Heartless Monkey Knife

Copyright 1997 - Chas Clements

Heartless Monkey Knife *

purpose of the book: *

Primary Weapons and the Combative Distance *

Percussion and Insertion: *

The Common Knife *

Limitations of the book: *

Moral Questions: *

Practicing: *

Martial Culture: *

History: *

Kuntao Silat: *

Philosophical History: *

What is Malabar: *

Practice Methods: *

Training the Animal: *

Animal Forms: *

This is not so with Monkey. *

Choosing the Model: *

Silat: *

The Style: *

Heartless Monkey: *

Silat Monkey: *

Knives: *

Gripping the knife: *

presenting the edge: *

Fighting tips: *

Acknowledgments *

Purpose of the book:

This is a book about fighting with the common knife as the primary weapon.

A common knife is less than six inches in the blade and three to four inches is more common. It may be a fixed blade or a folding knife.

Your "Primary weapon" is the first means with which you meet the world’s hazards.

In many martial arts’ philosophy, the body is the sole or primary weapon. While that position may be available to hearty and robust individuals, it is not available to all. The use of a weapon is the great equalizer between practitioner and opponent; as well as useful with vicious animals, mobs, insane persons

The nature of the arts’ redeeming healthful qualities is seductive to many practitioners. It is the nature of the personal confidence in threatening situations and the spiritual uplifting of the practice that is seductive to the spiritual practitioners.

Certainly the body is the ‘carrier’ of the weapon; it is the body at hazard and the body in defense. The training of the body gives greater health and a longer time to enjoy that health. The training of the body will allow the practitioner to present and manipulate the weapon with greater facility.

This is an intellectual trap leading to false assumptions. While the foregoing statements are valid, they do not tell the entire story.

The reality of it is that you don’t need to lose a fight although you are weaker, older, slower or less enduring. It is a basic truth that ‘any job goes better with the proper tool’.

In much of the world, including the USA, the short knife is the primary weapon of choice. You are much more likely to be cut or stabbed than to be shot. Your prospective opponent is much more likely to be armed with a short knife than with a long one, the pistol or a clubbing instrument. It is the weapon of poor men, working men and professionals.

Knives are available, replaceable, and consumable; you may arm yourself easily. As you come into a strange city on the airplane, there’s a cutlery shop on the concourse. When you are at the restaurant, your easiest recourse is to the knife.

If you have a knife, you can cut yourself a stick.

Skills in fighting with the short knife are immediately transferable to fighting with other small objects or expanding into fighting with longer or more massive implements.

Primary Weapons and the Combative Distance

The most usual combative distance for the civilian, the non-professional warrior, is the shortest distance. We are the prey of the mugger, the sexual assailant or the brawler. The civilians’ primary weapon must be effective in the shortest range of fighting.

It is usually the primary tool knife that is first pressed into service as a weapon by the civilian. The use of the knife in most trades and professions, in the agrarian community and the arts make it a familiar and convenient weapon specialization.

The short knife has been, at the least, a " back-up" weapon for the professional warrior in virtually every culture. The ‘bivouac’ requirements for a knife make it a surety that the knife will be available for weapons use. A Warrior may study the knife for ‘survival’ or ‘specialty’ purposes, but his main battleweapon is his central focus for training and practice. Military ‘knife styles’ are usually primitive and without finesse.

The common man carries and uses his utilitarian-working knife as his primary weapon.

The firearm; as the primary weapon of the police, private security and the military; is meant to engage the enemy or opponent from a significant physical distance. It is used to threaten or to puncture or as a badly designed club. It is useful for nothing else, and it’s heavy.

As a primary weapon for a civilian, the firearm is inconvenient and restrictive. Depending on ones’ personal defense needs; the firearm has no other utilitarian function, its’ physical presence is legally significant and it is inherently dangerous to others.

Percussion and Insertion:

The primary battleweapon might be the spear; a combination of the pole and the short knife. In many cultures, the common short knife is capable of being attached to the pole to construct a spear for fighting or hunting. The spear has many utilitarian aspects, hunting, herding the animals, a walking staff over rough country or a burden pole. Fighting with the spear takes many of its techniques from the fighting with the short knife.

The sword, another primary weapon, is more likened to a club. Its’ virtues of swing weight, length and cleaving aspect are balanced by its’ lack of ‘usefulness’. Unless one is a full time warrior or a lazy dilettante, there is very little place in life for a sword. It is a very much later weapon in all cultures, requiring technical sophistication to manufacture and wealth to own.

The club is perhaps the first weapon of man. The sophistication of the arts that surround the club is as great and the finesse of the weapon can be marvelous. It is a proper study of any martial artist to study the club and its sophistication, the gun. The difference between the percussion arts and the insertion arts will define this book in many ways.

Composite weapons combine the ‘flexible’ weapons with the ‘fixed’ weapons. The nunchaku, chain or cord weapons; knives, hatchets, rings or whatever joined by chain or cord; these and others are the most difficult and treacherous primary weapons for the practitioner to depend upon. Their primary virtues are multiple effective combat ranges and unique technical applications.

The Common Knife

The common working knife really expresses the culture of man. The deepest attention of Human Technology and its’ most sophisticated social and personal arts are brought to the knife. You can own a knife of the most modern space-age technology, the rarest and most precious materials, and the most delicate and difficult construction. Even the most common of modern knives is made of good working steel, practical materials and stout construction.

The short knife is easily produced in stone, horn or antler, bamboo or wood by the most primitive peoples. Anyone, of any age or gender or class, can own a weapon with which he can attack and defend, overcome an attack by an animal or a crowd. He can construct a defensive shelter, a mantrap or other weapons to use.

If the blade is your chosen weapon, familiarize yourself with all sizes and styles. Each style of knife has its own secrets and applications but your body styling is what is going to get you home. Trust your training and your teachers. Do your style; men who gave their lives to formulate it conserved it for you.

We must appreciate the arts of the carver, whittler and sculptor. We must look at the knife art of the chef and the butcher. We learn anatomy from the pruner, the beet-topper and the wheat harvester. If we do not have the finesse of the cigar roller or the feather shaper or the neurosurgeon, how will we defend our opportunity to do those wonderful things when we are attacked by the Stranger?

Life in the villages of Sumatra and West Java has not changed in centuries to any great degree. There have always been oppressive governments, enemies that want the produce of the village, raiding bandits, slavers and headhunters, all sorts of opponents to prepare to fight. The village is a closed system; artistic styles, turbans or headgear, weapons style and usage, even the basic language, all these and more identify people of a particular place.

The Champion is the champion. The best fighter in the village is well known, if there is a question about it, it is easily settled. Competitive outlets during festivals and religious observances are available regularly. The Champion may also be the Guru (martial arts teacher), although the Guru is more likely a Champion retired.

The Guru is the man most suited to teaching about martial interests to the people of the village, and leading the common practice. He does not charge for his services; firstly, a good martial artist ought to be able to support his family without commercializing his art, and second, you don't charge your neighbors for learning the proper defense of the community.

The Art is considered 'pusaka', a holy legacy to be conserved intact, modified only by demonstrated necessity and consensus, held in greatest respect for the lives and deaths of the men that formulated it. It will also be 'beladiri', a protection art that subsumes all new knowledge immediately.

The Guru, then, may be an agricultural worker, a fisherman, a craftsman or a businessman. Very seldom will he be under 38 or 40 years old and more likely in his mid-forties or older. He may be crippled from fighting or accident or have retired from the competitions in fit condition. His 'advertising' is solely by word of mouth and his reputation as a teacher is constantly under review and approval by his peers and neighbors. False schools in the big city can survive by finding new chumps as needed; the rural village teacher is demonstrating his capability always in the audience of friends and neighbors.

The Sultan does pay for the service of the Guru, his only commodity is cash and his intentions are unknown. The Guru constructs a skill for the Sultan that is reflective of his physique, understanding and surroundings. While a martial presence is available for hire, the true Art is hidden and only for ones' family and community.

The village is a community ruled by 'Adat'. The law in a village is a matter of consensus of the people who obey it. Community standards of deportment and conduct in society are all that is necessary in village life. The Adat, then, is the law and Hormat is the activity that constitutes the law, Respect. The laws of respect identify who is owed what conduct and for what reason. Hormat is earned by providing the village with an example in achievement or conduct. Hormat is given to the Guru in recognition of his gift to the village, not in payment for it. The price of the students' life is of his own determining, it is his own practice of the art that defines its' use to him.

The 'gifts of Hormat' are these: a sharp knife- to symbolize the character and attention of the student; a chicken- its' blood is spread on the kendang to show that the students' blood need not be shed to learn this art; 'the gift of gold' symbolizes the value that the student places on the favor from the guru; a bolt of cloth to replace clothing soiled or torn while teaching; tea & tobacco that the master may refresh himself during breaks in practice. The practical gifts are in order that the act of teaching doesn't cost the teacher. The symbolic gifts are the mindset of the student in the responsibility to the teacher, the art and the community it serves. The actual payment by the student to the teacher is in the form of doing what the student does best on behalf of the teacher. The gift is of time and work/energy, knowledge, access to power, convenience.

The senior students of the teacher are men of power in their community. If they have practiced, participated in the battles of the village, made their own way for their families, they serve as examples to the younger students. They conserve the 'mythos' of the Art; stories about the earlier time, codes of conduct and deportment in practice, repetition of movement or techniques, simple corrections and explanations during class.

As with most other small communities, the villages are a democracy of merit. If you have a good idea, people will listen- if you don't, they will walk away. It is no accident that leaders are called elders or wise folk, having been successful before- they are listened to again. Deference is given to accomplishment, age (which is an accomplishment in itself), prodigious talent, or divine visitation.

Limitations of the book:

The technical essence, sophistication and finesse of the Malabar fighting art is so broad that it is best to define the intent of this book immediately. This is not a deep treatise on the secrets of the Malabar Art. The basic physical and technical structure, use of the combative space, breathing and so on will fill several books.

Malabar is prepared to fight with spears, swords of very diverse types, the club, the stick and the pole, ‘captured’ weapons such as the boarding axe, firearms and naval artillery and so on.

This is a little about fighting with the common knife.

While the principles are transferable to other weapons and empty hand fighting arts, this is about the fighting with the earliest weapon of sophistication in the human history. The making of the knife in all of its’ complexity has commanded our attention for over a half a million years. The usage of the knife, and its’ attendant arts, come in at about the same length of time.

There are martial systems with which to settle differences between friends, tribal members, fighting crewmembers (brother warriors) and to fight with the enemy. Rough fighting, a Pukulan is for common brawling. The Kendangan, formal fighting, is done under ritual or other strict rules and requires specific skills and social standing. A Beladiri, personal shield art, is for personal protection

Moral Questions:

The philosophy and moral structure of the cultures that gave rise to the Malabar art are very different from our own. It is necessary to sever the moral or legal questions of our culture from the information that is contained in the art from their culture. It is also necessary to understand that the translated words from one culture to another may have easily misunderstood definitions.

The cultural basis for Malabar is the fighting to the death between strangers. In the many islands of the Indonesian Archipelago, each tribe had its’ own language and culture. Any stranger might be a headhunter, a cannibal, a slaver or a bandit. Many of the tribes raided one another for slaves and were seasonal pirates as well as traders, merchants or craftsmen. Any step away from the relative safety of the home village was a journey into a vicious, brutal and predatory world.

As a philosophical posture; one gives the least mercy or compassionate consideration to the Stranger; attacking from ambush, at a time of his own choosing, armed as he may come.

In most Asian martial arts presented in America or Europe, weapons-art is subsidiary to the fighting with the ‘empty hand’. Many Asian arts seem to draw a difference between an art practiced for its spiritual, athletic and scholarly aspects and an art practiced for personal or community self defense. The willing teaching of a deadly weapon, and the desire to learn such a weapon, is seen as being anti-spiritual or anti-authority.

The Euromerican, traditionally, has had contempt for ‘dog-fighting’, preferring to kill his enemies outright. The concept of handfighting was for brawling or sports; for an enemy, only the sword. This high regard for weaponry has yielded a long mythos of individual fighters and their mystical weapons, slaying for the slightest affront of honor or dignity.


It is often that the fighting practice of engaging with the empty hand is taken for the actuality that the practice method prepares for, the fight. Much of the empty hand practice, the kambangan, is a preparation for the fighting. The movements of the body don’t change from the fighting with the empty hand to the fighting with the knife or the spear or the whip. It is all one art.

It is frightening to the common public to watch the open practice with weapons. It allows your enemy to see your personal practice. It will teach bandits and thugs to do tricks to frighten people and rob them.

"Best Steel, Best Cut"

While the practice method may be done with an empty hand, Fighting is done with the best tools available. It is possible that a great craftsman can produce art with an inferior tool, the common man must obtain a tool which itself is not a liability. "Best steel, Best cut" says to us: we should get the best knife possible, care for it diligently, carry it constantly and prepare for the fight with great discipline.

Labouring in the Fertile Fields Studying the knives of Greater Malaysia

As one studies Cutlery in all of its aspects, the thoughts and questions must come; "Who did this first?." "Why choose this style of blade over that one?". "What happens when this type of knife meets that type in combat?."

"What kind of knife does this job or that job most effectively?." These questions and others will ultimately lead the serious student, at some point, to consider the knives and bladed weapons of Greater Malaysia.

For purposes of this discussion only, the term `Greater Malaysia' will include the area bounded by the Philippines, the Indonesian Archipelago and its islands, Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Historically, these geographic areas were part of the Srivajayan, Visayan, Mahapajit and Moghul Empires. Thus, they have shared cultural influences for at least three thousand years. Their common roots of language, trade, dress and food, political structure, martial art and skill, styles and types of poetry and music, give us evidence of a vast `melting' pot. The influences of the indigenous peoples of antiquity, of India and China, the sea peoples of Polynesia, and lately the Europeans of the last few hundred years have joined in a culture characterized by quick wit and deep spiritual values.

There is now emerging some startling archaeological evidence that may date the emergence of bronze and iron technology as early here as anywhere in the world. The geologic incidence of available copper and tin, elemental iron and nickel, early use of charcoal, volcanic smelting and forge heating and comfortable climate combine to afford this area access to this technology that may rival dating previously assigned only to Mesopotamia and Celtic Europe. Their stone artifacts and uses of wood, fiber, and animal materials may date as early as that of Africa. Certainly, Dr. Leakeys' work in the Olduvai gorge of Africa aside, the discovery of Java Man dates as early as anywhere else in the world. It may be that the terribly destructive climate of this area has destroyed evidence the like of which has been preserved in the desert environment. Of later times, there is no question that these cultures had bronze and good steel at the same time as the artisans of the Near East and Europe, if not before them.

Java Man and the recent discoveries in Viet Nam and Laos certainly provide an unbroken continuity of metals usage unrivaled anywhere else in the world. This then would imply a wealth of knowledge about knives, metals, techniques and usage that merits serious study by scholars of such information.

The geography of the area has had, in some ways, and insular effect also. Mountain ranges, dense jungle, broad straits and seas have provided pockets of cultures different from the cultures around them. This insular aspect has generated the most continuing conflict, both tribal and individual, of any cultural area known. The beauty and richness of natural resources, the diversity of religion and political extension of empire have generated continuing wars to this day. This warfare had produced weapons, strategies, martial techniques and training methodologies that stand unmatched anywhere else. The diversity of agriculture, of craft and art, to topography and geology have yielded a multitude of tools that have generated martial art usages and the opportunity to refine technique and skill of using them.

One can set virtually any criteria or description of weapon and find an art built about it that dates back hundreds of years. Do you want to know a response to a piercing weapon using a cleaver, suitable for a woman against an armored man? How about the effect of a saw edged weapon pitted against a whip? Are you considering an urban weapon and style useful against multiple assailants in ambush? All of these questions are asked and answered in hundreds of diverse blades and many hundreds of diverse martial arts styles of the Greater Malaysian culture.

Certainly is beyond the scope of this article to describe and define all of the blades of this area. You will want to know some words and though these are Malaysian, they will be understood anywhere from the Philippines to Burma. As with any other transliteration from another language, there is some question about spelling- These should be generally acceptable.

PISAU: a short, single edged utility knife. The basic fighter in all cultures.

KRISS: a double edged dagger of various sizes and shapes.

GOLOK: a broad single edged cleaver, very heavy for agricultural use.

PARANG: a cutlass style.

KELEWANG: a broadsword style.

ARIT: a sickle.

TOMBAK: a spear, includes the removable blade used by itself.

Each of these blades has literally hundreds of martial stylings that teach its use, variations of shape and nomenclature, combinations of aspect and application and preference in particular areas. In addition, these peoples

have formulated usages for captured weapons such as the Japanese katana, the Chinese chien, Indian Katar, the Dutch sabre and cutlass, Portuguese epee and so forth. They are an inventive and acquisitive people that take knowledge from other cultures and make it their own without reserve. As

`traders and raiders', they are comfortable with new things and ideas, adopting a new concept as if they had never not known it.

Their preoccupation with combat has provided for a feedback from the warrior to the blademaker that is unparalleled. Not only have the users of the blades given of their experiences to the makers, the maker himself has always been an advanced practitioner and teacher of the arts. As in most other cultures of the blade, the smith is a holy man. Specifically in the `Pukulan' systems which are village or family systems, the bladesmith has responded to the needs of the people who are his neighbors and friends. The defensive systems and weapons used by a mountain people are different form those people who live next to the sea. Villagers cultivating agricultural products will be comfortable with different tools/weapons from those that make crafts or engage in trade. The bandit tribes, headhunters and cannibals, use different tools from the nobility and governing classes. Each of these groups has left his mark on the systems and stylings and on the weapons emphasized in them.

The study of manufacturing techniques is yet another fertile field. The techniques of the original wood and stone weapons, their translation into bronze and later to steel, have colored and influenced traditions of shape and methods of manufacture. Some of the most sophisticated techniques of smiting, heat treatment, chemistry and materials composition and decorative embellishment are practiced by the `impu' and `pande' smiths of the region. Few places in the world have had the wonderful access to material that includes meteoric nickel-steel, fabulous hardwoods, wonderful ivories and horns, bamboo and rattan, precious stones and metals. It seems to be a commonality in their many religions to use each material to its' utmost while not obscuring its' most beautiful natural aspect.

Martial Culture:

If one knows nothing of Indonesian martial culture, he will have no basis to understand its’ subtleties at all. The practice of other martial arts has no real relevance to KunTao Silat except in the most abstract definition. Most other martial arts have a military application and usually a military organization. There is a hierarchical structure that presupposes a debt of honor or compulsion to practice ones martial application on behalf of ones’ ‘betters’. That philosophical posture is not relevant to the village, tribal or family structure of the island cultures of the Archipelago.

The physical styling of Pentjak Silat, the indigenous art of Indonesia, is unique in the world. The principles are universal; anatomy doesn’t change- gravity always works, but the approach and emphasis is different and unique. The geographic placement and structure of the Island Archipelago has restricted the outside contact of some of the peoples from Neolithic times, while their very immediate neighbors may trade with the other great civilizations of the world. Their martial arts range from the activities of the headhunter and cannibal to the requirements of a courtiers life in the palaces of the Sultan.


In this particular art, Kuntao Silat Malabar, the styling of a one-armed, club footed man with the deep training in the classical fighting arts of the period gives an attitude that is different from anyone else’s’ practice of any art, anywhere. The physics and geometry of this one armed man generated an approach to fighting that is unusual and unknown to the common opponent. While the Malabar art is deeply influenced by other arts and later practices, it would not exist as it is without the man; Serak®.

The formal lineage history of the Malabar style of KunTao Silat starts about 1790, with the birth of Pak Serak®. It is the lineage of Bapak Serak® that serves to define the first meeting of Indonesian fighting style with that of China and India in a single identifiable person whose lineage may be traced.

The Malabar Coast of eastern India has been a target for Indonesian pirates and traders since time immemorial. The Malabar Silat is centered by the fighting skills of the Menangkebau traders and the pirates who raided onto the Malabar from Sumatra and West Java.

In the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the fighting skills of a warrior were easily tested and challenged by the constant activity of small, personal actions as well a larger group battles.

In the KunTao Silat Malabar, the emphasis on animal models derives from the Sumatra/West Java culture of the Menangkebau. Known as "Men of the Ox-Horn" from their cattle, the great Carabau water buffalo, these men were herders and traders, broad ranging agronomists, builders and artisans. The Menangkebau Empire comprises a large number of unique tribal traditions that are loosely bound together in a broader cultural identity. The Menangkebau are the keepers of the Kris. They are Men of the Knife in the same way as the Celts, the Gurkhas and the Scotia.

Menangkebau Silat is the fighting knowledge of hundreds and perhaps thousands of years of interpersonal conflict in a mountainous land surrounded by enemies. Sumatra has long been the natural land bridge from the Asian mainland. The land is beautiful and rich in every way; the peoples envied for their wealth and culture. This is the land of the Sultan; drenched in rubies and gold, demanding fealty and tribute from the savages, raiding and warring as the moon moved them.

The Bugis people of the Menangkebau are among the most cultured people in the world. They have provided the warriors, administrators, navigators and strategists for many a fighting crew set off for Malabar or the Coast or Japan. Their knowledge of the ‘Royal Muslim Blading Art’ is unsurpassed and permeates all aspects of their practice of fighting.

The silat of the Badui and Batak tribes is part of the Malabar Silat through absolute happenstance; intermarriages into their tribes. These two unique tribes are very distant from any culture other than their own. Their martial arts are very different as their cultures are very different, both from one another, and from the rest of Menangkebau culture and from Euromericans.

The Badui are known as the "Invisible People of the Mountain Forest". They are the Lords of the Gunung Kendang, the Great Drum Mountains, and traditionally shun contact with the outside world except on their own terms. Their art has a full knowledge of plants, animals and minerals and their combinations, both for healing and for battle. They can strike from invisibility with a penetrating offense. They have a knowledge of, and can call, intention and the ‘hidden heart’. They are ‘wide open, heartless and inviting’ to their enemies. Their silat is deep and mystical, the practice is difficult and dangerous. Bapak Serak® was a "White Badui", of an interior knowledge and was known as Burung (Owl) for his intuition and perceptions.

The Batak people are cannibals by choice. The ‘long pig’ is a favored meat, eaten not by ritual requirement for magic, but by choice. Their silat is very basic in movement, but very sophisticated. Judged by their own standards, they are an honorable and cultured people. Headhunting, raiding for slaves and booty, cannibalism for ritual and magic, pirating against strangers, are widespread in all the cultures around them and on the immediate islands in their sphere of communication.

Human flesh was the preferred ‘trail food’ of the raiding Batak warriors as the ingredients were always at hand and travel well; chili, roasted, parched or boiled peanuts and lemon-juice. The flesh was stripped, always fresh, dipped in lemon juice and rolled in the chili. The sate` was accomplished on sticks over the fire and the resulting treat eaten with peanuts as the carbohydrates. If, indeed, the ‘Catch of the Day’ is always a man, who fights back with the same weapons that are available to all, the combative knowledge of the Batak has had many opportunities to be tested and refined.

Kuntao Silat:

The Three Crown internal arts of China; Tai Kek, IeHsingPo and PoKwa and the Five Houses of Shaolin, have been practiced in Indonesia fully as long as they have been practiced in China. Over the thousands of years that ethnic Chinese have practiced and refined their arts, so have they gone to Indonesia and practiced them there. The ‘upper classes’ of courtiers, professionals, wealthy merchants, monks and holymen have been practicing the internal arts within the influence of many other arts and those arts have seen the internal sets for as long as they have been done anywhere.

The wou’kou (wako) Chinese pirates have always shared their martial arts with their shipmates, family and trading partners. They fought beside and against the Indonesian pirates throughout the ‘Channel Islands’, along the Mainland Coast, from Japan to Malabar. Many of the ‘proas’, boats manned by Indonesian pirates, had Chinese warriors and leaders. Many of the ‘junks’, sailed by Chinese warlords were crewed by warriors from Borneo, Sumatra, Moro Philippines and Java. Many of the Platerans, half caste Chinese and Indonesian peoples throughout the islands, owe their lineage to the pirates and bandits, spice-traders and adventurers.

The ‘upper classes’ of pirates and bandits; officers, ‘fences’ and royal financiers have practiced their arts and shared them with one another, with family and for gold. The fighting crew worked by the season, sharing the arts of their village and family with the rest of the crew for the common defense and success in battle. The boat crew worked together and learned from the fighting crew to advance in status and share in the harvest from ‘farming the seas’.

The legacy of Sumatran Menangkebau art, as well as the Chinese systems in Okinawate is unmistakable. While the Indonesian practices never left the blade, however mounted, the Okinawans had Hideyoshi. The Okinawan specialty; fighting an armed, mounted, armored warrior with farmtools is a special and unique application of the principles of the Menangkebau silat. The strong leg movement and reliance on skeletal stance, the percussive striking of vulnerable aspects of the opponent, deliberate body positioning to upset the opponent; all are principles of the Menangkebau silat brought hundreds of years ago to Okinawa by seamen.

The native legacy of Japan; jujutsu, has many of the same principles, and from the same sources. This is especially true in the sorts of fighting practiced by the bandits, pirates, spies, merchant class and monks. The ashigaru warrior practiced a different art than did the courtier on the Daimyo’s hill. The Japanese Nobility never got a chance to learn this art.

The Five Houses of Shaolin practiced as KunTao. Advanced practitioners have always sold their services to travelers and merchants or others who needed bodyguards or other fighting men. The rough and taxing practices of KunTao were drawn by the melding of the five basic styles of Shaolin with different styles of Silat and with the internal practices of both the Chinese and the indigenous Animists.

Philosophical History:

The indigenous silat practice has always used animal models for their practice and many of the ethnic Chinese living on the Indonesias came to do so also. While many of the Chinese sequestered themselves and sent back to China for brides and children to adopt, many others interacted with the Indonesians on a constant basis. Some Chinese were Buddhist, Confucian or Taoist, but many others were Muslim or of the Tibetan/Mongolian style of Buddhism from the Northern Mountains of China along the Great Spice Road.

The Animist, later Muslim, mystical practice of the animal model is different from the Mainland China practice. In general; the Taoist/Confucian model is more objective, scholarly and restrained than the Animist/Tibetan Buddhism/ Sufi-like practices in the Indonesias. While none of this is written in stone; the Taoist model is somewhat like the Courtier or Scholar returning to the Wild in search of the Divine, the Animist seeks to make sense of the Chaos about him to deal with the Chaos within him.

The descriptive words may be the same but the ‘feeling’, the ‘taste’ is different. ‘Primitive’ could be considered a pejorative word, we use it here in the manner of; ‘without artifice or affectation’. The constant reality of combat in an aboriginal culture in the Indonesias has not allowed a decadence in intent or technique. Each new addition to the repertoire of fighting skills must be examined in combat, refined and tested. In many ways the spice of the Islands has flavored all of the fighting arts that have mixed with them.

The ethnic Chinese have traveled to Indonesia by the waterways since far antiquity, certainly over six thousand years. The thirteen thousand islands of Indonesia were a favored place to escape the Emperors’ authority or wrath. The entrenched bureaucracy of the Chinese Emperors administration could guarantee the safe arrival of a naked virgin with a bag of gold from one end of China to the other, but it did so at the price of all freedom and personal initiative.

Many Chinese expatriates went to practice unrestricted trade, the arts and professions; to obtain rare and precious commodities, and, as pirates, bandits and slavers. They brought their various martial arts with them and cloistered them closely. There are enclaves of Chinese ethnics in Indonesia that have been there for hundreds of years without intermarrying or socializing. They practice their professions within the community and maintain a Chinese culture without much affect from the surrounding tribes. They practice their martial arts classically and very secretively and only within their status group.

Indonesians, observing the practice of these Mainland arts from a distance, took them to be one art; some of the Chinese practiced slowly, others with more vigor, but it was all one art. Because Indonesians have such a fine eye for discerning technique from movement, they made connections and combinations without the restrictions required by loyalty to the masters style expected of the Chinese.

The Chinese themselves practiced their traditional arts across social and ethnic lines that would have been more closely drawn on the Mainland as of caste, family, village, etc. People who would have been out of the mainstream in traditional China found themselves interdependent with persons they would have never interacted with when on the Mainland.

Many of the Chinese married into the indigenous peoples, producing the ‘platerans’, half-castes. These platerans melded the arts of their fathers and their mothers, producing variations of martial art that are found nowhere else.

Guru Besar Tai Eng:

Malabar knife fighting reflects the teaching of Guru Besar Tai Eng, a plateran of Bondo Waso, Central Java, doing the silat of Madura. He was a practitioner of the Royal Muslim Blading Art

He was a Butcher, a trade that was usually practiced by people of mixed race or low caste. Tai Eng was a Muslim of Indonesian and Chinese extraction from a well to do family on both sides. His trade of ‘butcher’ was more to be considered as a trader in meat animals, a significant endeavor. In that business, he would have purchased the animals, held them for finishing and slaughter, prepared the meat for marketing and sold it both to the consumer and other purveyors.

During his life, he overcame the resentment and bias towards platerans to become a well respected man in his community. This recognition was primarily based on his great martial arts skills and community leadership. He was well known as a generous man of great compassion and high integrity. His teachings were passed on in secret; his students were tested in their integrity and intention constantly and held to a high moral standard.

Tai Eng had a deep knowledge of the short knife that is reflected in the Malabar forma that bears his name. The knife is held and used with a familiarity appropriate to the professional. There is a certain casual look to the forma that is deceptive; the knife is often held in three fingers, or even only two. There are many movements to the side, as if to ward off opponents from another direction. Floor movements, springing into the air and rolls on the ground with the knife passing close to the body are commonplace in the form. Do not be deceived by the flowing movements of the body or the knife. The applications are hidden.

Every aspect of the weapon is used in multiple techniques and the easy flow from one position to another is emphasized. The memory of the technique hidden in the movement is remembered as the hand passages and weapons familiarity is maintained.

The Guru Besar had a knowledge of anatomical structure from a very mechanical emphasis. He understood the connection of tendons and muscles, the circulatory system and organ anatomy, the skeletal system and its relationship to the meat that it carries. He knew where the cavities are, the insertion points between the bones and joints and the shattering places of the skeleton.

Further, there was an understanding of the cutting of the meat with a knife. There is a familiarity with the actual placement of the edge of the knife against the meat of the opponent and an economy of movement to separate it. The different types of knives and cleavers are used in totally appropriate ways relative to the attack on the ‘meat’ of the opponent.

In later times, towards the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the Dutch intermarriages into the various tribes and families produced people that were so out of caste hierarchy that they could be taught the arts without transgressing social mores. The Dutch Indonesian masters were able to study a broad range of fighting styles and to synthesize combinations of methods that were entirely unique prior to that interaction.

More History:

The Muslim Chinese have long practiced the generally identified Taoist and Buddhist martial arts without some of the direct religious attitudes or beliefs. The animism and magic as practiced by the Taoists had no place in the Islamic religion so that some of the inferences of those internal arts are passed on differently. The Chinese Buddhist attitude towards the lifespirit is not shared in Islam and those inferences are passed differently in Muslim fighting practice.

The traditional deep mystical and metaphysical practices of the mountain desert Muslim fighters found avid emulation and an expansion of understanding in the animist and Hindu cultures of Indonesia. Much of the Islam that is practiced in Indonesia is of the Sufi calling; a mystical and physical practice much in vogue among warriors. While the traditional religious practices of the broad number of cultures in Indonesia may not have been based on monotheism, many of the disciplines and models of practice transferred to Islam very readily.

The northwestern China practitioners; from the capital city of Khotan below the Taklimakan Desert, by the KunLun mountains on the Great Silk Road down into India through Tibet, have a strong martial tradition. Some practice Islam, some Tibetan/Mongolian Buddhism, some practice a shamanist magical religion; they all have the fighting arts of the fist and the blade.

The Muslims of Turkestan met both the Arjuna and the Tibetan Buddhists at Khotan. There are great centers of learning, cultural and artistic practices, and the Great Marketplace with the businesses and people that surround it. The Great Silk Road could have as easily been called the Great Pepper Road or the Great Spice Road.

While it is true that there is a ‘Kun Lun’ mountain in the Song Si range, it is probably not the mountain that is in reference.

The caravanserai conservators of martial tradition were responsible for spreading martial practices and attitudes over thousands of miles of country. After all, you can walk from Singapore to Paris, Moscow or Peipeng.

What is Malabar:

Malabar is the Voice of the Eastern Facing Mountain.

The Dutch Indonesian Silat arts of Serak®, Petjut Kilap, Bondo Waso and Ganyung are melded with the KunLun Pai Kuntao and given in appreciation to the American culture for the gifts of personal freedom, racial equality and the rule of law.

The De Thouars Family of martial arts champions has made the Pentjak Silat of Sumatra/West Java and the Chinese KunTao practices available to the American practitioner for over thirty years. The two stylings have combined in such a manner that they have yielded another art; KunTao Silat. The Art is uniquely Dutch-Indonesian in culture and a product of the De Thouars Family study and practice.

The traditional village attitude of ‘neighbor teaching neighbor’ is not lost. While many other martial arts traditions are the product of the Military/Police, of a religious attitude or practice or as part of another profession, the Village life of Indonesia has produced a completely different attitude. In the village, the best practitioner leads the study for the common defense of the community. Each practitioner takes his place by merit; not rank, not birth.

Practice Methods:

Malabar KunTao Silat practices specific martial skills, attitudes and variations by using an animal model to carry a memory of instruction.

When the practice leader shows a form, a technique or an application, it is presented in association with a particular mental ideation so as to be remembered more easily in personal practice.

Remembrance of realistic martial skills in a personal practice period is very difficult and most styles guard their practice methods very jealously.

It is not enough to know the inner knowledge of combat, one must know how to practice in times of peace to maintain the edge for war.

The deep training of the martial spirit is the intensity of focus and mental visualizing that the practitioner can discipline his mind to accomplish.

The focused mental practices of the Indonesian animists, the Muslim metaphysicians, the Taoist and Buddhist practices have become melded in the modern practice of KunTao Silat

The practice activity of exercising in the attitude of a particular animal gives us an opportunity to remember intellectual martial knowledge in a physical manner for better body memory.

Many different animal, spirit and human archetypes are taken as models for martial practice. Especially in an Animist culture, the naming and identification of a concept gives it real life and substance. In some ways, the lack of Name is the lack of separate identity from the rest of the Universe.

There are broad variations of combat attitude and specialization. In a society where a simple variation of a basic technique may be the only advantage available to win over an opponent, each special idea of fighting has been taken to its’ most extreme conclusion.

Training the Animal:

There is more than an implication of spiritual identification. In Animism one seeks the power of the Entity of a concept. If the Universe is a closed system, personal power is finite and to gain personal power is to take it from somewhere else. The basis for ritual cannibalism, trophy hunting, sympathetic or homeopathic ‘magick’, is the concept of this finite definition of power. By externalizing the power of an internal concept; training with it and refining it and then consuming and assimilating it, an increase of martial vigor is enjoyed by the Practitioner.

The deepest identification comes in the trance state as the practitioner is ‘inhabited’ by the spirit of his martial model. At the minimum this is a combative attitude that allows the release of adrenaline and focuses the combative intention. In the deepest trances, whether inhabited by the horse or the monkey or the snake, the identity of the practitioner is completely subsumed to the spirit.

This is some ways compares with the mushin mind of Zen practitioners; the restraints of the judgmental mind are bypassed. The difference may be that in the cultivation of the zen mind the tools are silence, stillness and pain. The Animist model is more active; the mind is cleared of extraneous intention and filled with the power of the animal model. The end result is a clarity and celerity of action, unfettered by recriminations and indecision.

The swallow, otter, Garuda (FireEagle Demon/Phoenix) or Raja-Naga (King Dragonsnake), Noble Lady of Patriot Forest, Young Maiden Bathing are only some of the myriad martial forms practiced in the Indonesian systems on the thousands of islands, and in the many thousands of tribes that live on them. The ideoforms are drawn from observation of nature, myths and local stories, self naming for power or a given name from a guru.

Certainly the physical attitude is mimicked, as with the specialized kicking styles of the Kuda Kuda An (the Essence of the Fighting Horse) practitioners. Particular aspects of the physical attitude of an animal are engaged and trained by the Practitioner. It may have to do with his own physical attributes, it may have more to do with the availability of a guru in a particular style. Geographic considerations and the opportunity to observe special actions must be considered also.

The attitude and spirit of the model is emulated and studied. To practice the style of the Young Maiden Bathing, one would watch the actions of young women and strive to know the heart of a young woman surprised in the bath by an observer. The close guarding of the body, the closing of the vulnerable aspect and fighting in the clutch are valuable studies for any warrior.

The cultural icon of the animal is studied, the physical movements, the natural actions of offense and defense. Garuda, winged mount of Agni the FireBringer, has the body of a man with raptor wings and a vicious beaked Eagle head. The icon is widely used in statuary, shadow puppet shows and religious stories. There is a whole surrounding mythos that can be studied and the virtues emulated in a martial manner.

The chosen model may not be selected solely for the physical aspect, but an aspect of character or attitude that the practitioner wants to use to bolster weaknesses or encourage strengths. To take on the aspect of Tiger during practice is to encourage a tremulous fighting spirit to greater courage in adversity. To practice the evasions of the Swallow will allow the pugnacious practitioner to slip a blow that he would have accepted in the model of Boar or Elephant.

Obviously, the inner techniques of calling the animal spirit is outside the limited parameters of this article. The preparations for this deepest practice take many years of intense effort and discipline and must have the direct guidance of chan man ran (man who opens the doors of knowledge.

As Uncle Bill says, "The Doors of Knowledge are not opened from the pages of a book... Only by the hand of Guru."

This exposition is on the very basic level so as to speak to as many diverse arts as can be done. It is not necessary to do the same physical stylings so as to practice the mental disciplines.

As Uncle says; "You can wave your arms and legs about as you care to. Earth kick, Sky kick... Worm punch, Eagle strike; It is all the same as it comes into your beladiri (shield of the inner protected bodysphere)."

Animal Forms:

To practice the other animal forms, we must translate a body styling that may be very different from our own. As we practice the deer, the bear, the mantis or waterskimmer, a bird or a reptile, we must cast a long way in our minds to assume the forma. We have no horns or antlers, we secrete no poisons (generally) or have external skeletons. It may be better not to clutter the mind overcoming obstacles suitable for a beast or a bug.

This is not so with Monkey.

The Monkey/Ape attitudes of fighting practice in particular provide a sophisticated system of hand and foot work for virtually all other combat practices. None of the non-human models for footwork have the celerity and natural aspect of Monkey, and the handwork is familiar to us all.

Any weapon, body type, purpose of fighting, etc. is well served by monkey styling. There are monkey pugilists, grapplers, staff and stick players, the spear, the composites and throwing weapons and the knife.

Monkey Staff is the subject of many plays, operas, public entertainers and widely practiced as a self defense art by civilians and professionals alike. Chinese practitioners have long used Monkey as a humorous actor and to show off marvelous WuShu skills. Monkey can be learned, in a basic way, by observation. Monkey skills are so natural as to be more easily obtained than many others.

Monkey is our closest relative of the animal group and his knowledge of combat is similar to our own. Monkey lives in the same types of family/clan groups that we do, his physicality is very much like our own, and he has many cultural parallels to our human condition.

Monkey makes War; he murders for lust or profit, excludes foreigners and different looking monkeys from his territory, shuns and punishes his criminals and so on.

Monkey's concerned with keeping his head just as we are; Tiger fights Monkey, Snake fights Monkey, RajaNaga fights Monkey, he answers them all.

As Uncle says, "Man has nothing to teach Monkey, we can only learn!"

Choosing the Model:

As Uncle says, "An Empty Mind is an empty mind."

The choosing of a practice model is a way to focus the mind on the intentions of the fighting art. When we ‘empty the mind’, what we are emptying it of is the fragmentation of intention. The practice model becomes the focus of the mind; a way to idealize a ‘way’ we want to be.

In the beginning practice the vigorous and agile practitioner of Malabar KunTao Silat (Fighting Fist Concept) may choose the smaller monkey called "Monjet". This is the most commonly known of the Monkey stylings and the one most seen in public performance. Monjet has many subcatagories that describe senses, emotions, tribal affiliations and so on. It is seldom that one practices a forma "Monjet" without a modifier; crazy monkey, drunken monkey, stone immortal monkey and so on.

The more physically deliberate practitioner can use "Kalong", the larger ape. The greater exploitation of the kinetic mass, dependence on physical power and ‘rooting’ aspect of the larger primates is attractive to less agile practitioners.

For the first few years the assimilation of the structural information in the style doesn’t allow for much specialization. It takes that long to learn the generalities of the Silat. At a later time in practice, one can choose a model that is more spiritually or psychically representative of oneself.

It is important to realize that the mental model is not necessarily totally reflective of the physical model. A large, ponderous practitioner might see himself as the smallest most agile monkey based on a completely different criteria than only the physicality.

Berok, Mandrill, Maccaque, Shimpanzee, Ngkrik, Tjikak, and the "Old Man of the Jungle", Orang Utan, are some of the other "monkey or ape" stylings. Different primates are found in different parts of the islands. Each of those different primates stylings has different practices aspected by religion, caste or status, professional emphasis and so on.

The Chinese monkey styles of Honan Shaolin, among others and especially as aspected by both HsingPo (IeHsing Ie) and the PoKwa Zen (Paqua), are melded to the Silat understanding of the ‘immediate combative nature’ necessary in the nonhomogeneous society of the Indonesias. It is difficult for some Mainland classical practitioners to understand the blending of arts caused by the blending of cultures.

The monkey types modeled in Malabar KunTao Silat are those indigenous to the Indonesian archipelago and not those of the Chinese mainland. This cultural icon of the Indonesian monkey can account for much of the difference in the intensity of the solo practice of the art, the Pentjak, as opposed to the more classical and formal Chinese performance. It may be a legacy of the Hindu religious influence and the connection with India.


The silat, the combative knowledge, is the fruit of the synthesis of Indonesian and Chinese experiences forged in actual conflict. One can only trust the ‘thoughts and ruminations’ about combat so far. If the concepts of ones’ fighting art have not seen real combat for six generations of teachers, how can it be trusted to excel and prevail.

The warriors of Indonesia; pirates, headhunters, cannibals and bandits of all stripe forced the immediacy and vicious nature of these fighting styles. Even today, the fighting with swords, spears, knives, clubs and the hand is more common and more lethal than any other society commonly known.



copyright 1994 Chas Clements

Her finger knives flayed his face open, arteries in his neck spewed blood into his armor. As he stumbled, blinded, he wondered how he had made such an easy kill for her. He died with the question unanswered, his great sword still clutched in his hand.

The little man capered and danced about; now shielding behind the blade, now reaching with a slash that would fell cane by the bunch, now pounding with the butt of the big knife he knows so well- he sees the man before him as just another piece of work in the fields he has toiled in daily for thirty years.

As his opponent reached for the throat, he pulled the little knife from behind his cummerbund and slashed the offending hand, the serrated edge biting through the motorcycle glove before rendering the hand useless. He turned to pop both tires before driving away from the thug who now had something useful to do with the rest of his night.

Each story illustrates that it isn't the knife, but the style that prevails. We tend to think in terms of a 'preferred' size or style of knife for ourselves, each writer or teacher has a knife which is best for his style. But what can happen if that particular knife is not available, or not convenient to the situation or dress styling? Can we accommodate the challenge of fighting for our lives without 'Ol Betsy' riding in her usual place on the web gear? Can we use the battlefield pick-up or reverse the weapon carried by the enemy?

Lest you lose yourselves in pointless anticipation, let me now answer that question with a resounding; Yes !!

The secret with a large knife is to 'ride' the weight. Make gravity work for you by moving the inertia of the knife with the least amount of 'suddenness'. Overcoming the weight of the knife by accepting the force in your wrist will get you killed. Learn to turn the direction of the knife by dropping the weight straight down through the point and rotating the axis of the blade to the new direction. Set the point and move your body around behind it, stay behind the edge, keeping the knife between you and the opponent.

Use two hands, support the blade with your foot or with your torso. Turn the flat of the blade to your opponent as a shield and make your attack with the butt end of the weapon- pound through his defenses with the weight and inertia. By and large, the large knife is best for fighting, all other choices are a compromise.

The knife of seven or eight inches in the blade is a utility knife in whatever dress, and styles are taught in all schools. This is the knife that you most probably have with you; it is your work knife, kitchen tool, tool-box blade. Think of it as your claw, the point of the spear made by your arm, the tip of your sword.

The small knife is a compromise of stealth, fashion or utility. A small knife requires getting close to the opponent and certifies that one cut is not going to end the fight. The secret of the small knife is sharpness and conceptualizing the knife as a fighting spike. The small knife must fit the hand/fist closely (more so than the larger knives) and the weight in the handle.

The styling doesn't change much whether the knife is thin and light or dense and weighty because the combative distance hasn't changed. The ideas of distraction, decoying, multiple cuts and stabs, piercing the bone, precision targeting of weak points. Small attention getting cuts, a plant with the blade and then leaving the knife in the body and moving the body to produce a larger wound channel.

If the blade is your chosen weapon, familiarize yourself with all sizes and styles. Each style of knife has its own secrets and applications but your body styling is what is going to get you home. Trust your training and your teachers. Do your style, it was conserved for you by men who gave their lives to formulate it.

The Style:

The European/American "classical" knife fighter goes for the big cut; he waits for, or forces, an opening and commits the blade edge deeply in the slash or the point to the stab. He wants to deeply pierce the torso or hack into an extremity.

He will use the common shifting feint to call his opponents position into opening for the major wound. His footwork is fairly direct, more interested in ‘not falling over’ or committing in haste than utilizing the fighting floor with deliberation or intention.

He is concerned in not being touched by the opponent; overriding his armor and smashing his defense in one passado. A major wound will cripple the opponent and allow for the killing strokes to be accomplished.

The secret with a large knife is to 'ride' the weight. Make gravity work for you by moving the inertia of the knife with the least amount of 'suddenness'. Overcoming the weight of the knife by accepting the force in your wrist will get you killed. Learn to turn the direction of the knife by dropping the weight straight down through the point and rotating the axis of the blade to the new direction. Set the point and move your body around behind it, stay behind the edge, keeping the knife between you and the opponent.

Use two hands, support the blade with your foot or with your torso. Turn the flat of the blade to your opponent as a shield and make your attack with the butt end of the weapon- pound through his defenses with the weight and inertia. By and large, the large knife is best for fighting, all other choices are a compromise.


The Western fighter has a cultural memory of large knives, armored opponents and fighting with the presentation of a shield. The Northern Europeans wore heavy clothing, body mail or other armor and very often carried a shield or a surrogate for the shield.

Northern European styles are based on the sax knife; the Scots dirk, the long hunting knife and other stout personal knives. The knife sheath is attached to the belt or thrust behind it.

The knife will have good swing weight, lengths above ten inches in the blade, short grips and a centered spear point. The single edged chopper is more common than the dag, although both are known.

Western fighters stay behind the knife, they have very few decoy moves (besides the feint), and emphasize fully committed strikes to overcome armor or heavy clothing.

There are fewer cuts to the legs, hand & forearms and to the eyes, groin or brain. There are more ‘taboo’ targets in the West and strong cultural rules for the armed encounter, even with an aggressive stranger.

Ancillary weapons, the rest of the body, are not used aggressively, positional and skeletal decoys are not explored, nor is the live hand aspect.

The heavy clothing of the more northern peoples, and the easy availability of metal tools very early in the culture, could have had some relativity to that stylistic expression.

There are also cultural remnants of the old religion which glorified the warriors’ complete disdain for death without honor and put a high premium on personal bravery.

Piercing, not immediately fatal, is favored; the major chop to the bony extremity is next in importance.

Cutstabs to the body, external organs, attacks to the tendons or blood system are not commonly taught.

Anatomy is not one of the major study areas,

strategy is reserved to feints, striking patterns and trying to tire the opponent without being cut.

Many of the Asian arts wait for the big cut; Japanese/Okinawan/Korean, many of the Chinese wushu practitioners, northern India (the Moghul stylists), and so on.

Again, the cultural memory is of strong clothing; large, heavy, broadly made knives- thick backed with a wedge ground edge geometry.

Styles depend on broad movements, sweeping cuts utilizing the swing weight of the weapon, heavy pommel strikes and piercing with the inertia of the blade as a major aspect of the thrust.

These styles also have to emphasize the recovery from the swing weight of the blade and the withdrawal of the blade from the wound channel.

Great endurance is needed for the heavy sword or knife and emphasis is on that training.

As clothing becomes lighter weight in the South of Europe, and with the Muslim influence on fighting arts, one sees more active movement and slashier attacks.

Heartless Monkey:

It is in Indonesia that we see the expression of art known as 'Heartless Monkey'; an art of small knives, small slashes and stabs, small movement and big results.

Heartless Monkey has no 'second thoughts'; no compassion, no regret, no remorse, no reservations. Heartless Monkey has no respect for your Humanity; your unique status as a Human Being deserving of anything,- he sees you as a Snake.

Think of Monkey- he screams and capers, plucking, pulling and twisting, always in motion.

He doesn't react to intimidation or pain or fright.

He attacks heartlessly, pitilessly, without regard for his opponent.

He fights to the vulnerabilities; the skin, the blood, the tendons, the eyes, the breath.

He immobilizes and shatters the skeleton and carves the meat off.


Styles: reflective of culture; dress styles, fads & fashions, derivative from other martial styles

Grasping the knife:

Presenting the point:

Presenting the edge:

Using the spine:

Using the flat:

Using the guard:

Using the pommel:

Use as a Spear:

Setting a Deadfall Trap:

Sharpening the Fighting Knife:

Folding Knife vs. Fixed Blade:

Types of Knives:



single edged

double edged

punch knives


types of materials, steels, grips, non-blade fittings

knucks, skull crackers, hollow handles

Sheathes and carry modes: wood, leather, nylon/plastic, concealed, obvious, jewelry

The knife of seven or eight inches in the blade is a utility knife in whatever dress, and styles are taught in all schools. This is the knife that you most probably have with you; it is your work knife, kitchen tool, tool-box blade. Think of it as your claw, the point of the spear made by your arm, the tip of your sword.

It is usually a small knife; sometimes single edged, sometimes double- always very sharp, very pointed,

sometimes carried in sets, sometimes in singles carried around the body.

The practitioner who picks the knife as primary weapon, in a culture dominated by swords and spears, has to be confident of his weapons and their immediate sharpness.

Much of the time, the knife is carried to the front of the body, on either side of the navel area to protect the side cavity. This also allows the draw of the knife in the midst of the fight. Responding to a surprise attack, the first moves may be to immobilize the opponents primary attack and then to draw ones’ own knife to carry the fight back to him.

The knife and sheath serve as extra armor for the abdomen and a closed knife or hard sheath can be used immediately as a small hand weapon. The hand movements to access the knife are naturally to the center of the body. Almost any blocking, stripping or grasping movement will bring the hand close enough to the knife to draw it quickly.

The most common traditional sheaths are wood or horn with no retaining device; they slip forth the blade instantly. Wood or horn don’t soak up water the way that leather does, provide more armor and is cheaper and more available in that culture. In modern Indonesia, leather is more used for city wear and for sale to tourists.

The sheath is not attached to the belt or sash, it can be positioned in any way convenient. It does mean that one must be aware of the knife at all times. The knife was often retained in the sheath by looping a fold of the sash across the mouth of the sheath. Also, in some ritual situations, the knife might be tied into the sheath with turns of twisted cloth.

With the large knife, its weight does the cutting- with a small knife, your body does the cutting. The small knife is a compromise of stealth, fashion or utility. A small knife requires getting close to the opponent and certifies that one cut is not going to end the fight. The secret of the small knife is sharpness and conceptualizing the knife as a fighting spike. The small knife must fit the hand/fist closely (more so than the larger knives) and the weight in the handle.

The leverage of a cut with a small knife is dependent on the rigidity of the wrist and the positioning of the horizontal bones of the shoulders. The torqueing of the body from the waist and from the shoulders provide the twisting energy and the distance needed to achieve momentum.

The large knife seems to require a powerful wrist and the positioning of the waist for the extra leverage needed by the greater weight commitment in the swing. The traditional attitude of leading with the entire blade of a large sax or dirk was pragmatic when the opponent had a shield or targe. The slinging carry of the large knife necessitated a very long arm draw of the knife. The large knife is not suited to a more private carry mode or to a quick draw of the knife.

Don’t draw Pictures in the Air. Do not mistake the practice tool of moving from the study of one posture to the next in a rhythmic and flowing manner for the activities of combat. The wrist is the softest joint, most easily injured and manipulated, and should not be rotated or flexed while fighting with the knife.

If the small edge is locked into the hand and rigidly held in the wrist, it becomes a small spear in its’ attitude. The weapons of the forearm and the elbow become more useful as a rigid pole with a sharp tip. The knife is taken in one grip and not changed during the engagement. Practice activities must involve wrist movement and grip changes; in the fight, no.

This is not to misunderstand the activity of ‘carving’. The small hand knife must accommodate the bone; slide along it, sink into the joint, rotate across it, brace the limb with pain and apply other pressures to break it, ‘lever’ it with the blade as the fulcrum. This is a softness and finesse that is learned by learning to change the two bodies relative positions, not your knifehand. When you have cut your opponent, step forward. One learns to "ride" the small edge while on the opponent, maintaining the cutting contact as long as is convenient, repositioning both bodies, his and yours, to extend the cutting action.

The styling doesn't change much whether the knife is thin and light or dense and weighty because the combative distance hasn't changed. The ideas of distraction, decoying, multiple cuts and stabs, piercing the bone, precision targeting of weak points. Small attention getting cuts, a plant with the blade and then leaving the knife in the body and moving the body to produce a larger wound channel.

Silat Monkey:

The monkey stylings of Indonesian KunTao/Silat; Ketchak, Monjet, Berok, TjiKak, TjiNgkrik and others, characterize various of the primates, and those primates in different personae. The smallest monkeys, weighing just a few pounds move differently than the larger rock apes, baboons and orangutans. The spiritual icons of the various sizes of primates have a long cultural history and mythos.

The larger apes are seen as TaiKek/Kalong (internal ape) practitioners; heavy arms, pulling with the waist, short rooted steps, strikes with the ends of the bones, very positional fighters for technique applications. Generally, the timing, distancing and the utilization of the fighting floor is predicated on an upright practitioner.

In contrast, the small monkey practitioners utilize light penetrating motion; capering, leaping in and out, plucking and grabbing, the precision targeting and manipulation of vulnerable points. The small monkey changes the angle of incidence to the opponent and takes advantage of the openings and leverage opportunities that are thus exposed. The small monkey uses his weight by hanging on the appendages of the opponent and isolating the attack to a part of the body.

The vicious actions of wild monkeys attack the eyes, groin, throat and face. The arms, hair, ears, loose flesh and fingers are used as handles and for distracting pain points to open other targets. Any technique that is not working well is instantly abandoned. Every action to the opponent produces pain, however slight. Every movement disrupts his balance and timing or requires him to redirect any attack to a different space.

As Uncle says, " If you cannot fight the man, fight the limb. If you cannot fight the limb, fight the part. If you cannot fight the part, fight the joint. If you cannot fight the joint, fight the skin."


The knives of the monkey stylings range from the 'pisau', a light utility knife, to the 'golok', a heavy cleaver type. It is not so much the type of knife as it is the manner of using it.

The 'badik' and the 'rentjoeng' are sharp pointed, slashing knives with short curved handles for positive hold and instant repositioning from blade front to blade rear.

Very often the handle shape is for sitting in the palm of the hand or to be grasped by the toes, it also provides a slinging rear weight for throwing.

The emphasis in any weapon knife is its' edge sharpness, point and grip shape. Other considerations are secondary.

The King of fighting knives is the Kris; a slashing, stabbing knife which depends upon its' shape for its' cutting utility.

The undulate movement of the blade provides a continuing entering cut for the edge, the point is very sharp with a wound channel wider than any part of the blade.

The 'pistol' grip allows for instant repositioning to accommodate changes in the combative distance.

The etching of the knife forms a microscopic saw edge that cuts like terror through cloth or meat.

The kris has no secondary usage as a tool, it can serve as a badge of rank and certainly reflects the "tribal" affiliation.

Best knives are of layered steel; 'pamur' steel is layed flats that are forge welded at low heat by an impu, a holy smith.

Sheathes and grips are made of materials that have intrinsic power and spirit.

In addition to the positive aspects of any layered steel blade, there is the concept of a 'holy' weapon;

the Indonesian animist practitioners imbue their weapons with a spirit of their own. There is also available a more traditional patterned steel on the European model of twisted and stacked material. They are still quite expensive and made to very high standards of construction.

Self steel knives are usually agricultural or commercial implements pressed into service as weapons, the property of the less technologically adept primitives or the poor.

As with other civilized cultures, weapons are an art form and treated with precious stones and other fine and rare materials, prayer and ritual attend their construction, convention and tradition surround their carry and use.

Of interest to the anthropologist is the realistic martial usage that has now become ritual.

Close study of the rituals of display, access, when and where what kind of knife is worn and under what circumstances, will lead the practitioner to martial understanding unavailable anywhere else.

Gripping the knife:

" Your martial hand style and knife will determine your grip of the weapon. My own preference is to grasp the knife like grim death and use the same arcs and distances that I would have with empty hand. This results in a chopping, gouging, ripping slashes attack on the same planar surfaces as a fist attack. There is a colliding with the opponents' body with the blade as an adjunct, accessory weapon- even though it causes most of the damage. It is a posture of the mind rather than the body. It reinforces the presentation of the blade.

Learn to use two hands- it presents the bone shield of the forearms with the knife grasped in two hands to protect the weapon and present it more forcefully."

Presenting the edge:

Keep the edge between you and the enemy, direct the edge to his flesh, interpose the edge into his action path, allow his force to further the cut or pierce.

cutting activity: keep the edge pulling or pushing to draw the edge around the flesh.

The unique hold of the small knife and the position that most characterizes the Monkey styling is the 'palming' of the knife.

The butt of the knife is snuggled into the 'V" of the palm with the point and spine following the line between the forefinger and middle finger.

This will align the point on the axis of the entire forearm, reinforcing the insertion of the knife into the opponent.

This hold also lengthens a short knife by moving it farther along the hand than the common European hold known as the Sabre Grip.

As the point is planted, the palm hits the butt of the knife to drive the end below the surface of the body. The practitioner then manipulates the opponents body into a lot of movement to maximize the wound channel inside.

This palming of the knife also allows the fighting movements to be of a more natural manner in the style of the practitioners hand fighting. The positioning along the major axis of the forearm, with the point aligned with the pointing finger, allows the practitioner to utilize the distance and focus that he trains most to do.

A palming of the knife makes for a faster and more sure draw of the knife than does the full hand hold. One can release the knife and grab another very quickly if one does not have a commitment to a particular weapon.

Fighting tips:

In an assault from ambush, the quick draw is made after the initial engagement with the opponent; forcing his body into a position will allow the recovery to ones' own body to make the draw.

The small knife is often used as a distraction to decoy the opponents' mind from the fatal attack.

To show the knife to the opponent is to command his attention.

To lightly wound him is to distract him and to produce terror in his mind; he will move his bone-shield in reaction to the pain.

Often, in response to attack from ambush, the wise practitioner will draw the knife after the opponent is disarmed, grounded and seriously hurt.

Monkey very often takes the opponents' knife and renews the attack armed with that knife.

A furious barrage of wounding attacks to the opponent will give him no opportunity to attack, only to react.

A quick series of small wounds damages him psychically as well as physically.

Unless your opponent is a deeply trained man of great mental discipline, he will feel the effect of small wounds as if they were great ones. It is the idea of being 'breached' that is so intimidating.

The 'displante' of moving the opponent along his weakest ground meridians by forcing a foot movement is the first step to taking his head.

His strengths are being displayed by the choice of stance and posture that he is using- to force him to change that position is to challenge his tactic and raise questions in his mind about his next move.

His reaction time slows down with the number of decisions to be made. One uses the decoy to call his responsive movement into a predictable attack forma.

Attack the Guns

As Uncle says, 'Attack the Guns'- First attack the means with which your opponent can hurt you; attack the hands for hitting you or the arms for holding them. Attack the legs for moving his body too close to you. Attack the head for ever thinking that he should have bothered you.

Simple cuts between the fingers, to the wrist tendons, veins and vessels, open joints or just skin attacks.

Other practitioners will engage the meat and separate it from the skeleton, riding the edge with and against the movement of the opponent. The filleting action of the edge produces massive trauma to the body with broad open wounds and massive shock to the system of the opponent.

Tears, gouges, rips and slashes, point attacks, wide-edge filleting, flat slaps and percussion movements with the back-edge of the knife are always useful to open the opponents defense.


Remember your other weapons!

Your forearms, open hand, feet, knees, elbows and forehead should both protect the weapon and shield behind it.

The grasping aspect should be cultivated, as well as grappling and throws with the knife.

Resistance to the cutting edge or point will force a grappling submission or displace the skeleton for throwing to the ground.

Placement of the knife for the opponent to fall into or on so that the cut can be made is a thought for much intention.

Your weapon can act as a edge-shield, in that it is the presentation of the sharpness of the edge that does the protective work.

a rod-shield, the knife is a steel rod that will act as a protection in that aspect.

or a flat-shield for the rest of the body, the flat width of the blade as shield.

At the same time, not wanting to be disarmed, your body should protect the knife by guarding the hand/arm that holds it.

Your skeletal positioning should remove the knife from the opponents' strong attack meridians and prepare you to cut the targets that he offers to you.

Prepare yourself to be cut.

Prepare to make a choice about where that cut will be. Set yourself to direct the opponent to cut you in a minimally lethal place and to take advantage of his position to kill him.

Any fight, much less any weapons fight, much less responding to ambush, must end in the complete domination of the attacker.

As Uncle Paulus says, "Prepare your mind, Trust the training and practice, relax- Enjoy the fight."

The attitude of the "Heartless Monkey" can be an advantage to any practitioner of any style of martial art.

The "silat", the combative knowledge, can be associated with any system of physical movement.

As Uncle says, "It doesn’t matter how you wave your arms and legs about, its’ Hits that count."

Anatomy doesn't change; vulnerable points are the same for Japanese practitioners, Korean, Chinese, European fencers, etc.

The finesse of a system may be somewhat more sophisticated from style to style, but the combat doesn’t change.


The author is deeply grateful for the direct and personal guidance in the preparation of this article of Guru Besar Willem DeThouars; a man of great generosity and compassion, and of his brother, Maha Guru Victor, my chan man ran. Our family and personal association of nearly twenty years has been one of God’s great blessings in my life.

The kind leadership, compassionate grace in practice and the personal combat observations of Guru Steve Gartin, 1st Practitioner and Senior House Student of Uncle Bill, must be gratefully acknowledged in my research and preparation, as well as the work reflected in the photographs accompanying the article.

My appreciation of the artist to Roy Sorenson, master photographer and valued martial arts brother. Selamat & Selamat.

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