Category: Social Practices, Rituals and Festive Events

Silat is a broad term that refers to a form of martial arts commonly practised in Southeast Asia. The origins of silat are unclear, and oral folklores regarding the origins and spread of silat differ from region to region.

‘Silat Seni Gayong’ students in action at Kampong Ambar in Lorong Engku Aman, Singapore‘Silat Seni Gayong’ students in action at Kampong Ambar in Lorong Engku Aman, Singapore. Source:

Although silat consists of certain sets of key footwork, foot stances and movements, there are varying schools of thought and differing practices across Southeast Asia and the Malay Archipelago. The martial art form is referred to as silat melayu in the Riau Islands, and as “pencak silat in Indonesia. Practitioners of silat are usually called "persilat”.

The martial art form is said to incorporate martial arts and weapon forms from both India and China. The assimilative nature of the martial art form arose because of the Southeast Asia’s unique position as a region of confluence of traditions and cultures from neighbouring regions.

In Indonesia, “pencak silat” can be accompanied by musical instruments such as kendang (two-headed small barrel drum), gong and tarompet (double-reed aerophone). Sometimes, the musicians will animate the movements of silat with aptly-placed intervals and punctuated slaps. The origins on how music was incorporated into silat are uncertain.

Increasingly, silat has been practised as a competitive sport in national, regional and international competitions. In Singapore, it is practised frequently as a sport and there are schools and federations that continue to actively promote this martial art form.

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