IntroductionLong before the Christian era, according to Indonesian historians 1500 years BC, it was the inhabitants of Tongkin and Annan (modern day Vietnam) who, due to various reasons, explored and settled on the current Indonesian islands. These explorers were more highly developed culturally than the indigenous peoples of the island groups now known as Indonesia. To this day one still finds evidence of the Dongson-culture. The original inhabitants were very primitive and darker in skin color as can be found today on Madagascar, Irian Jaya (New Guinea) and other Melanesian islands. The small groups of Vietnamese immigrants who later established themselves on these islands formed alliances, intermarried and formed the first true and oldest recorded kingdom, Kutai in southeast Kalimantan, in 400 AD.
SriwijayaA little over two hundred years later a great empire arose: Sriwijaya which stretched out over all of Indonesia and into parts of Thailand. This was in the years 650 to 1300 AD A kingdom was established, having its cultural center on the banks of the Nusi River. During this period between 650 and 750 AD a mighty temple was built in central Java called the "Borobudur" the largest Buddhist temple ever built on earth, with an unknown technology and considered today, as one of the "7 wonders of the world". The most notable ruler of this empire was Ratu (king) Balaputradewa (856-860 AD) the son of Ratu Samaratungga of Mataram (eye of God) who was a practitioner of Buddhism. It would seem logical that the Visayans who traveled over to Indonesia from India through Burma were much better armed and trained in warfare than the immigrants of Vietnam or the peoples of Indonesia and therefore were able to effectively rule this empire for so long. Their contribution to Indonesian culture is still evident today in Bali and in the common usage of various terms such as "guru" from the two words "gu" (one who dispels) and "ru" (darkness) in other words a wiseone or teacher.
The Kingdoms of East JavaAlways at war with the Sriwijaya were the kingdoms of east Java. Under the leadership of Ratu Darmawangsa in east Java during the wars to repel invaders, one can find evidence of combat and self-defense techniques (980 AD - 1017 AD). An alliance was created by Darmawangsa with prince Airlangga, son of Udaya of Bali, when Airlangga married Darmawangsa's daughter. When Airlangga became Ratu (1019 AD - 1042 AD) the techniques of Pentjak Silat became clearly more formalized and refined. The fighting techniques of Pentjak Silat were further refined during the periods of the following Ratus:
Ratu Dhoho (Kediri)
Ratu Joyoboyo (1135 AD - 1157 AD)
Ratu Tunggul Ametung (1222 AD - 1292 AD): Ruler of the Singasari kingdom who's wife was the famous princess Ken Dedes. It was at this time that an exceptional personality suddenly entered into the area neighboring the Singasari kingdom named, Ken Arok. It turned out later that he was not Javanese. Ken Arok was interested in contacting powerful wizards and seers. He traveled with Empu Gandring a Hindu-wizard who taught him all sorts of crafts (black arts, witchcraft). On Ken Arok's orders Ratu Tunggul Ametung was assassinated with a "Kris" (the mystic blade of Indonesia) provided by wizard Empu Gandring, and given to the assassin. The assassin was then immediately put to death by Ken Arok, who then took Ken Dedes as his wife and ascended onto the throne becoming Ratu of Singasari. This then was the beginning of the most famous empire in east Java the Mojopahit.
Mojopahit (1293 AD - 1470 AD): Here we see the test of Pentjak Silat under the leadership of Ratu R. Wijaya with the help of Adipati Arya Wiraraja. These two men led their armies against the dreaded forces of Sih-Pe, Ike-M'se and Kau-Sing, Generals under the command of Emperor Kubilai-Khan and drove them back. This and other victories expanded the Mojopahit empire until, under the rule of Ratu Hayamwuruk it encompassed all of the Indonesian islands and Malaysia. It was Gajahmada who during this period created an elite army of specially trained warriors called the "Bayangkara". Mataram (1586 AD to 1755 AD) was the last recognized kingdom or government, with its capital city named Pasar Gede (Kotagede). Therefore we can see that Pentjak Silat had many influences in its evolution as a fighting art, from the intermarriages with Vietnamese and Visayans, in warfare, exposure to trade with other countries such as China, as well as to Hinduism, Buddhism and eventually Islam.