From Silat to Submission Grappling

Last week I discussed some of the connections between traditional Japanese Ju-jutsu and modern submission grappling. These connections shouldn’t be too surprising, given the direct lineage from one to the other.

This week I want to cast my net a little bit further, and discuss some similarities between modern grappling and Indonesian Silat. I am not claiming that one art descended from the other. What I AM saying that there are only so many ways to take someone to the ground, twist their limbs or choke their neck, and that these two arts sometimes have very similar solutions to the same grappling problems.

Indonesia has a very rich and diverse martial heritage. There are hundreds of different styles in Indonesia, loosely referred to as ‘Silat’. I have been exposed to some of these arts via Guro Dan Inosanto, legendary teacher and protégée of Bruce Lee. Let me present just three connections between the grappling I practice on a day-to-day basis, and the martial arts of the Indonesian archipelago

Those of you who have read my article on the submission and sweeping technique called Omo Plata may recall that I was first exposed to Omo Plata as a Silat technique. I soon adapted it to my grappling game and started using it on the mat. I thought I had discovered an entirely new technique. Of course I soon found out that Japanese Judoka and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu players had been using this technique for a very longtime previous to my ‘discovering’ it.

More recently, I was taking a private class from Vladimir ‘the Janitor’ Matyushenko at the RI training facility in LA. We were focusing on the 2-on-1 position in standup wrestling, and he showed me an attack that completely entangled both my arms using only one of his arms; “I get this once in a while in sparring” he said. The next day Guro Inosanto showed us a drill from the Harimau system of Silat that ended in EXACTLY the same entangled arm position.

Finally my friend (and guiding influence of the infamous Dog Brothers) Marc Denny has been developing a system he calls ‘Kali Tudo ™’. This system applies concepts and techniques from Filipino Kali and Indonesian Silat to an empty-handed Mixed Martial Arts context. The influence of this Kali Tudo on the mainstream MMA community remains to be seen, but I think that his synthesis is a very natural fit indeed.

Now I want to emphasize that not all Silat systems focus on groundwork: some are mostly standup-oriented, others specialize in weaponry. The systems that do include groundwork, however, tend to have very creative entries and submissions. I would encourage you to expose yourself to these systems if you ever get the chance. Who knows, it might just be what you need to ‘invent’ the next revolutionary technique that will change the way we do business on the mats!

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