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Old 14th September 2006, 12:09 AM   #50
A. G. Maisey
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Thank you for your explanation, Bram.

This is the first time I have heard or read katosan. I understand the root, but to find this word I had to look at five different Javanese dictionaries before I found "katosan" in one of them as a derivative of "atos", and given as a synonym of "kadigdyan", which I think is a fairly commonly used word. Thanks for this knowledge.

I did not know that Bangau Putih was Kun Tao. My wife was a dedicated practitioner of kun tao in her youth, and has several fairly respected kun tao people in her family, all older people, and located in East Jawa. They still refer to kun tao as kun tao.

Your outline of the origins of silat is more or less as I understand it, but I really don`t think we can place a lot of historical credibility on the writings of a popular novelist, no matter how respected he may be. Ever watch "Angling Darmo" or any of the other Indonesian historical soaps? Or for that matter, look at the way popular writers present the history and society of any country. No, I really do feel that we must treat Pramoedya Ananta Toer's work in the way it was intended to be treated.

I am familiar with the Kidung Sundayana, and a quick check of my copies does not seem to have any mention of pencak silat. I am not claiming that the version accessed by O'ong Maryono does not mention pencak silat, however, it would be interesting to know what version that was, and what canto within the work. Do you have access to this information?

However, be that as it may, I think we can probably accept that during the period when rulers were dependent upon the physical prowess of individual warriors for the maintenance of their military power, pencak silat, or something rather like it would have been one of the required capabilities of at least some of the royal forces. I seem to recall reading somewhere that early Chinese merchants used to be accompanied by professional "empty hand" fighters when they visited Jawa. I guess there was probably some transference of knowledge from that direction too.

Regarding the keris and its capability as a weapon. When we look at an old keris now, we should try to bear in mind that what we usually see is only a shadow of what that keris was when it was new.Examination of early keris that were taken to Europe when those keris were new, or near to it, demonstrates quite conclusively that the types of keris that we are used to regarding as slight and frail, when new, were very serious weapons.I suggest reference to "Den Indonesiske Kris"--Karsten Sejr Jensen--ISSN 0108-707X.

On the subject of tangguh, one should consider the social reasons for the origin of this system of classification, before attaching too much credibilty to the alignment of any specific tangguh with a historical period.

Yes, I do understand the reversal of roles that could be applied to Gusti Djuminah, however, the fact remains that the public sources relating to this gentleman indicate that he was at the very least , politically inept. It is obvious that the Dutch could not afford to approve the installation of a traditional lord whose character and attitudes were such that it was feared he could bring economic ruin to the area over which he held control.Under HBVII enormous wealth had flowed into the Yogya area, which benefitted not only HBVII, but also his people, and not least the Dutch. It would appear that many people at that time were afraid that if Gusti Djuminah were to be installed as HBVIII Yogya would suffer economic reversal. The reason he was not installed as HBVIII was because it was believed that his taking of the crown could have resulted in economic ruin for that part of Jawa. His grandson may believe that it was because Gusti Djuminah had an interest in pencak silat, that Gusti Djuminah did not ascend the throne, personally I prefer to accept the historical version rather than the grandson`s version. But we are all free to believe that which we will.

Just as an aside:- it really does assist in understanding what occurred in Jawa, and the rest of the old Dutch East Indies, under the Dutch, if one adopts the attitude of an accountant. Every single action that involved the Dutch in the Indies, following the bankruptcy in 1798 of the VOC, and the assumption of its role by the Dutch Government, was the product of a bureaucratic philosophy administered by accountants. The Dutch were very good accountants.

This ongoing question of handle position on a Central Javanese keris is easily understood if the keris is held correctly. The blade is pinched between thumb and forefinger,at the blumbangan, and the first joint of the index finger is anchored against the gonjo, the middle finger, ring finger, and little finger lightly touch the handle but have only a guide and balance role. Held in this way, there is no pressure on the handle at all, it simply acts as an aid to blade orientation. The handle is used to draw the keris, and to replace it, but if the keris is to be used, it is not held by the handle, but by the method described above. The essence of keris use is that it must be very, very fast. Ideally so fast that the blade is not seen. Try holding a keris as I have described and see how very much faster this is than gripping it by the handle. A Javanese keris gripped by the handle really feels very clumsy and "dead".
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