Who We Are
Welcome to the Silat Bledek Website. Silat Bledek is an American martial art based largely on the Indonesian martial arts of Pentjak Silat Serak and Pukulan Pentjak Silat Tongkat. Several years ago I was encouraged by my instructor to create a method for teaching the Indonesian arts to Americans. Silat Bledek is the result of that effort. The title Silat (martial art) Bledek (thunder) was given to the art by my instructor Maha Guru Victor deThouars and pays respect to its Indonesian roots.We say that Silat Bledek is an American martial art because it was developed by an American, for American students, and is designed to be practical for the types of self-defense encounters we might find here in the States. The art is not flashy. It is not burdened with an endless supply of forms or specific techniques, so the title does not include words like Pentjak (choreography). Instead the art teaches good, strong structure, precise movement, and fighting principles. We then turn those principles into an infinite supply of options for technique that are easily adapted and customized for every individual. Practitioners of Silat Bledek are encouraged to be freethinking inventors of techniques, not mindless mimics of form that lack understanding.
The art teaches empty hand and weapon fighting. For weapons we focus primarily on knives and short sticks, with some long staff concepts. These few weapon principles are easily adapted to virtually anything an American is likely to have or carry for self defense without a concealed weapon permit.
We do not typically compete in martial art competitions because most of what we do gets us disqualified. We do not treat the art like a business venture by which we try to make money; in fact we train out of our homes. We are interested in developing and passing on skills that could save our lives in the event of a threat to our persons or families. Of course we try to have a little fun with our training along the way. We use American English and though we demand mutual respect among all practitioners and a wholesome attitude, we do not conduct our classes in a military-like fashion. If Indonesian martial arts are your fancy, we still teach and practice Pentjak Silat Serak and Pukulan Pentjak Silat Tongkat just as we learned them to ensure their integrity.
Please take a moment to browse the rest of our site. See our history and direct link back to the founders of Pentjak Silat Serak and Pukulan Pentjak Silat Tongkat. Read the bios of our instructors, and be sure to check out our brief video clip of a few short stick applications. If you want more information than our Web page provides, feel free to e-mail any of us through the links provided or contact me directly.
Maha Guru Muda Robert Vanatta
Head Instructor and Founder of Silat Bledek
First a few words about Serak according to the teachings of Maha Guru Victor deThouars. Serak was developed as a fighting style by Pak Serak (1780-1878) and was formalized into a martial art by his student Mas Djut (1840-1930). Both grandmasters were from the Badui people. The Badui are a small tribe of Sunda-speaking people who lived in the mountain forest territory of west Java, Indonesia. Mas Djut taught Tjimande (or Cimande) under the name of "Mas Kair". However, at the same time he also taught Serak. One of his students was Johan deVries along with Johan's nephews, Ernest and John. John became the Pendekar. John also taught Paul deThouars and made him the Pendekar upon his death. In 1984 Pendekar Paul decreed that his brother, Maha Guru (MG) Victor deThouars, to be his successor.
Around 1999-2000, Maha Guru Victor inserted into his lineage of Serak Mas Roen who was a distant student of Mas Djut. This, for the most part, disregarded Mas Djut. Maha Guru Victor also claims a Guru named Mardjoeki was supposed to have been his teacher instead of Pendekar Paul which is contrary to the way I was taught. It is fortunate that Mas Roen’s style has a closer appearance in the way of body position and movement to Tongkat.
The teachings of Serak were not made available to the general public in any form until the mid-1950s. Tongkat was developed in the late 1950s by Pendekar Paul deThouars as a sub-system of Serak. Pendekar Paul instructed Maha Guru Victor to formalize the system to teach to the American public. Serak was not to be taught to the general public. Its basic principles were instead, taught through a sub-system until a good candidate was identified. That candidate would continue to receive specific instruction in Serak. It was not until the 1980s when Maha Guru Victor released Serak to the public. Victor deThouars achieved the rank of Maha Guru in both Serak and Tongkat.
In the 1980s through the mid-1990s MG Victor stated that he used “about seventy percent of Serak to develop Tongkat" along with Judo, Boxing, Karate and other Silats. His instructions to all of his students were to teach Tongkat publicly to find those who would make good Serak students. He said, "You are to teach in your garages, backyards and anywhere you can, but to never open a public school.” “Serak is not meant for the public.” It is in the spirit of Serak that Tongkat Bledek is developed and taught this way.
This is not to diminish the current students of MG Victor’s from his public Serak School. They are well qualified to hold rank in a sub-system of Serak. I say this not from a lack of content, rather from the time spent. MG Victor stated it took between seven and ten years of training to gain the rank of Guru in Serak. This would be after completion of a Serak sub-system. The training is physically hard, sometimes brutal, and reserved for very few. One guru who is currently teaching Serak in the traditional manner without the preliminary step of a sub-system is Guru Stevan Plinck.
One of the duties I was charged with in the early 1990s was to develop my own system. This is when Tongkat Bledek was born. I basically used Tongkat as its foundation, along with Serak. I added the stick and knife principles of Pekiti Tersia. I also stole a few grappling moves that helped blend it all together. The system of Bledek will continue to evolve in the next few years until I nail down a good formula.
On December 16, 2000 I was awarded the rank of Maha Guru Muda of Serak and Tongkat. On June 29, 2002 I was awarded the rank Guru Warisan (Heir). A personal note needs to be made. At the time of both of my achievements, I made a special point to tell Guru Stevan Plinck, who was present, that I considered him to be my senior and the true lineage holder of Serak. Today, I consider him to be the true heir to the system of Serak.
I want to end by stating that I am fortunate to have trained for many good years under both Paul and Victor. In spite of our differences, I still consider them to be true masters of Serak, and I will continue to teach and train the curriculum I learned from them.
For more information, contact Guru Bob, email@example.com