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 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 power of the mind.   Here dance-like movements 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 a very efficient way to learn sizeable amounts of complex 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 we are threatened. 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

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.

This is why Silat practitioners train to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. They want to override the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system.   This may seem counterintuitive.  But, it is the parasympathetic nervous system that engages the higher thinking centers of the brain. With the Parasympathetic nervous system 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 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 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 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 must learn to control fear and anger. This is essential in a combat situation. And it works in other areas of your life as well.

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. 

When these elements are combined it ensures fluid thinking and movement. Now one can apply the dance as a martial art. Being able to control fear and anger in a combative confrontation is an essential advantage.  In this sense, a physical confrontation 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 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 the energy gained from practicing the dance. This is a healing art similar to Reiki, but it also has the message elements like Shiatsu.

Learning Silat

Silat comes in many forms depending on several factors.  Each region has its own brand. Each teacher his own unique background. The body type of practitioner is also a factor. The experience of the teacher is the most important factor.

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.

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 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 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 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.

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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