Low-Line Destructions And Secrets Of The Silat Triangle

Practical Unarmed Combatives Volume 3 is a continuation of the overall theme established with the first two volumes. It focuses on low-line tactics as I express them after more than 35 years in the martial arts. It also presents my “take” on the triangular footwork and off-balancing tactics of Indonesian silat based on extensive analysis of many systems and practitioners of silat.

The kicking aspect of the video reflects one of the most important concepts of Damithurt Silat/Practical Unarmed Combatives (let’s just call it “PUC” for short): harnessing the power of the full-body “walk.” Unlike most traditional martial arts kicking (which I practiced and used for years) that involves balancing on one leg and kicking with the other, most PUC kicking is based on the idea of walking through your opponent. Borrowing from my friend Kelly McCann’s concept of “walking violently,” PUC adds an additional element. According to Kelly, “Every step is a knee and a kick.” In PUC, “Every step is a knee, a kick, and a foot trap.” Why? Because I don’t like falling down or hyperextending my knees.

In the old days, we were taught to “pop” our kicks. The ideal kick literally made your gi pants pop like a whip. It also took its toll on my knees and never really delivered the full potential of the body’s power because it emphasized the hinging action of the knee. If you did throw with maximum power and there was nothing there to hit, maintaining your balance—especially on a slippery surface—was extremely difficult.

When I studied Muay Thai, I learned what it really takes to kick with power and how to remain upright when you miss. I took those concepts and applied them to the idea of low-line, self-defense kicking that is geared toward the ultimate goal of all self-defense: stopping power. Destroy your attacker’s ability to stand up and you can create distance and safety. The best way to do that is to break or severely damage the things that hold him up. And the best way to do that without falling down—in my opinion—is to base your kicking tactics on a normal walking stride. Knees hit harder when backed by the weight and momentum of the entire body, so make them part of the walk. If your knee doesn’t hit anything, your opponent may have moved back. Extend the knee into a kick and look for another target. Rather than retracting the kick and balancing on one foot, step forward and dump your body weight into it. If you hit, you hit hard. If you miss, you might still get a foot trap. If you don’t, your normal stride allows you to maintain your balance and immediately chambers the other leg to repeat the process.

PUC 3 also presents combination kicking based on realizing the full physiological potential of kicking movements. For example, the side kick, which we use to kick things positioned to the side of our body, begins with raising the knee. If we’re going to burn all those calories, we’re going to make it work for us. In the process, we learn the potential of that movement as a knee strike and as a more mechanically efficient version of pentjak silat’s sapu foot sweep.

Since we’re on the subject of silat, let’s talk about the tiga or silat triangle—a footwork platform that consists of an equilateral triangle with lines bisecting the angles. When I first began working with Joseph Simonet and Addy Hernandez (shooting and producing their instructional videos for Paladin Press™), I was fascinated by Joseph’s integration of silat into his art. His flavor of silat was Tongkat, which was derived from Silat Serak by Victor deThouars. One of the most fascinating aspects of it was the use of the pantjar, a footwork platform that consisted of 45 and 90-degree angles. The pantjar also had a tiga attached to one end. Joseph explained that the pantjar was the foundation of all silat footwork and angles and the secret of its effectiveness. He also stated that ultimately everything learned on the pantjar ended up on the tiga.

Joseph is incredibly talented and strong and he had no problem making techniques “work” using the angles of the pantjar. Addy and other student’s with less physical strength, however, had a much harder time and seemed to be working too hard to make the angles work. That, and the statement that everything ends up on the tiga, fascinated me and I began to analyze videos of other silat practitioners, especially Dan Inosanto. What I realized was that their angles were much more on line with 30 and 60-degree angles than 45’s and 90’s.

I shared some of my insights with Joseph and he was surprised that I was able to draw so much from my observations and analysis. He then asked me if I was interested in seeing his silat video collection. Naturally, I was, and was amazed to find that he had literally dozens of tapes containing rare archival footage and obscure video of noted silat players. Since I was interested in seeing the footage and Joseph was interested in my analytical abilities, we cut a deal: I made copies of all the videos for myself and numbered them for reference. Every week for nearly a year, we would each watch one of the videos, analyze it, and take notes (actually, I did all the note taking; Joseph just offered his comments). Every Sunday morning, I called him and we “debriefed” the video. He shared his comments and I offered my analysis. After about a year, I formulated my analysis of silat’s triangular footwork, the methods of “putting your opponent on the triangle” (my term) and the methods of using the triangle—both as a footwork platform and three-dimensional reference—to off-balance and throw your attacker.

For the record, I have never formally “studied” silat, don’t have any lineage in it, and don’t really want any. However, the logical analysis that I did of its triangular footwork apparently impressed Simonet, who presented me with a black belt in his system of Silat Concepts several months later.

All the details of my analysis are presented in PUC 3 with the benefit of Mike Rigg’s outstanding graphics overlays and animations, which make the material even more demonstrative, logical, and easy to learn. It may not be your silat or anyone else’s, but it’s good silat. Just ask the guy on the floor…

Michael D. Janich