Silat History

History and Legends behind Malaysian Silat

It is very hard to verify the origins of Malaysian Silat due to lack of written historical records, other than through oral history and legends from Silat masters. It is widely agreed that during the Srivijayan Empire (7th Century CE), based in Sumatra Island, that Silat was first formulated and formalized. A Malaysian legend on the origin of Silat involves a woman who tried to drive away birds from devouring food from a basket on her head. At first, she dodged a flock of birds coming from different directions while at the same time attempting to drive them away with her hands. Due to this unfortunate event, the woman arrived home late and was scolded by her husband who had no food to eat. In his anger, he tried to hit his wife but she avoided all his hand strikes and kicks; she was completely untouched. Her husband soon grew tired from his unsuccesful attempts of beating her. After finally listening to her explanation for being late, he asked his wife to teach him what she had learned from her run-in with the birds. Together, they created the rudiments of Silat.

From the 7th century onwards, the combat art of Silat had had already spread throughout the Malay Peninsula. Centuries of tribal warfare and civil wars led to immigration of people from Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi (in present-day Indonesia) to the Malay peninsula and throughout Southeast Asia. They brought with them Malay culture and the art of silat. Descendants of these migrants continued the Silat tradition and developed it into various and unique Malaysian Silat styles.

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