Dance of Silat — Martial Arts Hidden in Plain Sight

Dance of Silat — Martial Arts Hidden in Plain Sight

Dance-like movements can conceal martial art applications. And, dance can become a mnemonic learning system.  This is in the dance of Silat.

Martial Arts Hidden in Plain Sight

Sacred drumming and dancing are at the core of many ancient traditions.  Some cultures took considerable time investigating how to use movement and sound.  The results are effective mnemonic learning and communication device.  Here dance-like movements communicate martial arts while hidden to the untrained eye.  What can you learn by using this strategy?

Dance of Silat

Today, we know that movement combined with music is a very efficient way to learn large amounts of complex kinesthetic knowledge. Drumming and dance are mnemonic learning devices that can control the nervous system.  The ability to control the nervous system in a combat situation is an asset. How and why would you do that?

Controlling the Nervous Systems

When something is threatening our physical safety, the Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system normally takes charge. This is a default setting of the nervous system. After all, the sympathetic system activates the “fight, flight or freeze” response of our primitive monkey brain. The SN system increases blood flow to muscles by shutting down blood flow to the skin and intestines.

Martial Arts Master Guru Syofyan Nadar Pencak Silat

Unfortunately, the brain responds to the increased adrenalin and a host of other powerful enzymes by shutting off the higher thinking centers of the brain.  That’s the problem. With the SN in control, you might be stronger and able to move quickly, but it’s reactionary.

Thus, with SN your in control, you experience a loss of higher thinking power needed to assess the rapidly changing combat situation.  You are literally under the influence of the primitive mind centers.  This is also the source of the emotions of fear and anger.  However, in a combat situation, you need to move on time.  This requires the higher-thinking center to process the rapidly changing situation.  These higher thinking powers are the domain of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Therefore, martial artists train to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and override the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system.   This may seem counterintuitive.  However, it is the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic you want to dominate in this life-threating situation.  With the Parasympathetic in charge, you can “move on time” and in the “right way.”  This is how you defeat your attacker.  Strength and speed are assets of the body, but the mind can defeat these.

“Speed is bull____.  Timing is everything.”  ― Guru Tua

The Keys to The Dance

The key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system is the eyes.  They say it; the eyes are the windows to the Soul.  In this case, the eyes are the window to the nervous system.  This requires training to maintain constant peripheral vision.  This isn’t an easy task during combat.

Martial Arts Hidden in Plain Sight

We are overriding the emotional responses of fear or anger.  When something is threatening your physical safety, the default setting wants to come online.  Therefore, the biggest battle is always with the Self.  If you can overcome these default settings of fear and anger in a combat situation, then you have vastly more control in several other areas of your life.

The application of peripheral vision along with proper body alignment allows you to move on time in the right way.  Internalized rhythm and melody, along with peripheral vision, enable the practitioner to move on time.

The internalized rhythm and music “mutes” the active mind.  Together, these training methods ensure the fluid movement and application of the learned application of movement. Being able to control fear and anger in a combative confrontation is an essential advantage.  In this sense, physical confrontation is not just combat.  It also becomes the unfolding of the rhythms of the sacred dance.

Observing The Practice of Silat

The dance of Silat doesn’t look like other martial arts.  Silat does not look like other martial arts forms. The art contains jerky and fluid circular movements with changes in direction, unusual cadence and tempos.  The experienced practitioner will have an unblinking stare.  You hear them slapping and using guttural sounds.  These are all part of the techniques within the dance. They practice and “fight” with their dance.

Combat is not the goal of the dance. This tradition also incorporates natural healing techniques.  Pejut is the healing art which is probably the predecessor to Reiki and Shiatsu.  Pejut incorporates both the energy gained from practicing the dance (like Reiki) along with the message element (Shiatsu).

Learning Silat

Silat comes in many forms depending on several factors.  This includes the region in which they were first developed, the body type of the practitioner, and there are traditions developed by family lineage.

They combine some forms with Chinese concepts.  The teachers of these traditions are very protective of their methods.   And, for good reasons.  You don’t want to teach someone who is a bully to be better at bulling.

A good teacher will have a vetting process to determine if someone is ready to learn these powerful techniques.  A bad student not only harms the reputation of the teacher, they also place them in legal jeopardy.  Our teacher is fond of saying:

“Never teach a monkey to use a hand-grenade. You never know they will do with it.” ― Guru Tua

These practices are a part of what we would call advanced spiritual technologies.  Advanced because they combine several elements, which takes time and dedication to learn.  The goal is to engage the mind and body while minimizing the natural fear response.   So, if a good teacher tells you, that you aren’t ready to take their advice.  Find out the path you need to take to be ready to learn.


The Indonesian archipelago is a good example of how these elements come together. The dance of Silat becomes the mnemonic pegboard for martial art applications. The rhythm and choreographed movement become mnemonic learning devices.

The cultural aspect of the dance enables the practice of martial arts hidden in plain sight.  This helped to preserve Silat and Kun Tau.  Indonesia has a history of occupation by the Dutch from the 1800s.  Then the Japanese during World War II.  During these times, people could not keep weapons or practice martial arts.  However, they performed their dances for the occupiers.  Thus, able to continue the linage of their martial arts, hidden in plain sight.

We include this powerful spiritual technology in the curriculum of our blended learning process.  But, as pointed out above, this is an advanced method.  These traditions are not a martial art,  they are equally important for conveying cultural heritage.

This is also a primary vehicle for generating energy to channel into the healing arts.  In fact, the healing arts are a part of Silat.  You will help heal those you train with and vice versa.   This requires you to feed your soul and build your spirit.  Deal with any emotional or personality issues first.  You’ll need a solid base of grounding and centering gained through progressions of seated and moving meditation.

In Conclusion

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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia

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