The Language of Silat

It is my hope that this resource will encourage silat practitioners to familiarize themselves with the language, terminology and culture associated with their art.

About Bahasa Indonesia

Bahasa Indonesia literally translates as “Language of Indonesia” whereas Bahasa Inggris would translate into “Language of England”.  However, when people talk of speaking “Bahasa” they are not referring to speaking of any language, but are usually referring to Bahasa Indonesia.

Indonesian is a relatively easy language to learn with sounds and grammar that are, for the most part, fairly accessible to English speakers.  Unlike many romance languages Indonesian does not have any rules for conjugating to match tense or plurality.  Though the language is typically a SVO (subject-verb-object) language like English it has a fair bit of flexibility in word order, meaning that the beginner does not need to worry too much about perfect construction of sentences.

Note: You will notice that many of the terms below are not simply Indonesian but are either derived from or are literally Javanese or Sanskrit.  This reflects both the history of Indonesia and the origins of the Inner Wave style of Silat.

Pencak Silat Glossary

Titles / Terms of Respect

Note on titles: While in English it can sound strange to call someone Mister or Missus, in Indonesia it is common to address one another by title or by title+name.   When addressing strangers or people you have just met, it is best to use the title.  Using the name by itself is usually reserved for close friends.

Note on names: Many Indonesians have only one name, so it is not expected or even possible to append a surname to the title.  Other Indonesians will have multiple names, especially those with Muslim names.  On top of this some Indonesians have multiple nicknames used in different contexts.  In case of confusion, retreat back to the title.

  • Hormat – Respect, loyalty. During practice when an instructor or leader calls out hormat, this is equivalent to calling to attention and paying respect.
  • Guru -Teacher, both the person conducting the lesson and a term of respect
  • Maha Guru – Senior teacher
  • Guru Muda – Young teacher
  • Bapak/Pak – literally father.  This is a term of respect used for men older than yourself.  While Bapak is more formal, Pak seems to be the term used more often in conversation. (The ‘k’ is not aspirated as strongly as it in English, and it pronounced almost like you are swallowing the ‘k’)
  • Ibu/Bu – literally mother.  Used like bapak, but for women.
  • Mas – (Javanese) literally older brother.  Used for men roughly the same age or social stature as yourself.
  • Mbak – (Javanese) literally older sister.  Female equivalent to Mas.
  • Adik – child.  Often used to refer to someone much younger.
  • Mbah – term of respect for a leader
  • Tante – Taken from the Dutch term for Aunt.  It is a term of respect of an older female that is close to the family.
  • Om – Taken from the Dutch term for Uncle.  It is the male equivalent to Tante.
  • Romo – term of address for Catholic priest or other spiritual leader.
  • Agung – great.  Appended onto titles to show distinction or accomplishment, e.g. Romo Agung or Pendekar Agung
  • Pendekar – a master of the martial arts

A matter of organization:

  • Aliran – Style, literally flow
  • Persatuan – Organization, Union, Association
  • Cabang – Branch, as in a branch of a school or style
  • Calon – recruit or candidate
  • Tata – Order/Arrangement.

Around the school

  • LatihanPractice
  • Siap – Ready
  • Balik hadap – Turn around
  • Maju – Advance, move forward
  • Mundur – Retreat, back up

Stances / Positions / Footwork

  • Kuda-kuda – Stance (literally horse-horse)
    • Kuda-kuda depan – front stance
    • Kuda-kuda belakang – back stance
    • Kuda-kuda tengah – middle stance (called horse stance in most other martial arts)
    • Kuda-kuda samping – side stance – like a front stance, but facing to the side
    • Kuda-kuda rendah – low stance
  • Langkah Step/Stepping
    • Langkah Lurus – Linear Stepping
    • Langkah Persegitiga – Triangle Stepping
    • Langkah Persigiempat – Square Stepping
    • Langkah Bintang – Star Stepping
    • Langkah Sigsag – Zig zag stepping
  • Srimpet – A dance like motion of cross stepping from behind.  The Indonesian word kesrimpetan refers to tripping up on one’s own clothing.  This step is a way of stepping to untangle a long garment like a sarung (sarong).
  • Simpir
  • Ekos – escape/avoid
  • Ales – Often means evasion, but the meaning is context dependent.
  • Sempok – Front seated, cross legged position
  • Depok – Back seated, cross legged position
  • Payung – Umbrella
  • Seliwa / Slewah – Half moon.  Refers to a stance resembling the front stance, but with the back leg bent.
  • Pancer


  • Gerakan – motion
  • Goyong – shake
  • Jurus / Jurusanliterally direction or steps.  This refers to a sequence of moves like kata in the Japanese arts.
  • Pukul/Pukulan – Punch, Strike / Punching, Striking
  • Tendang/Tendangan – Kick/Kicking
  • Tangkis/Tangkisan – Block / Blocking
  • Sapu – ankle sweep, torqueing throw for repositioning. Inside sweep-sapu luar, outside sweep-sapu dalem.
  • Beset – rear stepping sweep or tripping obstacle. Inside sweep-beset dalem, outside sweep-beset luar.
  • Dekok – literally ditch – to make part of your body hollow or empty
  • Puter kepala – literally turning the head
  • Kunci/Kuncian – locks/locking


  • Tongkat / Toya – Staff
  • Pisau / belati – Knife
  • Golok/Parang / Badhama (Javanese) – Machete
  • Klewang – Curved Saber
  • Luwuk – Blade unique to the Kraton in Yogyakarta.  The edge faces inward to deceive.
  • Pedang– sword
  • Pedang mata dua / Anggar (Javanese) – double edged sword
  • Pedang mata satu / Candrasa (Javanese) – single edged sword
  • Clurit / Curing (Javanese) – curved sickle like implement, weapon of choice in Madura
  • Clurit Wulu Ayam / Bulu Ayam – literally chicken feather clurit, a smaller kind of clurit used exclusively for combat.  Outlawed in many parts of Indonesia
  • Gada – Stick, shorter than a staff, often made of rattan like Filipino escrimas
  • Gada Tunggal / Bindi (Javanese) – Single stick
  • Gada (pisau ganda) / Ruyung (Javanese) – Double stick (stick and knife)
  • Cambuk / Pecut – whip or flail
  • Karambit – small, tiger-claw shaped knife popular in Sumatra
  • Keris / Kris / Dhuwung (Javanese) – curvy s-shaped knife, highly revered in many Malay/Indonesian cultures and often believed to possess supernatural powers
  • Pusaka – heirloom / treasure.  See listing under “The Esoteric”
  • Senjata – weapon







  • Bangau Leher Pendek / Napak Kuntul (Javanese)

    – Short neck crane

  • Bangau Leher Panjang / Sandhang Lawe (Javanese)- Long neck crane
  • Binatang – Animal
  • Belalang Sembah / Walang Sembah (Javanese) – Praying Mantis
  • Macan / Harimau / Sardula (Javanese) – Tiger
  • Monyet / Kera / Senggono (Javanese)- Monkey
  • Naga Hijau / Naga Raja – Green Dragon / King Dragon
  • Trenggiling – Scaly Anteater, Javanese Anteater
  • Ular / Taksaka (Javanese) – Snake








In your element

  • Anasir – Element
  • Angin / Bayu (Javanese) – Wind
  • Api / Agni (Javanese) – Fire
  • Bumi / Buwana (Javanese) – Earth
  • Air / Samudra (Javanese) – Water

Being a human being

  • Orang – Person
  • Manusia – Human Being / Man kind
  • Inang Pengasuh / Inyo Angelelo (Javanese) – Nanny / Nursemaid
  • Putri Berhias / Putri Gayatri (Javanese) – Pretty Girl/Maiden
  • Nelayan / Cundhit (Javanese) – Fisherman
  • Pemabuk / Wuru Genje (Javanese) – Drunk/Lush
  • Ksatria – Knight/Warrior
  • Pendeta / Pandhita Tapa (Javanese) – Monk/Priest


  • Obat – Medicine
  • Pengobatan – healing
  • Pengobat – healer
  • Pijat – massage

The Esoteric

  • Daya Batin – daya = inner, batin = power
  • Meditasi – Meditation
  • Ilmu – Knowledge / Magic
    • Ilmu Hitam – Black Magic
  • Jiwa – Soul
  • Pusaka / Pustaka – From the sanskrit word for heirloom.  In Javanese Kejawen culture these heirlooms are treasures that must be protected as they are often believed to have supernatural powers.  In practice these heirlooms are often weapons such as sword or keris.
  • Kodrat – God’s will
  • Kebatinan – Spiritual study often incorporating meditation to develop tolerance to pain or other adversity.
  • Kejawen – Term used to refer to the Javanese belief in the supernatural.  In modern times this term reflects how many Javanese practice Islam or Christianity alongside the traditional Javanese animistic practices.
  • Mamenang – translated as liberation.  The goal of this exercise is to liberate one’s self from attachment to attain a higher understanding both internally and externally and grows our spirit through the acknowledgement of ancestors and high powers (or prime causes).  In other words it can help us to better establish both horizontal and vertical connections.

Other resources for self-study

For those looking to go into depth Bahasa Indonesia, here is a list of resources I have found useful for learning the language:

  • The Straight Dope on Bahasa Indonesia — While this isn’t a formal treatment and some parts are outdated, I found this really useful when first learning Bahasa.  The section titled “The twenty questions” actually became the most valuable part of the document.  Almost every single time I met a new person, I would get asked these questions.  The best part about the Straight Dope: you can print in a few pages and carry it about anywhere.
  • Northern Illinois University has a good number of resources including Indonesian in 7 Days and an Overview of Indonesian Grammar and Morphology .  These should help you get an idea of Indonesian’s use of prefixes, suffixes, and affixes.
  • The Indonesian Way – A series of 8 books published by the University of Hawaii Manoa.
  • Bahasa Kita – has a good series of mini lessons about specific aspects of the language
  • While there are a lot of Indonesian phrase books, I found Instant Indonesian to be particularly helpful in the early stages.  The examples are organized in a manner that helped me rapidly generalize about the language and expand beyond just the basic phrases.  Think of this as a collection of templates to start your education.
  • Although Tuttle’s Concise Indonesian Dictionary is not very comprehensive, I carried it in my backpack almost every day during my first few months in Indonesia.
  • The dictionaries by Echols and Shadily are the definitive English to Indonesian and Indonesian to English dictionaries, but they can be a bit pricey outside of Indonesia.  If you are lucky enough to go to Indonesia, almost any Gramedia will carry each volume for around 15-20$US.
  • The best online dictionary I’ve found is Sederet especially now that KEBI (Kamus Besar Indonesia) seems to be down.  This makes a good companion to google translate.
  • Wikibooks also has a pretty good introduction with links to other resources
  • The collection of books by John Wolff are a bit dry, but they are also the most in depth for really learning the details of the language.
  • For podcast style learning there is Learning Indonesian