries incurred to the bones of the forearms.   Cimande is highly respected for both it's bone healing and it's Pencak Silat.  

A special ceremony called Kecer Mata is performed in the Cimande system to initiate members.  The leader of Cimande, Tarikkolot, prays during the ceremony as members are inducted.  During this time the initiates drop water that has been blessed into their eyes.  After this portion of the ceremony the new members are given a Talek (a set of by-laws to follow).  To my knowledge, until now only members knew of this ceremony and the by-laws. 


Cikalong is the name of a village and a style of Pencak Silat.   Cikalong Pencak Silat practitioners move quickly and lightly, their methods are very effective in evading and taking down the enemy.  This system is not related to any animal style. 


This style is named for it's founder, Mama Syahbandar.  I believe he is originally from Sumatra but he traveled to West Java, studied Pencak Silat there and then remained in West Java to teach.