Two Days with GM Edward Lebe

Discussion in 'Misc. Sword Arts' started by Carol, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    Martial Arts Research Institute, Salem, Massachusetts.

    Friday October 20, 2006

    Grandmaster Edward Lebe was a fellow of that I would have guessed to be in his mid to late 40s, He had an average build but looked to be fit and strong My interaction with him began around Friday noon, just as my Friday morning class was wrapping up. Despite his depth and contribution to the art, he wanted to be addressed only as Guro. I wasn't going to be one to argue.

    A good lot of us piled in to a minivan to give Guro Lebe a tour of downtown Salem...a city that is very rich in history. Guro Lebe loved the Army Barracks store and walked out with a few USA-themed items. I'm not quite sure how he appreciated the Hallowe'en celebrations of Salem. I don't think it was his cup of tea, esp. as he is a devout Muslim...yet I never heard him complain outwardly. He did seem to enjoy the non-witchcraft segments of our tour, such as touring the House of Seven Gables, taking in the view of the coastline, or hearing about Salem's history as a busy seaport. He also had a chance to experience some authentic New England fog :D the weather was not very cooperative.

    When we returned to the school, I had a chance to hear him talk a bit about Silat. He spoke with an accent, but otherwise had a sound commmand of English. I would have liked to have given him an interview but as I'm so new to the art, I felt speechless as to what questions to ask. Instead, I chose to listen. Each sentence he said could have been the topic of a thesis "There are almost 1000 styles of Silat in Indonesia," he began. Silat is a word that means "self-defense" or "fighting". It is a word that can be as generic as "karate" to Americans. Guro Lebe touched upon some of the reasons why Silat is such a broad term.

    "There are four reasons why a person should study Silat," Guro Lebe began. "One, for the self-defense. Two, for dance. Three, for cultural reasons."

    I nodded in acknowledgement. "And the fourth?" I asked.

    His expression changed. "Fourth is meta-spiritual reasons. For magic. I don't have any interest in those reasons," he said firmly. It was clear that it wasn't a subject that he preferred discussing.

    "No magic in our school Guro, just hard training," I responded.

    Guro nodded, then looked at me with a sparkle in his eye. "The reason why I study Silat?" he poised. "For the fighting," he grinned. The expression on his face is one that I will likely remember for awhile.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2006
  2. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    "Many different styles of Silat, many different applications," Guro described. "The Silat from Java, for example, often has influences from the Chinese and the Japanese." Guro went on to describe how Silat from West Sumatra tends to be the most indiginous to Indonesia.

    A few of us sat down in a small circle on the mat. "What originally got you in to the fighting, Guro?" I asked.

    "Silat is taught in every school in Indonesia," he began. "All pupils, starting around age 6 or so, everyone learns Silat. But for schoolchildren, the Silat that they learn is just dance."

    "Only dance?" I asked.

    "Only dance," Guro Lebe confirmed. "Then, when they are older...seventeen, eighteen, they can learn the applications of Silat."

    I paused, thinking about the martial arts schools in the US that teach to students as young as 4. "So in Indonesia, a student doesn't learn how to fight until they are an adult?" I asked.

    "Right," he affirmed.

    Guro Lebe went on to say that not a lot of Indonesians necesssarily learn the fighting applications of Silat. He indicated that he learned most of his fighting in a distinguished career in the military.

    "I served as a Green Beret and a Red Beret," he explained. He had fought in two elite fighting forces, but that was only part of his career. "After I retired from fighting I became a diplomat for the government, but I'm now retired.

    "Wow!" I explained, my face losing anything that would have been left of my professional veneer.

    He talked a bit about his service as a foreign diplomat. "But you know," he posed, with a gleam in his eye "Politics's all bull. That's all it is, really."

    His comment (which used a word other than 'bull') sent all of us erupting in to laughter. :D
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2006
  3. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    The conversation then went to softer subjects, such as family.

    "Silat is all about family," Guro Lebe insisted. "Without family, we have nothing."

    The words struck a very deep note with me. "Guro, that seems like its so true," I explained. "The moment that I walked through the door at this school, Guro Mike and Guro May treated me like I was part of their family. They didn't know me, I didn't know them...but they took me in right away as one of their own."

    "Then its a good school," Guro Lebe agreed, "because family is important."

    Guro's face got a bit more comtemplative. "When we begin Silat, we do this..." he described as he was moved in to a position on the mat. "Remember Mother." He shifted in to another position. "Remember Father." He shifted in to another position with his hands crossed on his left breast. "Have a clean heart." I would see the next day that what he was showing me was his salutation.

    The conversation continued to drift. Guro mentioned that he served at the Indonesian Consulate in Chicago, and had a daughter that lived in the Chicago area. He mentioned his daughter was in her thirties. I tried to stifle my surprise...I thought Guro was a man in his fourties....but realize that I was likely...wrong.

    Despite his tough background, Guro lived to the values of he esposed, including having a good heart. Two of the children and their dad came in to the school. The older girl was around 12 or 13, the younger girl was about 6. They were both introduced to Guro Lebe by my instructor, Guro May Williams. Guro May quizzed the younger one alongside Guro Lebe.

    "What country is Silat originally from?" Guro May asked.

    "Indonesia," her young student answered confidently. Guro Lebe broke in to a wide, honest, smile.

    "And what does 'harimau' mean?" Guro May asked.

    "Tiger," replied the girl.

    "That's great!" Guro Lebe explained, his face lit up with pride and unquestionable happiness at watching the way the art was passed on.

    We watched the girls perform their forms, Guro May had added that the older girl and one of her other sisters had perfomed a Silat form in competition and they had won huge trophies doing so. The trophies were on display at the front of the school. Guro was noticeably moved by everyone's commitment to the art.

    I wished everyone goodbye, and headed home to prepare for the upcoming seminar.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2006
  4. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    Martial Arts Research Institute, Salem, Massachusetts.

    Saturday October 21, 2006

    I stepped in to school the day of the seminar to find it more crowded than I had ever seen. I grabbed a bit of water, and some of Guro Mike Williams' omnipresent Sumatran coffee. There seemed to be a bit of tension, and nervousness in the air, but some of the students at the school knew how to take the tension away.

    "Hey Mike, is this Sumatran coffee?" one of my classmates asked in a lighthearted fashion.

    "Yep," Guro Mike affirmed. "Sumatran Coffee and Sumatran Silat today," he smiled. I grinned.

    "Guess we can't call it Java then!" my classmate responded in a staged voice. The group of us started laughing.

    A few FMAtalk people were present, including Guro Wes Tasker and my training partner, Andy Moynihan.

    I found Andy staked out a position around the middle of the mat, and I sat next to him, waiting and sipping coffee. The requisite video equipment was set up, and Guro Lebe stood up in front of the mat. The next was something that I didn't expect. A couple of Guru Lebe's senior students stood up and acknowledged that Harimau Silat was very hard to do...and that if we were tired, or injured, to not be afraid to say so. I wasn't sure whether to be relieved or whether that was an acknowledgement of things to come.

    Guro Lebe stood up and the front of the school, and all of us stood at attention. "My name is Edward Lebe, I was born in Jakarta on [a date in] 1944," he began. I did some quick math. 1944, 2006...holy cow I'm about to get my butt whipped by a 62 year old man. I gritted my teeth. I am new to Silat, and while my instructors promised that there would be something for everyone, I wasn't at all convinced that I would be able to keep up.

    Guro Lebe brought us all in with a salute. "First, remember the God," he said pointing upwards. We all stood in a moment of silence. "Next, remember Mother, remember Father, and keep a clean heart." He then moved in the ways that he had shown the night before.

    The class broke in to a set of vigorous warmup exercises, most of which were focused on warming up an stretching the legs. Harimau Silat is generally done low to the ground.

    After the warmup was over, the instruction began. A technique was demonstrated, then the moves were drilled on in the air, then we were left to try them with our partner. Fortunately for me, Andy picked up on the techniques faster than I did, though there was a bit in there that left both of us confused. However, neither one of us felt lost or alone. Guro Lebe, his senior students, including my instructors, spent a good deal of time walking around helping, and explaining. This contrasted starkly with previous seminars that I attended, where the presenters tended to focus their time on the advanced students and not the inexperienced students....and where the senior students were staying amongst themselves trying the techniques on each other. Here, the senior students were walking the mat walked the mat explaining, assisting, and encouraging. They made sure that an attendee never fell behind.

    Every move that demonstrated involved a takedown. Some involved hand strikes to the upper body, others involved staying low to the ground and toppling over thattacker. Many of the moves involved hitting pressure points when done correctly. Although...with my still-maturing technique, I found that even doing them incorrectly and not hitting the pressure points, the moves were still extremely effective. This was a war art.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2006
  5. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    There was a two hour lunch, during which someone played a videotape of my school's most recent biannual trip to Indonesia. The training was intense and many of the students were drained from the hot, humid air. The training was tough, but everyone seemed to love it...or at least, they loved surviving it.

    "2007, we are going again," one of my classmates said cheerfully. :D

    After lunch, we went through more of the same. Slightly conspicuous by it's absence was any bladed weapons work. "Harimau" means tiger, "Kerambit" means the tiger's claw, and while Silat is quite deadly when done with empty hands, it is very much a bladed art.

    Silat is also an art that works on principles, rather than techniques. Once the principles are known, they can be applied to nearly any attack..although we were shown some applications that would work on a specific type of attack, such as exploiting the vulnerability that an attacker creates when delivering a high kick. Many of the principles were common to what I have been learning in Kali, including lock flows and making diagonal steps to stay off the attacker's centerline. The brutality of Silat was clear, if applying Silat was not enough to kill the attacker, then the attacker was sufficiently immobilized to where he could be easily taken out with a weapon. The combat purpose was unmistakable.

    I left the building wincing in pain and amazement that I had acutally gotten through the seminar and had performed what had been taught. It was a tremendous feeling.

    We wrapped up by celebrating with a dinner at Dandelion Green, which was done with some tremendous generosity by classmate Kevin Pence. Kevin and Jacqui Pence bent over backwards with their hospitality...and at the end of the dinner, Jacqui presented Guro Lebe with a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the World Martial Arts Federation.

    The dinner was filling. The seminar left me hungry for much more. A wonderful end to a wonderful time spent exploring an intriguing art...with a fascinating instructor. :bow:
  6. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Thanks for sharing all this! What surprised me most was that Silat is regularly taught in the schools there...I had known that.
  7. Carol

    Carol <font color = blue><b>Technical Administrator</b><

    Silat is an ancient art, a few sources that I have read place the origins of Silat as being from pre-Christian times. Silat has a long history of secrecy, and one of the ways that Silat has been able to stay secret is how the moves have been worked in to dance. Someone observing a dance would see the moves as a tropical dance and not a martial art.

    The moves of Pentjak Silat, much like the moves of the Filipino arts, are very fluid. When worked in to a form, the form looks much more like a dance than a martial art. The hand sweeping motions look artistic and beautiful, yet in application, they can be deadly.

    I was surprised to hear how pupils are taught the dance of Silat but do not necessarily know what it really means until later.
  8. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    Yes, I more and more learn how central the blade is to that art. I am guilty of sometimes thinking that only the FMAs think that way, despite the fact that when asked to recommend knife fighting styles I usually respond "Filipino or Indonesian are your best bets" because I know how good the Indonesian blade systems are.

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