Silat - A beautiful art performed by dancing warriors
Each time I enter the room I become lost in the traditional Javanese music and learn to gain the confidence to move my body in ways that I never thought possible.
This traditional style has the ability to help me utilise my natural reflexes and bring out my inner self to help me feel at peace – not only in the moment but in my life.
I feel that silat is very unique and helps to build the humble, moral and righteous characters of ones self.
Silat has taught me a different way of thinking, not only are we learning about the precision of movement but it also creates a path to spiritual enlightenment and moral education.
I believe that silat came into my life for a reason and it is something that I will never let go of. Since learning Silat I feel confident, I feel that I am learning to use and trust my senses.
This art should never be lost because it does possess something special that I was fortunate enough to find in my life time
I moved to Australia to find a new life after our parents separated, my mother remarried and we decided to start a new life here in Oz. sometime in 1998 I heard from an old school friend of mine about the Dharma Nusantara group, and we both entered with enthusiasm in finding this ‘martial art’ that comes from our birthplace. Personally I was doing a bit of soul searching in the tender age of 16 in a new world, who am I? What is my function in this new society? Etc. Nevertheless studying the art that was both foreign and familiar helped guided me through those searching times.
Through my involvement with the Dharma Nusantara group I experienced a growth within myself as an Indo-Australian. My curiosity for the culture that I came from helped me in my study of art and design; some of my written work and artworks are heavily influenced by the knowledge obtained within sharing in the group itself. I am grateful for the extended family that I found here both Indo and Australian (from whatever background) their friendship and guidance has helped me in accepting my unique identity.
The physical aspect of the training for me still is a shadow of the mental aspect of our existence, how can you dance in if you are in fear? How can you make peace through war? It takes a humble mind, a peaceful heart, and a willing person to begin to open the door. There is art (freedom, expression, chaos, beauty) in martial (rigidity, structure, composition, logic etc), and visa versa. And it can only be taught by the one master that is manifested within us, the question is whether you believe you can open the door for them.
There has been so many experiences that had been guiding my development from public performances to public speaking, from learning old legends to writing an essay on writing systems between east and west, from learning about traditional music to performing traditional music and sharing it. All of those wonderful things has always been within me, it’s just needed the right place, the right time, and the right person.
In both of my line of work now as a chef and a designer at the same time I managed to apply the principles that I picked up along the way from chaos management in a guerrilla kitchen to my own take on postmodernism in my design. This is a universal art form that has existed long before we can say war and peace, and I believe that it is meant for the war that rages within us and not to unleash it to our fellow human beings. In harmony there is growth, learning, and support, in unity and diversity life will flourish.
My name is Donald McCulloch, in 2003 my friends asked me to come along to some martial art classes.
At first I thought nothing of it, at that present time I was working at a paint store in Melbourne saving money up to go on trip to Denmark to become a qualified horse trainer. However one day I thought why not? It couldn’t hurt to learn how to defend myself, so I told my friends I would come along.
We went to the Indonesian consulate for our first class, It was very overwhelming at first, until we began to join in and discover what was happening – what looked easy, suddenly became very difficult. At the end of the first session we sat in a circle and discussed about perception and things. This point I knew that I had meant to come here, I came looking to learn how to kick people ass if they attack me, and left humbled knowing that I was not alone in what i thought or with the struggle of my busy mind, and that there were ways to overcome problems with solutions.
I began to listen to the explanation of male and female the yin yang. At this time in my life I thought that one day thing will be better, that the problem in my mind will go away. I was later to learn that peace of mind is not a destination yet a means of travel.
For me personally, it only took me that first session before I wanted to learn more, I began practising at home and at work – when no one was around. I began to learn how to let myself teach and show me what I could do, working on building a foundation letting myself move and letting go of perception in my mind and allowing all that is natural flow through in movement.
Through all the talk and movement, it just made sense to me, like things just clicked – I was scared to speak because I thought people would think I was crazy, so sometimes I just didn’t. But discovering that well I am most probably crazy, but to whose standards? It taught me how to listen to myself and trust in who I am. For me this became a means of travel, the destination wasn’t so worrying anymore.
It helped me in my work, I later moved to Denmark where I spent two and a half years learning to become a horse trainer, which was to be a 6 year coarse. What I learnt in the time until I left was already a part of me so to speak, I developed on what I had learnt best I was able, and just built and built. Pencak Silat is beautiful for me because it doesn’t matter where you are, you don’t need a gym nothing like that – it just natural.
I came back to Australia, I quit my trainer course in Denmark due to family problems; and was excited just to come back to the dharma nusantara group, before seeing all my friends or anything like that. It was my first calling point after my jet lag.
Through this time I learnt and discover thing that I believe save my life. Through a lot of external issues going on, and the many very deep internal issues I was experiencing. I look for many ways to fix them some good some bad, yet I was given a chance of a lifetime to work with the dharma nusantara group in a teaching workshop.
What I learnt in this time change my life, all these thing going on in my life the confusion in the time suddenly seemed very insignificant, to what I believe, I began to see more of a bigger picture, problems became blockages that just needed to be un blocked or cleaned. Through becoming part of dharma nusantara, I began to learn how to clean my body, mind and begin to feed the soul. A foundation on sand did not work for me, so I began in a place that better, which I was showed through the dharma nusantara group.
I later moved back to Denmark when thing was better with my family, where I am now to present, working with a very similar thing I was doing before I left. Yet now issues still come and go, problems come and dissolve, things get tough and confusing. But to me now that is just what they are, I learnt how to let it all flow through and out. I learn how to clean my house! And maintain it through daily life and way of living. Learning this make me want to share more to help others and to unite people, now life for me like a school.
Not only did i learn a new perspective on the life but a new way to live. No word can be enough, but I am 22 now and just feel forever grateful that there are groups like this who share to help and unite people, and I believe in this because I could not imagine myself here without it.
If you want
When i first began learning silat and was practicing a new movement, i recall often asking
"Is this the right way?".
Without fail the answer would come back to me:
"If you want"
At first i wasn't sure I understood this answer. Now I don’t really understand the question. The silat dance is a means of expression.
Watch the subtle differences between two people performing the same langkah, or even the same person on different days.
The external movement is coloured by the players internal mind movements.
It seems to me to be not so much that we practice to perform set movements to perfection; as much as we practice to perfect that which drives the movements so that this spontaneous movement performed without conscious direction of thought, but rather as an expression of ourselves, is able to grow and be fully realised.
Over the years I have had the privilege of training with many of my silat brothers and sisters. Learning and teaching in turn.
The performances added a new dimension to the training, learning to be in the moment and let it flow in front of a crowd was something completely new to me at the time. This has helped me on occasions since then where I have been called upon to address groups of people, notably when giving a speech at my brothers wedding.
Assisting Mas Ronnie with numerous workshops throughout Victoria and Darwin, teaching primary and secondary school students about silat has been a very rewarding experience and great fun.
Dharma Nusantara pencak silat is a not about learning to fight, it's about learning how not to fight.
(I know that sounds a bit 'karate kid', but hey- that Mr. Miyagi was cool!)
The external struggle is actually an internal struggle with your self.
Learn to accept and understand.
To receive and to give.
Learn how to trust in your actions.
To hold on and to let go.
Respect others and respect yourself
Most of all: Have fun- Otherwise what’s the point?
"I grew up with knowledge of this martial art since i was a child. After all, my Papachi relatively runs it. However, I never really participated because I was never quite sure how.
I observed as I grew older. They way it changed people and how vital it seemed to be. I saw how it brought people together, how it transformed the most lost of souls with an intense passion I thought I'd never see outside of a story and I whether instinct or circumstance, it made me realise that I wanted to transform too. So I started, mere months before my father was to leave for Singapore, with my little sister.
At first I questioned, whether or not this was for me. I'm the type to analyse things as i move and assess. I never seem to be able to stop thinking. Though, I guess at first glance, most people probably don't realise that. I'm also quite strong and I'm always fretful that i'll hurt someone if i don't restrain my strength.
However...when I was sparring during training at the consulate with one of the guys and we were moving so quickly i didn't have time to think and soon we were finished. I suddenly realised that during that time I had been moving on instinct and that for once in my life...my mind had become still.
You see. For me this martial art isn't just dancing, speed, mediation, transformation, defence or even attack.
It's a release.
One i never realised i so desperately needed until I started."
Pencak silat has opened up many parts of my life that might have lain dormant otherwise. When I first started silat it was just after the passing of my father. When I was 17. This was the beginning of a very turbulent few years in my life. It was a very physiologically taxing time in my life as slowly family connections seemed to deteriorate as the anchor in the house hold was no longer there. In the following years I learned from silat how to better cope with the changing nature of the world. How to better deal with relationships and most importantly how to deal with myself. Silat was a very fun activity for me as it was full of action. I would come once a week and after I would feel very refreshed. This one point on its own was enough to make me come week after week all the way from Geelong (85 km from Melbourne). In time once a week became every day and now I couldn’t live another way. In silat I found what is correct for me. Some of the biggest lessons I learned from silat are to open one’s mind to the possibilities, to understand and practice self control, meditation and focus. The fighting aspect may have been why I started but it is in no way the most important aspect or most useful life skill within silat. This journey of silat I have started will be a life long journey for me.
Silat – “moving towards the cause”
As I write, the wind howls outside my house, nothing in the world is still, depending on where you are moving to, it either helps or hinders you. My house is strong, set well in the ground, but it is an illusion, what defines it, is its space, its content, its purpose. It will one day be gone, it’s not a thing that lasts, but in the present, it is eternal. I have had many houses, each one different, but all perfect for my needs, for this I am eternally grateful.
I was born in the hills surrounding Melbourne, traditionally owed by the Wurundjeri people, part of the Kulin Nation. My up bringing, being very transient, was a life of constant movement. That said, I have always lived, as I found out in later life, in the area that my family have lived since migrating here five generations ago from Cornwall, Ireland and France. The greater part of my life has been in the hills and plains that surround Melbourne’s north, a place I feel very connected to.
My first exposure to Indonesian culture was in a country town called Kyneton, in Central Victoria. A friend of mine’s father is Indonesian, he was also a teacher of mine in high school. Yanti, his daughter, became a sister to me, and through contact with her family, introduced me to Indonesian culture; predominately food, philosophy and art.
My second contact came whilst working in a pub in St Kilda. After work one night, I sat talking to a friend discussing martial arts. I expressed that I was keen to get back into martial arts; I had trained as a teenager in Tae Kwon Do, but was reluctant, due to my increasing dislike of egoist, competitive and aggressive behaviour associated with the martial arts that I had come to know. At that point my life took another turn; he invited me to the Indonesian Consulate to experience Pencak Silat as taught by the Dharmanusantara group, which he had been training with. He did caution me saying, “I needed to come with an open mind as it is very different from the martial arts I had come to know”. I also saw it as an opportunity to learn more of Yanti’s Fathers family culture, a family that had been very kind to me, so I accepted.
It has been 11 years since I first experienced Silat. It has guided me through life, giving me the perspective and strength to keep moving, to keep growing and exploring my life opportunities. That said, I have not been a consistent participant until recently. Silat has been very confronting for me. Due to my constant moving as a child, I had come to believe that happiness was to be found in stability and in some place. Each time life changed, or more importantly, I felt change coming. I would oppose it, resist it, move heaven and earth to keep change from my life. As you can imagine, this caused me no end of grief. It wasn’t until the end of my long term relationship, that I realised that life is surrender, that life is movement/change, that a huge blockage in my life, this misconception, was dissolved. Silat constantly showed me what I resisted…..life is not static, it is a dance. How you dance, that’s up to you.
Through Silat I have gained a greater appreciation of the constant gifts that life has presented to me. I have met amazing people, who, upon first meeting me, considered me family. These people, whom I have shared my Silat, have been a constant source of inspiration. To all my brothers and sisters, terima kasih, let’s not make it too long between drinks.
Silat, as I experience it at present, is “movement towards the cause”, knowing we are the macro and the micro, Buana Agung dan Buana Alit, that we are exactly where we need to be, to be truly present, is a gift to be shared. But it is also a ‘duty of care’, it is the work of dharma. As they say in my part of the world “see you around the traps”.