Weapons of Silat – Tools for the Old Malayan Art

A wide number of martial arts weapons is available for practicing the craft. One good example is the art of Silat which consists of a plethora of unique and interesting weapons.

Silat is a collective term for a set of native martial arts from Southeast Asia. It’s specific to the Indonesian archipelago, yet is also practiced in other countries. These Southeast Asian areas include Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and more.

Training with Weapons, was it Really Important?

Before the appearance of firearms, training with weapons was already considered valuable. This was in comparison to unarmed methods. Today, masters consider training as incomplete if students haven’t trained in weapon use.

Generally, every student should reach a level of skill before training with a weapon. Based on tradition, the tools presented are often made by the master. This action signifies the start of weapons training.

Silat utilizes the standards of employing the same methods – both unarmed and armed. However, it is not to the same extent in Filipino martial arts. Compared to Eskrima, Silat does not focus on armed combat. Here, practitioners can opt to do battle, empty-handed.

For advanced practitioners, they can train unarmed while fighting against armed competitors. Among the tons of styles are a number of martial arts weapons. Some of the most common pieces used include the broadsword, staff, and a variety of knives. But for Silat, it has its own collection of tools for practice.

Here is a list of these specific martial arts weapons.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Malay Keris – A Dagger or Sword?

The Keris or Kris is a martial arts weapons used for Silat that features a distinct and attractive look. It is generally a dagger featuring a handle fixed at an angle to the blade. It has a type of pistol-like grip to allow the wielder to execute a thrusting attack.

This blade is also an asymmetrical dagger featuring a unique blade pattern. This is something acquired through altering laminations of nickel and iron.

The Kris is a strong association with the Indonesian culture and is famous for its unique, wavy blade. Yet there are other Kris’ with straight blades too. It is also known as a symbol of ethnic pride and power for most of the community making up the Malay Archipelago.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What is the Sabit / Celurit?

The Celurit or Sabit is a sickle used for harvesting crops. It was often paired with other tools and is one of history’s renowned weapons used by commoners. Until now, it remains as the primary Silat weapon of advocates from Madura, East Java. Here, the weapon’s called the Arit.

When it comes to the Arit, it sports a variety of forms and is often longer than its counterparts in other areas in Java. It is quite challenging to defend against and is effective when used with a knife or dagger. It can be a tool used on its own as well.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Badik

There are three parts to this martial arts weapon: the blade, its handle, and the scabbard. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes; plus, it can have a straight, curved, or wavy blade. Aside from these, the Badik has a blade that can either be single or double-edged.

More on its blade, it can be smooth or featured with hollow sections, while its tip can be either rounded or pointed. Like the Kris, its blade’s shape is asymmetrical and displays typical pamor patterns. This is pattern welded steel is more known as Damascus steel.

Although they have similarities, it is still different from Kris in certain ways. The Badik doesn’t come with a Ganja or buffer-strip steel. Other versions of it, like those from Sulawesi, are pieces designed with gold figures on its blade. These are designs called the Jeko.

A variety of materials are often used to craft the handle of the Badik. The common material used is wood, but ivory and horn are also possible. Its handle features a pistol grip that’s bent at a 45 to 90-degree angle.

From Sulawesi, this martial arts weapon soon spread to its neighboring islands. These include Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and it even reached the Malay Peninsula. In the Indonesian Archipelago alone, there are a ton of versions made and utilized.

Topang

The term “Topang” literally translates to “crutch”. Classic crutches in Southeast Asia featured a stick with a perpendicular handle linked to 1/3 of its length. As a weapon, it is a shorter version of crutches, but with the length of a forearm.

Traditional versions of the Topang are made from wood or bamboo. But today, steel is also suitable to construct this weapon. The Pancawangan Sakti is the most common form of Topang. It is made of bamboo and it features a blade measuring 5 inches from the inside of its shaft.

The Topang originates in northern Malaysia. Here, it’s one of the most commonly used martial arts weapons. There are also existing several versions of it. The earliest form of the Topang is believed to feature a slab of wood with a handle. When in use, it was attached to the wielder’s forearm using a rope.

Its current form is paired but previously, the weapon was used as a shield for defense. One could use it either with a sword or on its own. Segu, a type of the modern variant of the Topang, is completely metal. The type that law enforcement officers use is the Kayu-T which means T-stick.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Kerambit / Kuku Macan

The Kerambit is one of the weapons used for Silat. It features a curved narrow blade that looks similar to the claw of huge cats. In some dialects, its name is Kuku Macan which translates to “tiger claw”.

When using the Kerambit, the wielder inserts the one finger in the hole on the handle. This way, the blade curves from the fists’ bottom. This is suitable to use either as a single weapon or a pair.

The advantage of the Kerambit is that it’s difficult to disarm and its size is compact, making it easy to hide. These are the reasons why it’s one of the popular martial arts weapons. Also, the Kerambit was once a lady’s weapon since they could tie it into their hair.

Photo Credit: Flickr

The Blowpipe Sumpitan

The Sumpitan is a blowpipe that features a hollow bamboo tube. This is where poisonous darts or Damak go through. It’s one of the oldest weapons and the Proto-Malays wielded since the prehistoric period. They utilized the blade as a hunting tool and a killing weapon.

Aside from being blowpipe, it’s also a close-range weapon for Silat. It is a stick that often measures 1.8 meters long. It consists of two pieces of bamboo – one for the casing and the other is for the barrel.

In Malaysia, the Orang Asli are the expert users of the blowpipe. Other tribes like the Iban of Sarawak utilized hollow spears that could shoot arrows. This combined the features of hand-to-hand and projectile weapons.

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