A PAGE OUT OF INDONESIAN MARTIAL ARTS HISTORY; PENCAK SILAT SerakŪ.
Maha Guru Victor de Thouars, interviewed by reporter Steve Gartin, for Fighting Knives/Street Fighter magazine.
Fighting Knives: Spending the day with Maha Guru Victor, one of the people to complete a family system called Pencak (Pentjak) Silat Serah.
FTK: Thank you for taking the time to enlighten FK readers about the history of Silat and Serah in particular. I understand that much of the information you will be sharing today will also be available in your book of "Serah"
Victor: Yes it is.
FTK: Can you tell us first of all, what is Maha Guru?
Victor: Pendekar Agung promoted me to that level, and it merely means "professor", or the same as teacher of others who wish to be teachers.
FTK: Can you tell us the about your family Silat history.
Victor: It is unfortunate that some incorrect information about my family system has been found in print over the last few years. I intend this interview to serve as a guide and reference material to anyone who has interest in the martial art called Pencak (Pentjak) Silat SerakŪ (Serah).
FTK: What is the scope of our discussion today?
Victor: I would like to deal with the history of one esoteric Indonesian martial art. The direct descendent line from Pencak (Pentjak) Silat SerakŪ (Serah), from the founder Bapak Sera to the present day leader "Pendekar Agung", and those who claim to decend from the founder.
FTK: Who is the present Pendekar of your system?
Victor: Pendekar Agung Paul de Thouars.
FTK: Please continue, and tell us about the roots of Serah and how it is entwined with the history of Indonesia.
Victor: Knowing and understanding what has happened in Asia over the last two thousand years can serve to clarify one's comprehension of the modern day martial arts from Indonesia. Everywhere there are elements of the past. At an obvious level there are monuments in stone, temples such as the Borobudur, Prambabanan and Penantarani on the Island of Java.
FTK: How have you researched this history?
Victor: In research, through many of primary and secular Euro/Asian historical writings, to include Indonesian also. I have found material based on historical facts. In the last two thousand years the island of Java has been influenced by a variety of religious, social, political and commercial forces. All of them in some way have left their mark.
FTK: What effect did this have on the Indonesians?
Victor: Java is famous for being able to absorb and adapt to external influences, without necessarily disregarding older beliefs, practices and values.
FTK: How about all the different influences, what effect did that have?
Victor: Astonishingly even with the many influences, Java has had from the outside world over the years, it has maintained ancient customs and beliefs. From the ashes and dust, colonialism and internal strife, the Indonesian people have built Indonesia into a great nation.
FTK: How did India influence Indonesian martial arts?
Victor: In the early stages of India and it's history, warfare was an integral part of their culture. With the rise and fall of many of kingdoms, all types of combat were subjected to the people.
FTK: Was Indonesia ever conquered by India?
Victor: Although India never sought to conquer Indonesia, their influence was felt. The trade and missionary contact from India played a major role in the development of Indonesia.
FTK: Were can some one read about this?
Victor: The Indian Chronicle "Ramayana", contains mentions of indonesia as early as the seventh century B.C. The ancient Hindu epic, The Ramayana also mentions Indonesia in the sixth century B.C.
FTK: How about trade routes, and religious missionary efforts?
Victor: By the end of the second century A.D., India had already established trade routes to Indonesia. By the year 125 A.D., influences from Indian Hindu/Buddhist missionarys was beginning to be felt in Indonesia.
FTK: What effect did the Indian culture have on Indonesia?
Victor: The people of Indonesia evolved a unique culture of their own by this time.
FTK: Did the Indonesian have some kind of martial arts?
Victor: Indonesian martial arts was very crude and unrefined during that time period, followed by a period of refinement. With the later Influences from India, Indonesia established a system of fighting unique to Indonesia.
FTK: What about the Chinese, what contact did they have with Indonesia?
Victor: Early reference to Java was made in the Chinese Annals during the Han Dynasty. They recorded the richness of the land and the many aspects of the culture.
FTK: Is the Chinese martial arts in Indonesia from the Chinese?
Victor: Absolutely not, the martial arts the Chinese saw in Indonesia were referred to as "Silate". The indonesian able to absorb and adapt to other cultures, took many words from those cultures and integrated them into their language. This was done with the word "Silate", and was changed to Silat, so in short the word "Silat" is from Chinese origin, not the action.
SF. How about the Indonesian writings or alphabet?
Victor: By the forth century, Indonesians were using the South Indian Paliava script to carve Mahayana Buddhist inscriptions. Words borrowed from sanskrit found in the Indonesian language today indicate the specific contribution the Indians had on Indonesia.
FTK: Can you tell us, how the Indonesian martial arts progressed?
Victor: From the period beginning in the seventh century B.C. through the fourth century A.D., the martial arts flourished and took on their own unique shape in Indonesia. There was a crude form of martial arts in Indonesia dating as far back as the sixth century B.C.
FTK: What effect did the Chinese have on that martial art period?
Victor: My research indicates that martial arts did not flourish in China until the Sai Dynasty (581-618 A.D.).
FTK: Were can people read about this?
Victor: The Peoples Republic of China investigated their history to find the origin of the martial arts in their country. In their research they state that the Shaolin held the oldest knowledge of Kung Fu (Chuan-Shu).
FTK: What about the mystical temple, that you always see in the movies?
Victor: Well I don't know if it is mystical, but the oldest known Chinese temple, the "Chan Monastery", was located in the Sung Shan mountains in Tung-Feng county in the province of Honan. The temple was built by Emperor Hsiao-Wen in the late fifth century A.D. It was constructed in the honor of the Indian monk Bodhidharma.
FTK: Is that the temple with all the secret societies?
Victor: If they had secret societies or not, I have no knowledge. In research I have found the Shaolin Temple became the focal point for martial arts in China, but not to the extent that western journalist and film makers would have one believe.
FTK: Was there such a thing as Shaolin Priest?
Victor: Absolutely, unfortunately the only true famous Shaolin Monk died in 1991, the chinese know him as "Hi Teng Shi Fu".
FTK: Have you ever seen this man?
Victor: Yes on tapes, he was one devastating martial art man. My deepest respect to this humble man, the world has lost much. Especially on the mainland of China, "Hi Teng Shi Fu" is still held in awe by all martial arts practitioners.
FTK: Do you have Video Tapes from this Shaolin monk?
Victor: Yes I do.
FTK: Could we report the tapes on some later dates?
Victor: By all means for that is historical information, belonging to all people.
FTK: Can you please continue with some of the martial arts chinese history?
Victor: Kung Fu (Chuan-Shu) began to spread north and south from 420 to 589 A.D. and it came to flourish in the Sai Dynasty from 581 thru 618 A.D. and during the Tang Dynasty from 618 thru 907 A.D. After this period it began to branch into a number of subtypes.
FTK: How does the Indonesian and Chinese martial arts compare with each other?
Victor: Martial arts in Indonesia and China began to develop separately, but both were influenced by the buddhist monks who traveled from India to Indonesia and China during those years.
FTK: Were can we, as westerners find some historical Indonesian artifacts?
Victor: There is proof enough written on the wall's of the temples in central java of the cultural and artistic vitality of the people. Many of the facades depict martial arts encounters. Over centuries Indonesia flourished, and Java accumulated great wealth.
FTK: Did Indonesia have a cultural history of any known kingdom?
Victor: One of greatest kingdoms is that of the Majapahit (Mojopahit), Java's greatest dynasty. When people speak of the "Majapahit Empire" they are sometimes making reference to the time period from 125 thru 1389. But in fact this is really a reference to the Hindu-Buddhist time period.
FTK: Can you tell us more about this Empire?
Victor: The Majapahit Empire was the greatest Dynasty of that period, and therefore is sometimes used for reference for historical research to cover this large span of time. The Majapahit Dynasty was actually in power from 1292 thru 1398. Queen Tribhuvana reigned for fourteen years and then appointed prime minister Gadja Madah.
FTK: What is known about this prime minister?
Victor: The famous prime minister was known for his dedication in unifying the Indonesian people. While Gadja Mada was in power, a great surge of native folk art re-emerged, straying from the Indian prototypes. In 1364 he died, and Hyam Waruk succeeded Gadja Mada. It is was said that Gadja Mada worked so hard that it took four people to do his work. After Hyam Waruk's death in 1398 the greatness of the dynasty began to dwindle.
FTK: How long did this dynasty lasted?
Victor: By 1398 the great Hindu-Buddhist kingdom past on, and Islam was established. Indonesia was one of the few countries were the Islam religion was not planted by military force.
FTK: Why was it not by military force?
Victor: It was the appeal of the religion to the majority, that allowed Islam to take root. In Islam, all men could talk to "Allah".
FTK: How about the Dutch, that were present at that time?
Victor: The Indonesians grasped tighter to the Islam religion as a counter to the threat of Portuguese and Dutch Christianity.
FTK: Did the portuguese conquer Indonesia?
Victor: The Portuguese period lasted only a short time from 1512 to the early 1600's. The portuguese were not really interested in setting up government in Indonesia. They were more interested in controlling the ports and trade routes.
FTK: Were the English ever in Indonesia?
Victor: Yes, in the early part of the seventeenth century, the English came to power in Indonesia. The English abandoned Indonesia in 1824, and shifted their interest to Singapore. It was in 1816 that most of the Indies were handed over to the Dutch.
FTK: It is well known that the Dutch colonized Indonesia, how did this occur?
Victor: During this time the individual Indonesian kingdoms were continually feuding with each other, so they fell easy prey to the strong Dutch forces. During this time period the Dutch turned Java into a vast state-owned labor camp.
FTK: Was Java always a labor camp under the Dutch?
Victor: No it was not, later the Dutch showed more of a desire to be true partners with the Indonesian people. With the new humanitarian approach they began to educate the Indonesians, and allowed more freedoms for the common people.
FTK: How did your family become involved in the martial arts?
Victor: In the mid 1800's Johan de Vries was born, my grand father and that of the current Pendekar Serah, Paul de Thouars. Johan owned plantations on leased land. The land was actually from his wife, an Indonesian who had ties with the Indonesian Kraton. Westerners by law of the land were not allowed to own land, only lease agreements were allowed.
FTK: What is the Kraton?
Victor: The Kraton is the palace of the Sultan of Jogja.
FTK: How did the relation of martial arts and your grandfather begin.
Victor: Because of his love for the people of Indonesia, his wife introduced him to a Guru (teacher) who came from the Badui nation. And this Guru went by the name of "Mas Djut". The Badui people had maintained complete isolation from outside influences for well over four hundred years.
FTK: Who are the Badui people?
Victor: The Badui are a small tribe of Sunda speaking people who live in the mountainous forest territory of Gunung Kendang (Drum Mountain), near the city of Bandung in West Java.
FTK: Are the Baduis still in existance, and how are they handling the space age?
Victor: Yes they still exist. The Badui nation still have the ability to preserve their religion, moral code and general way of life. The Indonesian people hold the Badui people with deep respect and awe for their mystic and clairvoyant powers.
FTK: Can you tell us about the founder of your system?
Victor: The founder of the martial art system of SerakŪ (Serah) came from the Badui people. This man was very wise, and his ability as a teacher was well known. The common people of his period named him after the owl (Burung Serah) for his ability to foresee and his wise powers of advise. Bapak or for short Pak Serah (Father Serah) had knowledge of nine prominent martial arts of that time period, not to say that he practiced any of them.
FTK: In what context or purpose did he practice or devise this fighting system?
Victor: He constructed and devised defensive and offensive maneuvers, to combat all the offensive attacks of the nine or more martial arts from that time period.
FTK: On what basis did he build his art?
Victor: He sought out all the weaknesses and strengths of those arts, and invented a devastating martial art of his own creation. In other words, his sole purpose was to devise a system to counter all the known systems of his own time period and win. And imagine this, Bapak Serah had only one arm and one clubbed foot.
FTK: Can you give an illustration what Serah is like?
Victor: For example the United States coming up first with the Atomic bomb, and then actually using the weapon to devastate an adversary during WWII.
FTK: Please continue, what happened after that?
Victor: With the innovative ideas of his main disciple Mas Djoet, the system was more refined for having two hands and feet. Mas Djoet was able to organize the system into a format ranging from beginning to advanced levels of training. In his travels he taught and worked with the Sultan of Ponti Anak. Ponti Anak is on the Island of Borneo, and the Sultan of that region was not Chinese.
FTK: Did Mas Djoet ever work with or have chinese students?
Victor: Mas Djoet never taught or worked out in the Chinese community with any Chinese, as some people would have you believe. The cultural gap was to great for him. Besides the Chinese were too secretive about their own styles.
FTK: Now what about this Sultan of where?
Victor: He was the Sultan of Ponti Anak, from the many of visits to the Sultan, Mas Djoet refined the system to fine tuned machine.
FTK: How does this all tie in with your grandfather?
Victor: Over the years Mas Djoet could see that Johan de Vries was a caring man and acted in goodness toward the people of Indonesia. As a result of this friendship, Johan became a student of Mas Djoet and learned the fighting system of Silat Serah. Johan was taken into the confidence of Mas Djoet, and Johan took an oath not the change the system.
FTK: How did your grandfather progress in the martial arts?
Victor: Besides learning Serah, he was also an accomplished Cimande (Tjimande) practitioner. Since Johan was a business men, he felt that he could not devote the immense time it would take to teach.
FTK: How then did the system of Serah progress in the family?
Victor: Opa (Grandfather) as I call him brought his three nephews to Mas Djoet; John de Vries (1898-1972), Ernes "Nes" de Vries (1902-1982) and Ferdinand "Verrie" de Vries (1900-1945). Along with the teachings of Serah, Mas Djoet's great foresight instilled various Safeguards to help prevent the changing or others from claiming his system, and that safeguard is still in effect as of today. The three brothers were taught to be Guru's (Teachers).
FTK: Who of the three brothers did Mas Djut choose as his successor?
Victor: With his great foresight, Mas Djoet choose John to become his successor and the next Pandai (Skilled Craftsman) or Pendekar Agung (Main expert and leader of the system), John had a talent for helping students understand the teachings of Serah. Ernes "Nes" was a fierce fighter, and sometimes had a difficult time presenting the teachings in an understandable manner. "Nes" had no time for those who did not follow his teachings immediately. Intense pain was delivered when a student failed to understand what he was trying to convey. "Verrie" was always on the move, and was not known to have students.
FTK: How did the system of Serah come to the United States of America.
Victor: Well, from Pak Serah the system traveled from West-Java to Siam, (Now Thailand) to the Netherlands and finally the United States of America.
FTK: When did the system come to the US.
Victor: Since I am the one charged to keep records, to be precise, Pendekar Paul (at that time still Maha Guru) walked in front of me off the steps of the "Statendam", a Dutch passenger vessel. The date and time was; May 11, 1960, Paul was one minute ahead of me, and my time was 10 am exactly when I stepped onto U.S. soil, so at 9.59 am the system of Silat Serah officially arrived in the United States.
FTK: Why do say officially?
Victor: Well because both of my brothers were in the merchant marines and visited the U.S. before 1960. May 11, 1960 was the date we emigrated, and the United States of America became our home.
FTK: Back to Pak SerakŪ, what was the date of his birth, and when did he die?
Victor: Pak SerakŪ was born in the late 1700's and died in late the 1800's in Djakarta (Batavia), in the section that was called "Kramat"
FTK: And how about Mas Djoet?
Victor: Mas Djoet was born in the mid 1800 and died in the early part of 1900 also in Batavia in the section that was called "Kramat", and was laid to rest by his mentor and teacher.
FTK: You gave exact date for your uncles, why not Pak SerakŪ or Mas Djut?
Victor: Why not the exact dates given of Pak SerakŪ and Mas Djut, well reason for this is that recently within the past ten years people have claimed to have learned from Mas Djoet and have some form of Silat SerakŪ.
FTK: Is this really true?
Victor: Not so, in a early writing and seminars of history, I wrote that Mas Djoet died in 1930 and that he could be Mas Kair, did he or was he? This was a safeguard, against those who would claim to have learned SerakŪ or any other form called SerakŪ Soeti Hati, other than from Pendekar Paul or myself.
FTK: How so?
Victor: Sure enough, writings and advertisements in recent magazines came out claiming to descend from Mas Djoet, with him passing away in 1930. Hmm! very strange, with this I knew the bait was taken.
FTK: Was that a laid trap to bring out those who would falsely claim the system?
Victor: Yes, should those who claim the system know the exact dates when the inventor of the system was born, and died? Or even Mas Djut whom they claim is their leader or guide. It appears they have fallen into a set trap!
FTK: In what other way do you confirm your knowledge?
Victor: Recently, on April 13, 1993, I conversed with Dolf de Vries, son of Ernes "Nes" de Vries, and he acknowledge and confirmed who studied from Mas Djoet or his father and uncle John de Vries.
FTK: Did Dolf de Vries ever practice with Mas Djut?
Victor: Yes he has, and Pendekar I do believe met Mas Djoet.
FTK: What relation is Dolf de Vries to you and Johan de Vries?
Victor: It is uncanny that we have the same grandfather in the art, Johan de Vries, and that is why Silat Serah is called the Family system. Actually Johan de Vries would be a great uncle to Dolf de Vries.
FTK: Please tell us in short from your uncle John, the progression?
Victor: In one of his many trips back to his teacher in the Netherlands, Paul was promoted by Pendekar John to be his successor and become Pendekar Serah.
FTK: When was that?
Victor: September 25, 1970 two o'clock in the afternoon.
FTK: Is Mr. John de Vries still alive?
Victor: No, unfortunately, my uncle John died in the fall of 1972.
FTK: How many persons in the United States have completed the system of Serah?
Victor: Besides Pendekar Paul, two persons have completed the system of Silat SerakŪ who reside in the United States. Myself and Stevan Plinck who now resides in the state of Washington.
FTK: Was there any other person who had taken lessons from Pendekar Paul and is teaching Silat.
Victor: Yes there is, Mr. Art Remref has knowledge of Silat SerakŪ.
FTK: Did Mr. Art Remref ever completed the system of Serah?
Victor: No he never completed the system, he was a student of Pendekar Paul in the early part of 1962 in Pasadena California.
FTK: Is Mr. Remref a legitimate Guru?
Victor: Mr. Art Remref is a legitimate Guru, and teaches other arts also in his school. His is the oldest commercial public silat school in California.
FTK: Who are now at the present learning Silat Serah from the Pendekar?
Victor: Mr. Jamal Abu Amar, Cas Magda, Burt Richardson, Rick Tucci instructors in Bukti Negara and Dan Inosanto also a Bukti Negara Guru and a well known Kali Guru and practitioner is currently in progress completing the system of SerakŪ. Guru Dan has done a lot to promote Silat with his seminars.
FTK: How do you view Dan Inosanto?
Victor: My older brother, and one who has a great knowledge for me and others to learn from.
FTK: Do you now currently teach Silat SerakŪ?
Victor: Yes, besides teaching Tongkat. Under my direction these names are to be noted as learning Silat SerakŪ; Robert Vanatta, Tom Meuller, Bob Mueller, Mike Mueller, Gary Piehl, Jeff Warwick, Teri Poe, and John Meyers. All are instructors of Silat Tongkat. Mr Robert Vanatta will inherit, and will be my successor to Pencak Silat Tongkat.
FTK: What about Mr. Rudie ter Linden, according to him in recent articles in magazines he learned Silat Serah in Indonesia, Is this true?
Victor: No that is a falsehood, Mr. Rudie ter Linden learned the first ten short forms or Jurus from the system of Serah from me in May of 1962, in my garage at 550 E. First Street, Azusa, California. Mr. Roy Stevens a Dutch Indonesian, and Mr. Fredie Fredericks an American were also taking lessons at that time. Also to include a certain Mr. Rudie Kudding who knows Mr. Rudie ter Linden from Indonesia and New Guinea, according to Mr. Kudding it is impossible for Mr. ter Linden to have studied the many systems he claims to know. If he did, he would be well over one hundred years old, especially Silat Serah.
FTK: Did Mr. ter Linden complete the system with you?
Victor: No he did not after the ten Jurus, I turned Mr. ter Linden over to Pendekar Paul de Thouars, who taught him only a portion of the system.
FTK: Can you tell me were Mr. ter Linden spoke about in public of his own background in the martial arts and knowing the system of Serah.
Victor: Mr. Rudie ter Linden made claim to have learned Serah in Indonesia, that was noted in a magazine called "Secret Fighting Arts" of January 1990, writer Lilia I. Howe. I do believe Mr. ter Linden called the meaning of SerakŪ "laryngitis", I do believe Bapak Sera would turn in his grave if he knew that someone called him after clearing his throat or having "laryngitis", this is certainly not showing hormat or adat to the founder of the art.
FTK: Have you ever brought this matter up with Dolf de Vries?
Victor: Yes I have, in conversing with Dolf de Vries, he has no knowledge of Mr. Rudie ter Linden ever taking Silat SerakŪ from any Guru in Indonesia or his Father, other than in the early days telling him he was learning Serah from us.
I wish to bring up another point. Some people may say, well I called the Indonesian consul in Los Angeles, and they have not heard of Pendekar Paul. Well you know, in martial arts circles here Mr. Dan Inosanto is well known. Do you think an American consulate to Indonesia would know who he was, if someone in Indonesia would ask him?
FTK: Yes, I believe your right, why is the system so protected, and is it possible to slip by?
Victor: No, that can not happened, the reason is that the circle of those who learn Silat Serah is very small. Besides I still record who has learned and is learning SerakŪ. One example is, when Mr. Cas Magda started his Serah lesson, I was a direct witness and recorded in the Book of Serah as such.
FTK: Why was the knowledge of Mr. ter Linden not brought out sooner?
Victor: Well you have to understand, I personally care for Mr. ter Linden, so does Pendekar Paul, for he was a good friend of the Pendekar.
FTK: Was there an attempt earlier made to record the truth?
Victor: Yes, when Ms.Lilia L. Howe visited me in Upland California in 1989, she asked me if she could print or write about the actual knowledge of Mr. Rudie ter Linden. My reply was NO!
FTK: Why not?
Victor: Mr. Rudie ter Linden and his wife visited me in my apartment in 1989, and we reminisced of when I sculptured him out of clay in the early days of 1960. For as a Artist point of view Mr. ter Linden has artistic features easily to paint and sculpture. My hope was that Mr. Rudie ter Linden would come out in public himself, and acknowledge were his partial knowledge of Silat SerakŪ came from. But to my disappointment he denied the teachings of my teacher in public, for not stating were his partial knowledge of Serah comes from.
FTK: How about Mr. William Sanders who claims to be Pendekar of Cimande (Tjimande) Pusaka?
Victor: Well, many have asked me about the validity of Mr. William Sanders. By al means Mr. Sanders is a martial art practitioner in his own right. I do not know who made mister Sanders a Pendekar of Cimande. Mr. Sanders came to me in 1984, he had learned Silat Tjimindi from Mr. John Malterer who at that time also claimed to have knowledge of Silat SerakŪ. The system was supposedly taught by Mr. Willie Wetzel.
Mr. Sanders also learned the jurus and langkahs from the sub-system Tongkat from me. I still have the original Video tapes showing Mr. William Sanders learning the Jurus and Techniques in my basement in Nortglenn, Colorado.
That system of Tongkat was invented by me, in the beginning of 1957, the name Tongkat was given to me by Pendekar Paul. Mr. Sanders has partial knowledge of the System of Tongkat, and now claims to know the system of Silat Cimande (Tjimande) Pusaka.
FTK: How so Cimande (Tjimande) Pusaka, and how is this known?
Victor: Panther Productions made video tapes for Mr. Sanders. The jurus and langkahs are direct copies of Silat Tongkat. You can compare the tapes made in my basement in 1984 and 1985 with the commercially produced tapes. You will find an interesting similarity!
FTK: How can we know that it is not Cimande (Tjimande)?
Victor: Since Cimande (Tjimande) is a brother art of Serah, and the system my grandfather was a practitioner of. Also to include my other brother Willem de Thouars who does practice and teach Cimande (Tjimande), does not acknowledge and recognize any jurus or langkahs that Mr. Sanders claims to be Cimande (Tjimande).
FTK: Who was Mr. Willem de Thouars Cimande Teacher?
Victor: His father in law, who was a direct student under Pa Atma?
FTK: Who was Pa Atma?
Victor: Pa Atma was the first disciple of Mas Kair, Inventor of the real Pencak (Pentjak) Silat Cimande (Tjimande). He came from Tjimahi near Bogor in West Java.
FTK: Did Mr. Willie Wetzel know Silat SerakŪ?
Victor: Let's look at this closer. Mr. Willie Wetzel has taught numerous people the system what he called Tjimindie, certainly nothing wrong with that. Every person certainly has the ability to invent any system he likes, and from what I know of Mr. Wetsel, he was a fierce and accomplished practitioner. Mr. Wetsel died in a unfortunate accident well over a decade ago, possibly around the middle seventies, my respect to his spirit.
FTK: Was Mr. Wetsel's credentials ever questioned as to learning or knowing Serah?
Victor: Yes, in 1981 I asked my uncle "Nes" if he knew Mr. Wetsel, or if he ever studied with Mas Djoet. That was John Malterer's claim of Mr. Wetsel in an article of Black Belt Magazine dated January 1980. His reply was, he never heard the name mentioned ever in the Serah training camp from Mas Djut. So where Mr. Willie Wetzel had learned his Silat, I have no knowledge.
FTK: Have you ever had conversations with students from your uncle Nes?
Victor: Yes I have, I asked a direct student of my uncle "Nes", who I personally did not know. Our paths crossed when I was in Siam (Thailand) after WWII. He did not remember me, for I was a small boy at that time. But for history, and for the record, here is a letter that he wrote to me in Dutch in 1990. I have translated it into English.
(COPY OF WILLIAM REEDERS LETTER)
I am very glad that you called us, for I rejoice in contact with Pentjakkers from Indonesia.
Specially of the Pak SerakŪ system from Mas Djut. Nes de Vries and myself were like two brothers, and we did a lot of training together in Na-Kompathom (Siam) were we were POW's.
Now here in America, I know of well over a hundred pentjakkers that claim to have Pak SerakŪ style, learned from a certain Willy Wetsel, who claimed that he was from Mas Djut. I know him from Malang (East Java) as a little boy, and know that he never was in Bandoeng, so that he never could have learned Pak SerakŪ system. His style is some what Bantam with a little Karate kicks. But all his students (a couple of hundred) have now schools here in Pennsylvania and I do not know were the Pak SerakŪ instruction came in, and really have to do at all with Pak SerakŪ. I do not know how to stop it.
I do not know if I know you personally Victor, my descendent branch is from Nes de Vries, Leo Sjel, Lion de Riearere, Theo Schrijn, Puk Soverbier and Mancho Soverbier, Madrais, Tji Petjut, Abu Saman, Suro Djawan.
But I hope that we meet each other soon, and have our reunion.
Signed Willem Reeders
FTK: Did you have, or ever meet Mr. Reeders in person?
Victor: It is unfortunate that I never got to meet Mr. William Reeders, for he passed away before we could actually meet.
FTK: Did Mr. Reeders ever have students?
Victor: Yes he did, and if I might say, extremely good students. For such was Mr. Reeders according to Dolf de Vries, who knew Mr. William Reeders.
FTK: Do you have ill feelings toward Mr. ter Linden or William Sanders?
Victor: No not at all, this is a free country, however who will ultimately suffer? It is the offspring you create. Ten or twenty years later, when your offspring has opened a school, and then find out that their descendent line has absolutely no bearing on what they have been taught. How should they feel? Who bears the responsibility? Has ego come in front of fellow man, and not given any thought to the future. That is for Mr. ter Linden and Mr. Sanders to decide.
FTK: Could they have designed their own system?
Victor: I do not see why not, everyone with a reasonable experience can create one. Not unless you wish to tie your self to some lineage.
FTK: What can we report to our readers then Mr. de Thouars?
Victor: When people speak of Silat SerakŪ, there is only one line to Pak SerakŪ, not two or three. Some like to jump on a band wagon because it sounds good, like the Ninja craze was in the late seventies and eighties.
Also when people speak of Cimande (Tjimande), there is only one, not an art taken or borrowed from Silat Tongkat, and then calling it Cimande Pusaka.
FTK: Are there more safeguards that controls the system?
Victor: Pendekar Agung Paul and myself have many other safeguards to protect what is rightfully the family system of Pencak (Pentjak) Silat SerakŪ. And you know, what the greatest key to all this is.
FTK: And that is?
Victor: The remarkable question, did Mas djut ever have sons or daughters. That knowlegde we keep in the background, for future reference when needed.
FTK: Did the Pendekar or you close the teaching of Silat Serah to the general public?
Victor: No, not at all, for those who wish to learn, Pendekar Paul and myself are always ready to teach the knowledge of Silat Bukti Negara or Silat Tongkat, and then graduating to Silat Serah.
FTK: What about those who never completed Silat Serah from Pendekar Paul?
Victor: Well, for those who have learned SerakŪ other than from Pendekar Paul, you have the last six jurus 19 thru 24, and 12 langkah dalams missing, including the final combination langkah. Certainly not Langkah Macet (Majet). The langkah's are the key to full knowledge of Serah. Without them, Serah is not whole, it is as if you miss both arms and legs. And some one said, from the knowledge that he had, he could figure out the rest of Serah.
FTK: Is that possible?
Victor: Good luck I would say, those keys are locked within the knowledge of the Pendekar and me, you can receive the remainder, only if you have received the seventh key of authority from Pendekar Paul himself.
FTK: Did Mr. ter Linden ever receive the final keys from Pendekar Paul?
Victor: Mr. ter Linden never received them from Pendekar Paul or any other Guru of Serah. Unfortunately, if you don't have the seven last safe guards, you can not rightfully claim to posses the knowledge of Serah.
FTK: How about Mr. Sanders, does he have all of the system of Tongkat that you created?
Victor: No, he does not, I never taught him the curriculum of the intermediate and short staff, to include the blade or the Tjabang. The six last jurus 19 through 24, and 12 langkah dalams, to include Langkah satu through lima. That information I never shared with any one other than the present instructors of Silat Tongkat. And again not having that portion of the system leaves you with a system not whole, like missing both hands and feet.
FTK: Are you a Pendekar? Since you developed and invented Tongkat?
Victor: No, I am not a Pendekar, and I know what the translation would say. I recognize Pendekar Agung Paul de Thouars to be my senior and teacher, and there can be only one. Should Pendekar Paul retire, and he deems that I have the qualification to be one, then that is his call, not mine.
FTK: Thank you very much for this information, this will inform our readers the way that the system of Silat Serah was passed from Bapak Sera to Pendekar Paul and you. It is evident from what you have told me today that there is a very distinct, direct, and well documented linage in your Family System. In America, we have only three people capable of bringing an ernest student to the full knowledge of Serah. The Pendekar, (Paul de Thouars), Yourself, and Steven Plinck.
Victor: You're very welcome, and your analysis is correct.
FTK: Mr. de Thouars, can you show us some of the offensive maneuvers from Silat Serah, attacks with a blade and open hands.
Victor: Certainly, I'd be Glad to.
"And he did, you know!"
Note: Only the first half of this article was published by FullContact, now defunct,