The Way of the Warrior is the way of virtue, love, and sacrifice.
"Religious individuals," generally speaking, have little interest in the question of warrior ethics. And that is unfortunate; warrior ethics are profound, and have profound consequences for moral philosophy. But it is the case. However, part of the reason why the study of the warrior ethos is so often ignored by the typically "religious" person is that the typically "religious" person does not often think very deeply about their convictions.
"The rules are the rules," they seem to think, "and morality consists in following the rules."
But does it, really? Is that really the quintessence of morality, the mere slavish submission of man before the law? Or is there something deeper, something more profound? Well, the warrior has an answer...
First, however, a short digression: Unlike Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Buddha-Taoism is strangely lacking in imperatives. That is not to say it has no imperatives at all- for it certainly does-, but they are more akin to "rules of thumb" than to "hard and fast rules." They are a bit liquid; they are eternally flexible. And so there are few laws that cannot be broken in Buddho-Taoism.
This moral flexibility resonates well with the spirit of the warrior. The warrior feels naturally in tune with it; he feels naturally at home in its ambiguity. Because war is chaos- and the warrior that remains inflexible in that chaos will not survive long. More importantly still, what he is willing to die for will not survive long either- and that is the only thing that matters to the warrior.
Ultimately, the warrior ethos is not an ethos for blind submission; rather, it is an ethos for the cultivation of personal wisdom. There are no inexorable laws in war; there are no inexorable rules of engagement- and there cannot be, if war is to be won. Warfare, to repeat it once more, is chaotic; its circumstances are continually shifting. And so the spirit of the warrior must remain forever fluid, forever willing to adapt itself to new and ever-shifting environments.
This in no way implies that the warrior is entirely free; quite the contrary. For his actions are indeed constrained- but the imperatives that bound his behavior are internally-derived rather than externally-derived. They are rooted in wisdom rather than conviction; they are concerned with the development of desirable qualities rather with the development of desirable behaviors. Because, ultimately, the warrior ethos is not so much concerned with the cultivation of "goodness" (whatever that means) but rather with the cultivation of a particular class of human being- that is, of the warrior.
What qualities define the warrior, then? So far as we are concerned, there are three qualities that define the warrior: Virtue, generally speaking, refers to strength- though not necessarily physical strength-, that is, strength of will, and self-possession under duress; love refers to the connection the warrior feels for the tribe, for those he has chosen to fight for and to protect with his life; and finally, sacrifice refers not only to his willingness to submit himself to discipline but also to his willingness to lay down his life in pursuit of the Way of the Warrior. And that, essentially, is the code of the warrior: It is a code without rules; it is a game without lines- and yet the costs of defeat are tremendous. Clearly, he who cannot think for himself has no business being in that arena.
Tragically, we live in a world that has convinced most of us all that warriors are never philosophers and that philosophers are never warriors. But that is absurd. For as Thucydides once remarked, "A nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Warriors are necessary because war is necessary; it casts off the old and the dead, like the fire that purifies the forest- and the culture, the government, the society that pretends otherwise does so at its peril.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
We should first establish what we mean by pencak silat. Generally speaking, pencak silat- or simply silat- refers to the indigenous martial arts of Indonesia. However, the word indigenous can be misleading; Indonesia is an archipelago consisting of many thousands of islands. Because of differing definitions as to what constitutes an island, sources disagree as to the precise number, which ranges from nearly 9,000 to over 18,000. And because of the history of Indonesia being the primary melting pot of Asia, with multiple waves of foreign conquest and colonization, each of its islands developed relatively distinct forms of martial arts: The martial arts of Java, for instance, were far more strongly influenced by the Chinese due to generations of immigration from Fujian, China; conversely, the martial arts of Bali- the only island in Indonesian that is predominantly Hindu rather than predominantly Muslim- still lean towards being stylistically Indian.
And so what is it, really?
There are purists who argue that silat- or at least their tradition of silat- is "purely" Indonesian. With these we would respectfully disagree. "Pure" martial arts exist virtually nowhere in the world- and in Indonesia least of all. Because the evolution of the martial arts- that is, of the art of war- implies and entails contact with other cultures, and not only contact, but conflict and conquest. The martial arts exist because of cultural collision; "purity" is an academic idea with little reality underlying it.
Consider that even Chinese gongfu, which has been influenced by a millenia-long history of monasticism, was largely Indian in origin, having first been brought to the Shaolin Temple by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known by the monks as Damo. There are no "pure" martial arts in the absolute sense; there are only relatively "pure" martial arts, those that have been intermixed comparatively less than other, more strongly-intermixed martial arts. Proof of the point is easily provided: Chinese waijia gongfu, as has already been mentioned, is Indian in origin; the waijia gongfu arts of the Shaolin Temple in turn influenced the neijia gongfu arts of Wudang Mountain- and vice versa; even Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do was influenced by boxing, fencing, and other Western martial arts, and is itself rooted in another martial art entirely, Wing Chun, which was in turn influenced by a neijia martial art known as Xingyiquan; meanwhile, there is clearly bi-directional influence between the Korean martial arts (for instance, hapkido) and the Japanese martial arts (for instance, aikido); the Philippine martial arts- generally known as kali but also sometimes referred to as eskrima- have clearly been influenced by Spanish swordsmanship; finally, we have modern mixed martial arts (MAA)- for instance, Gracie Jiu-jitsu-, which are admittedly absent of purity in any sense of the word. And yet we are to believe that Indonesia, which is quite possibly the most multi-cultural melting pot in all of Asia, has somehow succeeded in developing a "pure" martial art?
There is no "pure" pencak silat; there is only pencak silat- in all its bastard glory. And so we would submit that pencak silat, although obviously originating in Indonesia geographically, has a widely multi-cultural origin when viewed from the point of view of formally and technically- that is, with regards to how its manner and method relate to those of other martial arts: It has very clearly been influenced by Chinese gongfu, not to mention Thai boxing, Philippine knife fighting, and even the arts of Japan via the Japanese occupation of Indonesia during World War II. Incidentally, this general insight applies quite strongly to Javanese pencak silat- and therefore to Zenshida'i Silat. For Zenshida'i Silat was brought to the United States by Willy Wetzel, whose own style of pencak silat was itself influenced at the very least by both kuntau & gongfu; Willy Wetzel's master, after all, was Chinese rather than Indonesian, after all (contrary to popular myth).
But that is a discussion for another time...
Willy Wetzel referred to Cimande Pencak Silat as "a broken mirror system." In other words, the Cimande tradition was characterized by the fact that it had fused various systems together into a singular system. And that fusion is critical, for although silat is far from "pure," neither is it chaotic, haphazard, or disjointed. Because the fusion that characterizes silat is total- that is, there is no line of demarcation separating its constituent parts; it is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
And that, ultimately, is what silat is all about: picking up the pieces, fusing them together, and thus creating something new, better, and stronger.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
This is the meaning of the Zenshida'i: to create a modern, semi-monastic brotherhood for those interested in the Way of the Warrior. The idea sounds strange; it is certainly not for everybody. But some of us- a very, very selective few of us- need that very thing. Because that need, that longing and that passion, is both meaningful and necessary- at least to us.
Men are deeply tribal. We need war in some fashion; we need conflict and conquest. But we need religion as well- that is, a purpose for the war. And so- at least in this regard- there is nothing in the world that compares to the monastic warrior traditions of the East. The West, of course, has had its own warrior traditions throughout history. However, those traditions have almost all of them been military in character; few of them have been religious- the Crusaders being a notable exemption to that rule-, and are religious none that exist today.
This is the fundamental quality that characterized the Eastern warrior tradition versus the Western warrior tradition: The warrior traditions of the East were far more often hybrid traditions entailing elements both religious and military- as was the case with both the Shaolin & the Samurai. And it is precisely this fusion of religion with the warrior tradition that we hope to resurrect. Such a goal is hardly easy to attain; it will almost certainly end in failure. However, like any worthwhile goal, it is worth the risk.
Zenshida'i training, therefore, includes components both military and meditative. And its philosophical foundation is rooted in the Mahayana tradition of China, which is essentially Buddho-Taoist; even our physical-structural techniques are Buddho-Taoist. The goal is the development of the human being in his totality- that is, to become a zhēnrén (Mandarin: literally, "a real person"). But this is not a naturally-occurring process; our humanity- the real, deep humanity that lies within all of us as a kind of hidden potential- must first be cultivated. Such cultivation, however, does not come easily; sacrifice is necessary.
And if there is any kind of person in the world that understands sacrifice, it is the warrior.
Welcome to the Zenshida'i.
~ Joshua van Asakinda