Pencak silat is an Indonesian style of martial arts. Born initially as a weapons-based style, pencak silat borrowed much from the martial arts of neighboring China and India. The end result is a martial arts style that contains a lethal combination of striking, kicking and weapons-based techniques.
Pencak silat could be called a generic term for all the different styles of Indonesian martial arts. Because of this it's difficult to define what exactly the standard techniques of pencak silat are. However, a few core principles will give you insight into how pencak silat works. For one, most of the hand and feet techniques are designed to be done either with or without a weapon. Another basic principle of pencak silat is to give way to an attack. This does not mean to give in to the attack, but instead to use the attacking energy to launch your own counterattack. This is similar to aikido and in contrast to most martial arts wherein great energy is expended in blocking an attack. Pencak silat was never intended to be a sport. As a result there is no warm-up, stretch or other preparation exercise. In silat training, your partner is not referred to as an opponent, but rather, as an enemy.
Pencak Silat Technique
Like in Shaolin kung fu, many techniques in silat imitate the movements of animals. As in Shaolin martial arts, movements and positions are named after the tiger, the eagle and the dragon. Silat varies greatly depending on the region any particular style originated from. It is estimated that there are 150 different forms of pencak silat. These differ more or less from one another, but can be characterized by region. Silat from the west region of Java is characterized mostly by hand and arm techniques utilizing mostly fists, elbows and brutal arm bars. Central Javanese silat is a more standard martial art in that it generally consists of a combination of hand/arm techniques and leg techniques. Kicks in silat are often similar to kicks in kung fu or Thai boxing. Silat from eastern Java, Bali and Madura is more elaborate. It features similar hand and foot techniques to central Javanese silat. However, it also has an arsenal of throwing techniques that are not unlike those found in judo or aikido. Sumatran silat is a direct fighting style with arm and leg techniques. In appearance it is something like a combination of Okinawan karate and Muay Thai with more locking and barring thrown in.
Pencak silat can appear a bit mysterious at first. Its weapons are exotic and there are so many different forms of it, it can seem a bit confusing. However at its core, silat is a no-nonsense hard style of Asian martial arts. Unlike many other hard styles however, it does contain the central idea of "giving in" to an attack and letting your enemy's own energy defeat him. This makes it a rather enlightened and sophisticated fighting style.