The music of the Indonesia Gamelan conceals powerful martial art applications. The dance of silat is a mnemonic learning system.
Martial Arts Hidden in Plain Sight
Sacred drumming and dancing are at the core of many ancient traditions. Some cultures invested considerable time learning how to use movement and sound. Indonesian martial arts systems use these tools as mnemonic learning devices.
Combining music with specific movements and ocular control produces the ideal mental state to engage the mind’s power. Here dance-like actions communicate martial arts while hidden to the untrained eye. In this way, they practice martial arts hidden in plain sight. What can you learn by using this strategy?
Dance of Silat
Today, we know that movement combined with music is an efficient way to learn sizeable amounts of intricate 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
The Sympathetic Nervous (SN) system automatically takes charge when threatened. The sympathetic system is part of our monkey brain. It activates our “fight, flight, or freeze” response. The SN system injects adrenaline and increases blood flow to muscles by shutting down blood flow to the skin and intestines. It enables quick reactions without thinking.
The brain responds to the increased adrenalin and a host of other powerful enzymes by shutting off the brain’s higher thinking centers. That’s the problem. With the SN in control, you might be faster, but it’s reactionary.
Thus, with SN 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. It is also the source of the emotions of fear and anger. In a combat situation, emotions get in the way of making the best decisions. It requires moving in the right way, at the right time. This kind of precision requires the higher-thinking center of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Silat practitioners train to engage the parasympathetic nervous system to override the sympathetic nervous system’s automatic engagement. This strategy may seem counterintuitive. However, in a physical conflict, we want to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which employs the brain’s higher thinking centers. With the Parasympathetic nervous system in charge, you can “move on time” and in the “right way.” It’s how to defeat a larger, stronger, and faster attacker. Strength and speed are assets of the body, but the mind can beat these.
“Speed is bull____. Timing is everything.” ― Guru Tua
The Eyes Are The Key
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 key to controlling the nervous system. Training to maintain constant peripheral vision is the key.
We must learn to use mental and physical techniques to override our fear or anger. SN wants to dominate, and we must learn to control it. Thus, the biggest battle is always with the Self. You’ll need to learn how to manage fear and anger. It is essential in a combat situation. And it works in other areas of your life as well.
The application of peripheral vision and proper body alignment enables you to move on time and in the right way. Internalized rhythm and melody and peripheral vision allow the practitioner to move on time. The internalized rhythm and music “mutes” the active mind.
When these elements are combined, it ensures fluid thinking and movement. Now one can apply dance as a martial art. Managing fear and anger in a combative confrontation is an essential advantage. In this sense, a physical fight is not combat but a dance. It also becomes the unfolding of the rhythms of the sacred dance. Thus, enabling the practice of martial arts hidden in plain sight.
Observing The Practice of Silat
The dance of Silat doesn’t look like other martial arts. Silat does not look like other commercial martial arts forms. It does not follow a consistent type of movement, which is intentional. Many silat movements look jerky and contain changes in direction. They also include circular, straight-line actions with unusual cadence and tempos.
The one constant of the experienced practitioner is an unblinking stare. You hear them practice their art, slapping their arms, body, and legs while using guttural sounds. Many say the movement while executing the Juru. These are all part of the techniques within the dance. They practice and “fight” with their dance.
Combat is not the only goal of the dance. This tradition also incorporates natural healing techniques. Pejut is the healing art, is the predecessor of Reiki and Shiatsu. Pejut contains the energy gained from practicing the dance. It is a healing art similar to Reiki, but it also has the message elements like Shiatsu.
Silat comes in many forms and brands. Each region has its flavor—each teacher ar unique background. The body type of student is also a factor. The teacher’s experience is the most crucial factor in choosing the right way to train the student.
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 a bully to be better at bullying.
An excellent teacher will have a vetting process to determine if someone is ready to learn these powerful techniques. A poor student not only harms the reputation of the teacher but also places them in legal jeopardy. Our teacher is fond of saying:
“Never teach a monkey to use a hand-grenade. You never know what 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. 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 prepared to learn.
The Indonesian archipelago is an outstanding 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 dance’s cultural aspect enables the practice of martial arts hidden in plain sight. This strategy 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.
We include this powerful spiritual technology in our blended learning process curriculum. But, as pointed out above, this is an advanced method. These traditions are a part of the silat system, which is equally crucial for conveying cultural heritage.
The practice of silat is a primary vehicle for generating energy to channel into the healing arts. The healing arts are a necessary part of Silat. You will help heal those you train with and vice versa. It 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.
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(1) Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia