Silat is a
collective word for a class of indigenous martial arts from
a geo-cultural area of Southeast Asia encompassing
most of the Nusantara,
the Indonesian Archipelago, the Malay Archipelago and
the entirety of the Malay Peninsula.
There are hundreds of different styles (aliran)
and schools (perguruan) but they tend to
focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, throws, weaponry, or some
combination thereof. Practitioners are called pesilat.
While the word silat is used by Malay-speakers throughout Southeast Asia, the art is officially called pencak silat in Indonesia. Primarily a Javanese term, other names include silek (the Minang pronunciation of silat), penca (used in West Java), main-po or maen po (in the lower speech of Sundanese), and gayong or gayung (used in parts of Malaysia and Sumatra). The term silat Melayu ("Malay silat") was originally used in reference to Riau but is today commonly used for referring to systems created on the Southeast Asian mainland. Generally speaking, silat Melayu is often associated with fixed hand positions, low stances, and slow dance-like movements. While this generalisation does not necessarily reflect the reality of silat techniques, it has had a notable influence on the stereotypical way the art is portrayed in Malaysia, Singapore, and to a lesser extent, Brunei.