Friday, October 24, 2008

Uncle Bill from the 14th Gathering August 2008

From the August 2008 Gathering I was unable to attend due to work obligations, Uncle does a short djuru then demonstrates a of couple of entry applications on Kris, an excellent practitioner of Uncle's and a good friend of mine. You can see the timing and angulation typical of basic kuntao silat when moving in directly to an attacker; note the footwork. Uncle does it just like breathing, without thought or effort-- just done.

Thank you Conrad for sharing this video on youtube.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Here is a video of one of Uncle's Seniors, Keith Moffet, demonstrating a couple of very basic entries on someone with some key points to remember while moving inside or outside the attacking line. Mostly the djuru applications are being shown, but toward the end some langkah is shown as well. This is a glimpse of a miniscule piece of Kuntao Silat de Thouars in application that occurs in a fraction of a second when in use.

Thank you to Conrad Bui, another of Uncle's Seniors who posted the clip on Youtube.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Djuru Satu, the Beginning or First Form

The first form taught in Kuntao Silat de Thouars is Djuru Satu. It's actually a djuru and langkah as it has upper body movements (djuru, old Dutch-Indonesian spelling which I prefer as that is what I learned; juru, modern spelling), and lower body movements (langkah). Djuru Satu is a combination of many of Uncle's practices compressed into one form. A myriad of principles, concepts, movements, techniques and other ideas are presented in that one form. I've seen Uncle say, "Let me see your Satu." Because from what is offered by the student while performing Djuru Satu can be seen in the quality of movement, the practice put in, and what the student understands about his system. Right there, quickly, an assessment can be accurately made. It is a form that will be practiced as long as the practitioner remains a student of Kuntao Silat de Thouars. From the Kendang Silat practice Djuru Satu offers a rich series of movements that can be numbered from 78 to 85 dependent upon how it is counted. Sometimes it is broken down into 11 or 13 shorter djurus to be worked in isolation for practice, often it is done all at once. Here the student begins to learn how a practitioner should move and control their body the Kuntao Silat de Thouars way, and in learning the applications and practicing limited sparring once the movements are appropriately learned, why we move that way.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This excerpt was written by one of Uncle's students and lifted from his webpage very briefly describing Uncle and the amazing art he founded.--
Willem de Thouars was born into a true lost world. The jungles and plantations of Java in the 1930s were shortly to undergo a cataclysm of change their society was hardly prepared for. For nearly 450 years the islands of the Dutch East Indies patiently endured an exploitive colonialism without significant disruption to their ancient cultures. But in the span of barely two decades, first with the occupation of a brutal Japanese army and then a protracted nationalist war against the Dutch, Java and her companion archipelago suffered the deaths of millions, and permanent damage to their institutions.

Since the war [World War II], Java has tripled its population and the fledgling nation of Indonesia has embraced industrialism in a race to the economic ascendency of the Pacific Rim. So, although the martial arts are still widely practiced, most of the teachers of Pencak Silat and Kun Tao, schooled by the tradition of centuries, have died or emigrated. So the land of tigers, temples and mystical old men teaching young boys has changed forever. Willem and his handful of contemporaries represent a vanishing legacy of another time.

Willem practices some fifteen styles of Pencak Silat, the native arts of Indonesia, and eight styles of Chinese Kun Tao. These represent the core elements of the practice of the Kun Lun Pai, Willem's martial brotherhood, dedicated to preserving these arts in a dozen countries on four continents. Practitioners in the Pai stress practical fighting principles but also study the myriad possibilities of technique that flow from a single principle. Like a cut diamond, the light of one technical concept can be reflected in dozens of variations according to style or situation.

It is important to note that a discussion of the differences between Pencak Silat and Kun Tao is difficult because of the limitations of the English language. It requires a keen eye and years of exposure to recognize these differences, and a student realizes he has both arts inextricably entwined with one another. But writers have attempted to separate these arts with words as though they were Siamese twins and with about the same degree of success. Herein lies the problem: If a student called one of Willem's senior practitioners on the phone for a definition of these arts without a physical demonstration, they would use words like "bone breaking, punishing art that attacks immediately and hits you all the way down," to describe, say, Pencak Silat. Then, you call another senior and he might describe Kun Tao using the same words or other non-definitive English that leaves one perplexed. To understand what separates these arts can only be demonstrated in person. Even video cannot make it clear to the uninitiated.

Nowadays, there are more "experts" in Pencak Silat than you can shake a stick at, and Willem can't keep up with the ever-growing requests for seminars. In this light, a straightforward explanation of terms is necessary.

Pencak, pronounced PENT-JACK, means a dance-like movement. In the language of Bahasa Indonesia, the context of this definition is the dance like simulation of the movements of fighting.

Silat, pronounced SEE-LOT, is a term that generically describes any form of unarmed combat. Silat indicates the actual practice of fighting.

So in Indonesia the terms are both inseparable and interchangeable. The combination indicates a balanced practice. Both the practice of the movements of the form in a rhythmic aesthetic presentation, as well as the practice of actual sparring or combative contests. The practitioner to be truly skilled must assert both aspects of this art, and thus the art yields both beauty and practicality.

Kun, pronounced KOON, means "fist" in archaic Chinese. It is the derivative of the modern Chuan or Chuen, which has come to mean practice. Kun is one of those Chinese terms that have interchangeable uses, one that is applicable here, is "the unmoveable" or the "base of the mountain."

Tao, Willem pronounces this with a "t" sound as in TAU, to differentiate it from DOW. It literally means way or path, but is perhaps the most ill-defined word in the Chinese language because of its multiple uses in Taoist religion and philosophy.

Together, Kun Tao means "fist way." It is the oldest term used to describe the martial arts of China that can be found. And as such it has disappeared from use in all but those Chinese satellite countries. such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, where Chinese culture has remained relatively untouched by time.

There has been discussion in the martial arts print media as to whether Kun Tao is an Indonesian, Malaysian, Philippino or Chinese art, The answer is "yes." Kun Tao goes back to ancient China, so it is accurately a Chinese art, but both Chinese and indigenous people in Southeast Asia have practiced and adopted it as their own. And the old men who were trained in what they see as the "pure art" have seen it sanitized and changed, and it literally doesn't exist in its original state in China anymore.

So Willem's training as a young man came from both of these sources, which in the Indonesia of his day was highly unusual. Culturally the Chinese of Indonesia tended to be very clannish, and their ethnic styles of selfdefense were confined to other Chinese. And because of the Indonesian prejudice against all things Chinese, Willem's cross-training has made him a controversial figure with some martial artists. But Willem is unconcerned with the endless politics of the martial arts. His focus is to use what works. He honors his teachers and is not ashamed of where they come from. He espouses a policy that looks for useful information from whatever source.
Kuntao Silat de Thouars is an Indonesian martial arts system with heavy Chinese influence. It is an extremely comprehensive system of great breadth and depth. Notwithstanding, it is very simple. As Uncle likes to say, "Primitive." An excellent word to describe the mindset and the idea behind the movements. Often, it will appear quite the opposite, however, the seemingly complex is typically a combination of primitive movements compounded appropriately with expert timing, angulation and leverage. Our system utilizes empty-hand (stand-up and groundfighting or grappling with extensive use of throws and sweeps), stick (short, medium and long), knife (a great deal of knife, the small karambit to the large golok) and flexible weapons (sarong, sash, rope, chain, etc.). At the higher levels of training the internal aspects of Uncle's art are stressed although my personal instruction tends to teach certain aspects from the beginning of training adding as the student goes farther into the practice; therefore, by the time a student reaches the advanced levels they have been adhering to most of those internal principles already, they just didn't know it at the time.

Only a few people seem to have the resolve to actually learn an advanced martial art. Many are interested enough to come by and have the usual beginner's enthusiasm, but as time passes and it becomes apparent that skill and knowledge come only through constant practice and often grueling repetition, the vast majority fall by the wayside with numerous rationalizations as to why they wouldn't continue. Notice, I didn't type "couldn't" but "wouldn't." It's almost always a personal choice to stop training, not an outside force preventing practice, but an individual decision to simply believe it isn't worth it for one reason or another. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone must seek their own path, but the person must understand a path is chosen whether the current one is continued or not.