Weapons of silat
Listed here are the weapons of silat. The most common are the kris, spear, machete, stick, kerambit, sickle and sarong. Edged weapons are given priority in silat, but the stick and sarong are also popular for self-defense. Because Southeast Asian society was traditionally based around agriculture, many of these weapons were originally farming tools.
- Chipan / Jipan
The chipan (also spelled cipan or jipan) is a battle-axe, the weaponised form of the domestic kapak (axe) or beliong (hatchet). Two are sometimes wielded at once, with one in each hand. While the kapak and beliong were originally designed for cutting wood or chopping down trees, they could be improvised as chipan if needed.
The kerambit (occasionally spelled gerambi) is a narrow-bladed curved weapon resembling the claw of big cats. It is held by inserting the first finger into the hole in the handle, so that the blade curves from the bottom of the fist. Although usually wielded singly they may also be paired. Not only are they difficult to disarm, the kerambit is also easily hidden on account of its compact size. This concealability was the main reason for the weapon's fame. The kerambit was often regarded as a lady's weapon because women would tie them into their hair.
The kris or keris is a type of dagger, often with a pistol-gripped handle. Traditionally worn as a status symbol and carried by warriors for when they lost their main weapon in battle, today it is the main weapon of most silat styles. The kris is characterised by its distinctive wavy blade, but originally most of them were straight. The blade is given its characteristic shape by folding different types of metal together and then washing it in acid. Kris were said to be infused with venom during their forging but the method of doing this was a closely guarded secret among blacksmiths. The kris is usually wielded on its own but it can also be paired.
A chopper or cleaver which, like a machete, is used to cut through overgrowth. They may be curved or straight and range in size from small handheld knives to the length of a sword. Because they are so widely available, parang are one of the most popular weapons in silat. A variant of the parang is the golok, which is one of the main weapons in West Javanese styles.
Pedang is a general term for swords. According to the Sanghyang siksakanda ng karesian canto XVII dated 1518, the sword and kris were the main weapons of the kesatria caste. Southeast Asian swords can differ considerably from one community to another but they are generally made for one-handed use. Varieties include the pedang jenawi or longsword, the gedubang or Acehnese sabre, and the long-handled dap. The Indian-style sword was used in the region as early as the 4th century, as can be seen in bas-reliefs of Javanese temples. Some are straight while others have a "bent" curve. The Hindu goddesses Durga and Manjusri are typically depicted carrying swords in Javanese art. Swords on the Malay Peninsula are usually one-edged with a slight curve, resembling the Burmese dha and the Thai sword used in krabi krabong.
- Pisau / Churiga
Pisau is a generic word for blade. It comes from the Cantonese term peng sau and can refer to a sword or knife, both double or single-edged. Although swords today are usually called pedang, this is ambiguous since the term can also mean scythe. The wooden sheaths of most edged weapons can be used for blocking, parrying or striking. Knives, or churiga, can almost always be paired but this isn't always done with swords in silat.
The rencong or renchong is a pistol-gripped knife from Aceh. In West Sumatra, a similar Minang blade with a bent handle is popularly known as tumbuk lada (or tumbuak lado in the Minangkabau language), meaning "pepper crusher". The blade is straight but with a slight curve. In terms of social stature, the rencong in Aceh is comparable to the kris in Malay and Javanese culture.
- Sabit / Celurit
A sickle originally employed when harvesting crops. It may be paired and was historically one of the most popular weapons among commoners. It was and still is the main weapon of silat exponents from Madura in East Java where it is known as arit. The arit has several forms and is typically longer than in other parts of Java. The sickle is difficult to defend against and is considered particularly effective when paired with a knife.
- Cakeram / Gelang besi
The cakeram is a steel disc which can be either thrown from a distance or wielded in close like the Chinese wind and fire wheels. Originally from India, the cakeram may be flat and sharp-edged or torus-like. The latter form is typically paired and referred to as "steel wheels" (gelang besi).
A steel mace, essentially consisting of a sphere connected to a handle. Originally from India, it is often associated with the monkey god Hanuman. It is possible to use two gedak at once but, because of their size and weight, this is best suited for larger and more muscular fighters.
A traditional type of crutch, consisting of a stick with a perpendicular handle attached about one third of the length down. The weaponized form is shorter, measuring only the length of a forearm. Traditionally wielded in pairs and made out of wood, some may be constructed from steel. The crutch is primarily a defensive weapon, used in a similar fashion as the Indian maru. Attacks from polearms and bladed weapons can be blocked with the weapon protecting the forearms. Attacks are primarily thrusts using the back of the longer end, requiring the fighter to spin the weapon around by its handle.
- Toyak / Tembong
The words toyak, belantan or tembong refer to a cudgel, cane, or short stick. Sticks are also commonly called kayu which literally means wood, though it could be made of any material. The techniques used with the stick could also be applied to similar objects for the purpose of self-defense. Most notable among these is the seruling or flute played during silat demonstrations as well as other cultural performances.
- Sauku / Ekor pari
The sauku is a whip, originally used for urging animals forward or punishing criminals, and also as a form of torture. Whips may also be called ekor pari, literally meaning stingray tail, but this often refers specifically to the cat o' nine tails. The sauku was carried by wrapping it around the waist underneath the sarong. It was said to be popular among female silat exponents because of its light weight.
The rantai is a chain which can be swung offensively or used to lock and seize opponents. It can sometimes be substituted with a length of rope (tali). A common variant is the rantai batangan, literally meaning "stick chain". Originating in China, it consists of several metal rods links together by iron rings. The ends are weighted, each about 2 ounces. One end has a dart used for piercing. Chain whip techniques in silat are the same as the staff, centrifugal force keeping the weapon straight.
- Tongkat / Toya
A staff, pole or rod. Silat exponents regard it as the most versatile of all weapons. They are typically made of bamboo or wood but some are also made from steel. The word galah refers to the pole used for knocking fruit down from trees or when punting a boat. Staves can also be referred to as toya, tiang, kayu or tongkat, the latter term meaning walking stick. Depending on its shape, the handle of a tongkat may be used to sweep an opponent or catch their weapon. Aside from the staff's shorter variations, some styles also use large, thick poles. A longstaff is called galah panjang.
- Chakok / Angkusa
The chakok or golok chakok is a hooked staff or billhook, originally used to prune or lop branches from trees. Its weaponised form is the angkusa or hook-spear, a polearm combining the head of a hook and spear. Measuring 2-3 feet long with a tip of steel or bronze, this implement was most often used as an elephant-goad. Southeast Asian royals and generals would ride elephants either into war or during processions. Every elephant was guarded by one to four handlers, each of whom carried an angkusa.
- Geranggang / Seligi
A primitive spear or javelin constructed from a sharpened stick of bamboo. The difference between the terms is that seligi refers to the dart or spear intended for throwing. Sumatrans would make short lances from nibong or sago-wood. Over a period of days or weeks, the sharpened end would be buried in ashes, steamed, smoked and charred. The finished weapon could be thrown or used hand-to-hand, and was said to be able to pierce armour more efficiently than iron.
- Tombak / Lembing
The tombak is a lance while the lembing is a spear. Both terms are often used interchangeably but tombak actually refers to non-missile weapons which are circular at the base of the blade, rather than spatulate. Lembing can be used for either a spear or javelin. Early spears were made entirely of wood. The steel-tipped spear was one of the main weapons used by soldiers in Southeast Asia, along with the kris, sword and shield. A common variant is the tombak benderang which has red-dyed horse hair attached near the blade. Contrary to the western misconception that it is used to distract opponents, the horse-hair's true purpose is to prevent the enemy's blood from dripping onto the handle.
A trident, the weaponised form of the serampang or three-pronged fishing-spear. A related weapon is the lembing tikam pari or three-barbed spear. Asian mythology links the trident with the supernatural, so it is sometimes called tongkat sakti or magic staff.
- Chabang / Tekpi
Literally meaning "branch", the chabang is an iron truncheon with three prongs. Called chabang in Indonesian and tekpi in Malay, it is generally believed to have been based on the Indian trisula. Chabang are traditionally paired and can be used in striking, locking or throwing techniques. The two outer prongs are used for trapping the weapon or breaking the opponent's weapon. Among silat practitioners, the chabang is known as the king of weapons because of its usefulness when defending against blades.
The kipas is a folding fan which people used to keep themselves cool in Southeast Asia's tropical heat. Although created in China (where it is known as tieshan), the fan is common to many Asian cultures, as can be seen in traditional Indonesian-Malay dances. As a weapon the fan should be able to open and close easily with one hand, particularly if two are being wielded at once. Usually made of bamboo, more combat-worthy kipas are constructed from harder wood or iron.
- Perisai / Jebang
The perisai is a shield, typically paired with a spear or javelin. Shields in silat are generally round bucklers made of rattan. However, the indigenous tribes of Malaysia and Indonesia commonly wield the jebang, a long hexagonal wooden shield.
- Samping / Chindai
The samping is a wearable sarong usually tied around the waist or draped across one shoulder. Related weapons include the linso or kerchief, and the chindai or Sindhi waist-sash made of silk. Students first use it for practicing hand movements but in advanced stages it is applied as a weapon. Samping techniques include locks, grabs and choke-holds. It can also be used to trap the opponent's weapon or attacking limb. The samping is particularly useful against bladed weapons since the wrapped cloth provides some protection from cuts. In many styles, the chindai or samping is among the last weapons taught.
The gandewa is a bow, though it is more often referred to as a busar or busur today. It was a common hunting weapon even among the region's aboriginal tribes (orang asal), but was later replaced by the senapang or rifle. The gandewa is very rarely taught in modern silat schools.
The sumpitan is a blowpipe, a hollow bamboo tube through which poisonous darts (damak) are shot. It is one of the oldest weapons in the region, having been used as a hunting tool by Proto-Malays since prehistoric times. The blowpipe is also the most popular long-range weapon in silat and was most often used to kill someone unawares. It typically measures 1.8m long and is made from two pieces of bamboo, one for the barrel and one for the casing. In close combat, it could be wielded as a stick. In Malaysia, the orang asli are considered the greatest masters of the blowpipe. Tribes such as the Iban of Sarawak used a hollow spear which could shoot arrows, thus combining the characteristics of a projectile and hand-to-hand weapon.
Kiam is the Hokkien word for the Chinese jian or jien, a straight double-edge sword. It is one of the oldest known weapons to have been adopted from outside Southeast Asia, and is depicted on bas-reliefs in Srivijaya dating back more than one thousand years. Because it is lightweight and easily broken, the jian is hardly ever used for blocking. Instead, the fighter must rely on agility to dodge and avoid attacks. In silat, the Chinese sword can be used singly or in a pair.
The katana is a Japanese sword with a slight curve and a single edge. When it was first brought to Southeast Asia is unclear but the katana became more widely adopted in the region around the time of the Japanese Occupation. Its application in silat is quite distinct, more reminiscent of krabi krabong or banshay than actual kenjutsu.