Pencak Silat is one of the most efficient methods of self-defense ever devised (second to none in my personal opinion, based on 30+ years of experience in a variety of martial arts), aiming at dealing with situations with the least possible effort while achieving the quickest and most effective results. While it is unmistakably a serious fighting art originating from jungle village survival, and is thereby less 'filtered' through modern civilization than most of the more familiar martial arts one commonly encounters, at the same time there is a strong and indispensible dance connection, utilizing a very similar set of movement principles as found in skilled cultural dance with regard to breath, balance, center, and precision in both movement and internal attitude. In fact its dance aspect is a traditional form of entertainment at social gatherings in Indonesia. As the movement principles become more and more deeply internalized, one gains the skill and smooth flow of performing improvisational Silat movement to music, which I often find myself enjoying playing with on dancing occasions! Silat is truly an art in which artistic sense and high-level functionality come together in a holistic way.
In addition, internalizing the principles of Silat movement imparts balance, remedial effects, and more efficient physical movement capability to many areas of life, not unlike T'ai Chi, with which it shares many common principles. For example, I personally am prone to sciatic nerve inflamation due to a back injury when I was younger, and reverting to the Silat movement modality enables me to much more easily deal with day-to-day tasks, even including lifting heavy objects, allowing me to physically function with much less trouble than otherwise at times of especially bothersome sciatic flare-ups.
In conclusion we can state that Silat can not only keep you alive in the face of unwanted physical assault, but it is otherwise good for you as well. On top of that, it is also enjoyable as an aesthetically cool movement art, both in the way it feels in one's body to do it, and in the way it looks.
by Chris Burbick