Updated: Aug 11, 2019
On Saturday, March 30th, silat coaches and players assembled at a pencak silat school in Middlebury, VT to take a seminar on sport silat. What is silat? You can read about that on my other blog article, https://milkblitzstreetbomb.com/silat/what-is-pencak-silat/ .
While the traditional martial art of Pencak Silat is fairly unheard of in the United States, sport silat has been nearly nonexistent despite its popularity in Asia (it was in the SEA games) and in Europe. The United States Sports Silat Association (USSSA) seeks to change this. By bringing together practitioners from many different silat styles, the USSSA's mission is to develop an active and competitive sports silat scene not only in the USA but also to promote it internationally as a sport in the Pan American Games as well as the Olympics. You can read more about the USSSA here: https://usasportsilat.org/ .
Sports silat involves multiple competitive categories including single, paired, and group performances as well as sparring. While the sparring does not allow strikes to the head, spine, knees, or groin it does allow a startling variety of techniques including not only striking but also sweeps, throws, and sweet upper-body scissor takedowns. However, to host competitions in the US the USSSA needs qualified judges (juri) and referees (wasit). To do so, they are holding a storm of intense and comprehensive training seminars across the country. I was privileged to be in the first (2019) class of wasit/juri that weekend in Vermont. During the seminar, the instructors (certified National Level I in Jakarta), taught us the rules, regulations, and methods for judging performances. We also got to practice the sparring with the deliberate intention to cheat (to train the referees in spotting tricks) which was probably too much fun.
As a somewhat traditionally minded silat teacher, I think that the USSSA's heart is in the right place. If sport silat leads to more awareness, interest, and enjoyment of this wonderful martial art then that will be a good thing for everyone. I would, however, love to see a competitive weapons sparring format added to competition. We'll see.