Indonesian pencak silat athlete Amri Rusdana, right, faces Uzbekistan's Nurulla Saidov at an Asian Games's event in Jakarta on Thursday (23/08). (Inasgoc Photo/Dewi Nurcahyani via Antara)

Pencak Silat Makes Debut at Asian Games


AUGUST 24, 2018

Jakarta. Pencak silat, a martial art originating in Southeast Asia and made world-famous by "The Raid" movie, is likely to gain more recognition on the international sport stage, as it debuted at the Asian Games on Thursday (23/08), featuring 40 pesilat, or fighters.

On the first day, at the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah venue in East Jakarta, Indonesia's four representatives, all of them male fighters, won all bouts against their opponents from Thailand, Vietnam, Uzbekistan and Timor Leste.

A five-member jury watched the three-round bouts. A score of 5-0 means that each of them voted for the same fighter to win.

"The fight was very fast and I just kept attacking to finish it," said Indonesia's Komang Adi Putra who easily beat Timor Leste's David No-ano Ximenes by 5-0.

"No fight is easy in a competition as big as the Asian Games," the 23-year-old athlete added.

Hoping for Olympics

Pencak silat has its roots in the Malay Archipelago, where it has been practiced since the seventh century. The word "pencak" is often used to describe movement to a certain rhythm or music, while "silat" means self defense. Many have seen pencak silat as a traditional dance combined with self-defense techniques. Both aspects are taken into account during competitions.

It has been present at the Southeast Asian Games, and this year debuts at the Asian Games, with 16 gold medals from 10 combating and six motion-art events at stake.

"We are so happy that pencak silat finally made it to the Asian Games, this is a long-awaited moment," said Iskandar, secretary general of East Jakarta's branch of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI).

As the 2018 Asian Games' host, Indonesia could propose its own sport to be included in the event.

"The OCA [Olympic Council of Asia] approved pencak silat to be featured in this year's Asian Games, but it's only for now. It's still a long way before it enters Olympic Games," Sports Ministry's secretary general Gatot Dewa Broto told the Jakarta Globe.

"To have it at the Olympics, at least 80 members of the IOC [International Olympic Committee] should vote for it. We've been negotiating this with the IOC while promoting the sport regionally."

In the 2015 SEA Games, Indonesia led in pencak silat with 11 medals, followed by Vietnam which got 10 medals. But in the 2017 SEA Games, Malaysia was the winner with 16 medals — 10 of them gold. Indonesia only got two gold medals. Many said the competition was rigged.

At this year's Asian Games, Indonesia is expected to win at least three gold medals in pencak silat.

Islamic Martial Art

There are 167 athletes from 16 countries competing in pencak silat, including India, Iran, Nepal and Uzbekistan.

Speaking on the sidelines of Thursday's event, Iranian officials recognized Islamic values in the sport.

"Beside its beauty, pencak silat is an Islamic martial art and Iran is an Islamic republic, so it's important that we love this sport," Homayoun Khorram, president of the Iranian Pencak Silat Association, told the Jakarta Globe.

The martial art has been associated with spiritual and supernatural powers, which partially follow Islamic guidelines.

"All Muslim countries must turn into pencak silat," said another Iranian official Esfidvajani Amini.

The International Pencak Silat Federation (Persilat) is headquartered in Jakarta and comprises 44 member countries. It is chaired by Indonesian politician Prabowo Subianto, who is also the chairman of IPSI and founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra). Prabowo will also contest next year's presidential election against the incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Indonesia seeks to have pencak silat recognized by Unesco as the country's cultural heritage.