IFF Title
Journal of Asian Martial Arts
Volume 6, Number 2, June, 1997

Media Review - by James Wilson, L.Ac.,
New England School of Acupuncture.

"The fighting arts of the Indonesian archipelago were never meant for sport" opens the back cover depiction of Bob Orlando's examination of that nation's martial legacy, Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals: The Brutal Arts of the Archipelago.  Orlando, a veteran of several martial styles admirably illustrates for the reader this fundamental difference between the Indonesian manner of self-defense -- a relative newcomer to the American martial arts scene -- and the plethora of "refined" health and/or competition oriented styles imported to our shores in previous decades from Korea, Japan, and China.  "An eclectic mixture of the islands' countless styles of pencak silat as well as Chinese kuntao," Orlando's introduction continues, "[Indonesian fighting arts] arose out of necessity throughout a history marked by violent cultural clashes and oppressive foreign occupations."

As if to emphasize this point, even as I read Mr. Orlando's book, I received an e-mail message from a relative in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, detailing that nation's latest concern: a prominent government minister with close ties to the President has been accused of paying gangs of impoverished youth to burn churches, Chinese homes, and Chinese-owned businesses in an attempt to create the appearance of an Islamic revolt, possible pretense for shutting down the moderate Islamic opposition party prior to national elections later this year.  In a land where neither police nor ordinary citizens typically have recourse to firearms, and covert military objectives are for political reasons meted out by non-military personnel posing as unorganized vandals and vigilantes, martial arts can unfortunately still be applied with their original intent, in situations and with a degree of severity rarely presented or appropriate in the West.  Perhaps this is why, despite the author's apologies to the contrary, the techniques illustrated in Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals -- the combined teachings of several Dutch-Indonesian practitioners, primarily Willem de Thouars, all of whom have lived in the United States for several decades -- continue to accurately mirror the forms I see practiced in those islands today, whether in the capital or in remote mountain villages.

Orlando writes that his intent is not "a detailing [of] the history, culture, or many fighting systems of Indonesia ..., [but] is intended primarily for the martial art student of any rank whose main reason for training and study is effective self-defense"; to this end he has succeeded marvelously.  The author accurately portrays the use of a wide variety of Indonesian strikes and stances, effectively demonstrating their differences with other fighting styles, the principles behind their actions, and their use in combat situations.  His own sometimes creative terminology -- my personal favorite being "gyroscopic rotation" -- actually enhances the student's understanding than if the author had attempted to translate those actions described directly from the Indonesian.  Similarly, Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals is clearly illustrated, with just the right number of photographs and graphics accompanied by clear, concise captions.  In this respect, many martial arts authors should consider Orlando's work exemplary.  Indeed, my only criticism is when the author violates his initial statement of purpose and does foray into the areas of history and culture: taught by Dutch-Indonesians and not being personally familiar with those islands, he over emphasizes the Dutch contribution to the study of pencak silat, and has a tendency to wax nostalgic about the colonial era in ways Indonesians to whom I showed the book found either ludicrous or offensive.  While sometimes verbose in its introduction and asides, Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals is excellent when it settles down to its original intentions: "to lend unprecedented clarity to the often elusive arts of the Indonesian archipelago, making them more accessible to the serious, self-defense driven student than ever before."

    "While sometimes verbose in [his] introduction and asides, when the reviewer actually settles down to addressing the merits of the book, his remarks are quite complimentary.
—The Author     Grinning face
Our emphasis is on the practical.
©Copyright Bob Orlando, 1997-2014
All rights reserved.
E-mail: Ron@OrlandoKuntao.com
Last update:  Aug. 6, 2016
by Bob Orlando
Web Site of Bob Orlando: Instructor in Kuntao-Silat (Chinese kuntao and Dutch-Indonesian pukulan pentjak silat), author of two popular martial art books: "Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals" and "Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts"; and producer of four martial art videos: Fighting Arts of Indonesia, Reflex Action, Fighting Footwork of Kuntao and Silat, Fighting Forms of Kuntao-Silat. Offering practical martial arts instruction to adults living in and throughout the Denver metropolitan area including, Lakewood, Littleton, Morrison, and Golden Colorado.