Last Updated on Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:53
Archaeological evidence reveals that the origins of Indonesia’s fighting system known today as Pencak Silat dates back to the sixth century. From the two kingdoms of Srivijaya in Sumatra and the Majapahit in Java, this rare combative system was used consistently throughout Indonesia’s history. Many scholars suggest that the first known silat system was formed in the mountain’s of west Sumatra by the feared and respected Minangkabau tribes.
Traditional Minangkabau House
The Minangkabau’s fighting system was called harimau silek or tiger silat, based on the Sumatran tiger. As tribal tradition is mostly oral, having been passed down almost by word of mouth in the absence of written records, much of its history is known only through myths and archaeological evidence.
The Minangkabau harimau silek system known today as ‘harimau pencak silat’ is rarely seen through Indonesia’s peninsula, the art has become much like its inspiration and teacher the endangered Sumatran tiger. The combative style relates closely to the Minangkabau’s seni budaya (cultural artistic aspect) and the tribes adat (laws and ethics).
The development of harimau silat was in accordance to the terrain of the Minangkabu nagari or hometown. Due to the extreme marshland left by the monsoon and rain forest the style adapted a low ground hugging position where the pesilat or silat player will be able to attack and defend just like the tiger.
The influence of the Sumatran tiger is apparent in the dynamics and commitment to sufficiently destroy ones opponent but its general appearance remains graceful and hypnotic.
The last known documented pencak silat ancestry within the Minangkabau warrior tribes is the Lubuk Ngantungan clan.
From Guru and Pendekar or teachers the art sometimes refereed to as the dark gift has been handed down keeping the numbers few and the system alive.
This warrior lineage directly links to today’s modern Black Triangle Silat tribe, spreading from South East Asia across the globe.
- Poyen Lebeh (1610)
- Depati Nata Raja (1714)
- Depati Gya (1739)
- Setai Raja (1765)
- Jumadil Depati Raja Khalipa (1791)
- Depati Pangeran layang Negeri (1820)
- Pangeran Adi Mulia
- Merah Husin (1884)
- Neko Radjo Api (1892)
- Merah Kabri pasirah
- General (ret) Anak Marhaen Hanafi (2004)
- Maha Guru Adityo Mataram Hanafi
- Maha Guru Richard Crabbe de-Bordes
- Guru Besar Randolph Carthy
- Guru Paul Bennett
- Guru Scott McQuaid
Poyang Lebeh is said to be the founder of Marga Anak Lebel Bengkenang Nama. The system devised into Silek Harimau known today as Harimau Silat. Poyang Lebeh came from the Minangkabau region into Palembang, south Sumatra. All descendants on the family tree were warriors battling down to Bengkulu. He became active within the study of this fighting style in the sixteenth century and passed on this tiger design of combat to the next generation.
It would not be until the late eighteen hundreds when Harimau Silek would be first seen by the West. Pendekar Suci Neko Radjo Api was a feared silat warrior nicknamed "the Old Fire King" by the Dutch rulers of Indonesia due to his mystic and combative abilities. Together with the Patai Silek warriors on the Sumatran islands, he led a rebellion against the Dutch rule and the introduction of the poll tax ordinance. Refusing to pay poll tax for their own land, the infamous words 'patai', meaning no pay, would later become associated with Sumatran Silat styles. Neko Raji Api became the founder of the Lubuk Ngantungan tribe that was situated in the southern region of Bengkulu.
The Sumatran Silat such as Silek Harimau is often referred to as rebellious silat, for this art can not be contained and will not conform to the IPSI (Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia) structure. Its legacy spans over 400 years and continues today.
Pendekar Suchi Neko Radjo Api is the great grand father of Maha Guru Adityo B. Mataram Hanafi. Minangkabau datuk (clan leader) Maha Guru Adityo Hanafi remains heir to this warrior combative system. He learned Silek Harimau from his father General Anak Marhaen Hanafi. General Hanafi was born in the region of Lubuk Ngantungan in South Bengkulu in the Southern part of Sumatra on the 17th October 1917. As in tradition, he learned the fighting art of harimau from his father. During his merantau into Jakarta he built up the first Indonesia republic army with Silek Harimau pesilats from the Minangkabau tribe and members from the Betawi Pencak Silat clan. Eventually General Hanafi became the personal bodyguard to Indonesia's first president Soekarno during the independence movement and served with him from 1949 to 1966. During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 he became involved with Fidel Castro and this partnership would eventually lead to his exile to France. In the general's later years he resided in Paris where he helped his son open the first Silek Harimau school. He died at age 87 on the 2nd March 2004. His son Adityo Hanafi, now the last remaining Indonesian heir to this tribe, started his training in Harimau at a young age. His father General Anak Hanafi taught him the hard basics of the Silek Harimau system; later Adityo began to practice in the Setai Hati style under the guidance of his mother Soesro Soeseno Soekendah. She had learned the art as a young girl from her uncle growing up in Solo in central Java. Adityo Hanafi would further his studies in silat under Pendekar Kiayi Hadji Komar who was a well-known fighter in the Jawa Barat Silat. This system of silat had previously been a part of the Hanafi lineage from his ancestor Guru Randen Pandji.
The Harimau Silat system Guru Adityo Hanafi introduced to the West in 1966 was made up from four Indonesian fighting systems. Guru Hanafi had also incorporated the spiritual ideology of Guru Kakek Amado, who acted as Fidel Castro's spiritual advisor. Guru Hanafi had spent much time with him when he was stationed in Cuba with his father. There Guru Hanafi taught the Cuban military members of La Seguridad del Estado Cubana. After finishing his tour in Cuba, he later relocated to France in 1971 with his father and mother where he founded the Palero Pencak Silat Association. This was the first documented introduction of Harimau Silat on European shores. The now Maha Guru Hanafi had combined Seterlak which was originally designed to combat the Harimau fighting style in to his existing Silek Harimau. He also added concepts from the Setia Hati (Faithful Heart) and Jawa Barat (West Java) Silat styles.
Maha Guru Adityo Hanafi
Maha Guru Hanafi's core students were Guru Farid Mohammed, Guru Francois Pugary, and Maha Guru Richard Crabbe de-Bordes. After many years of instruction and guidance, Maha Guru Hanafi's student Guru de-Bordes brought the art to London, England. Guru de-Bordes specialized in the bela diri or self defense aspects of the system. He continued the work of his teacher by evolving the style for the urban jungle. Guru Hanafi introduced him to Pendekar Dr. Ibrahim in London. Dr. Ibrahim then was the director of Indonesian programs at the British Broadcasting Corporation and also the proud owner of an Indonesian restaurant in the Westend on Shaftsbury Avenue. He was a native of Bengkulu Southwest Sumatra and an adept practitioner of Seterelak. He took Guru de-Bordes on as his student. Dr. Ibrahim based his silat on drawing his adversary towards him and he was known for his open hand attacks. He was also said to be very proficient with the parang (sword). Guru de-Bordes continued to incorporate more of the Seterelak style into his existing Harimau just as his teacher had done before him. Eventually Guru de-Bordes rebranded the traditional Minangkabau Silek Harimau style as his very own version calling the more updated evolved version Lumpat Harimau Silat.
Guru de-Bordes brought Harimau Silat to the forefront of the martial arts world spreading the message across France, England, Spain, America and Africa. The lineage and tribal adat (customs) continues with senior instructors around the world.
Guru Scott McQuaid with one of his students, Pesilat Ian Llewellyn
In 2006, Guru Scott McQuaid founded the association of Black Triangle Silat that is dedicated to securing the art's legacy and deciphering the Minangkabau fighting systems. Over the last ten years, he researched, studied and restored the Minang Senjata (weapons) bolt-on styles. The secrets and lost information of Silek Harimau continue to be uncovered.
The Minangkabau warriors are now found all over the earth, not through ethnic or native blood ties, but through a message that is an art form that continues to grow.
Black Triangle Silat Tribe Lineage Tree
Click on the image for a full-scale version.