The words Pencak and Silat have the same meanings and are integral parts of the culture of the Malay ethnic group, who are the native inhabitants in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.
Pencak is commonly used by the people in Java, Madura and Bali, whereas the word Silat is commonly used by the people who live in the other regions of Indonesia as well as in the other Malay regions.
The combination of the words Pencak and Silat into a compound word was made for the first time when an organization uniting all Pencak and Silat perguruans (institutions) in Indonesia was founded in Surakarta on 18 May 1948.
This organization was named Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (Indonesian Pencak Silat Association), abbreviated as IPSI. Since then, the word Pencak Silat has become the official term in Indonesia. This term is also used by the perguruans in many different countries which teach Pencak and Silat derived from Indonesia.
In the international Pencak Silat communities the word Pencak Silat has become the official term since the international federation organization was founded in Jakarta on March 11, 1980. The organization is called Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarbangsa (International Pencak Silat Federation), acronymed as PERSILAT. Nevertheless, there are people who use the words Pencak and Silat separately as a single word due to the dialectic habit.
The principal needs of human being are security and prosperity. To fulfill those needs, men invented and developed various means (techniques) and equipment. Men's inventions deal with and overcome many kinds of threats, challenges, obstacles and annoyances. The means are among others the so called kiat-laga and weapon.
Kiat-laga is the skill, technique and method used to defeat or solve any physical threat by another man. These techniques are then compiled into jurus, a series of effective physical movements directed to defend or attack the weak parts of body, and movement of oneself or the opponent, with or without a weapon. The early form was very simple, it was an imitation of animal's body movement conformed with human's anatomy. Then it was developed continuously, coinciding with the development of men's culture. The use of weapons was also developed in the same way.
The Malay ethnic group of people are a mainly agrarian society and their social relationship is accomplished through paguyuban (kinship/ Gemeinschaft) system. The social characteristics and social relationship of such a system have shaped the wisdom and way of life which hold the religious values and principles and the people's morality in high esteem.
In accordance with the social system mentioned above, kiat-laga should be used in a responsible way. It can be accomplished if the performer practices self-control. Kiat-laga can only be used for self-defense and accordingly, its proper name is kiat-beladiri.
Man has also invented means (techniques) and equipment to fulfil his prosperity (welfare), among others, by developing kiat-beladiri into artistic and sports forms which can supply physical and mental welfare.
Through their social and cultural development the Malay ethnic group of people have absorbed foreign influences into their life, which are in harmony with the religious, moral values and principles they hold in high esteem. Related with that development, the Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic philosophies have been absorbed and applied to put the wisdom and the way of life of this ethnic people in order.
This philosophy is applied in relation with the control of using kiat-beladiri, which focuses its attention on the budi pekerti luhur (the noble mind and character or the sublime ethic), so called falsafah budi pekerti luhur (the philosophy of noble mind and character).
The control of self-defense, artistic and sports kiat-beladiri with its philosophy based on the high esteemed religious and moral values and principles as a unity and oneness, is called Pencak Silat.
When the regions of the Malay ethnic people were under the authority of foreign colonial powers, the teaching of Pencak Silat, which was regarded as a means to grow nationalistic spirit, was first restricted and then prohibited. But the educational activities of Pencak Silat went on secretly.
During the Japanese occupation, the colonial Government allowed the people to develop their culture freely in order to get their support for the Japanese warfare against the Allied Powers. At this time, the education of Pencak Silat was conducted again as it was in the beginning and was spread widely.
After the regions of the Malay ethnic people had been freed from the foreign authorities and emerged independent countries, the growth and dissemination of Pencak Silat became faster, particularly after the establishment of the national Pencak Silat organization in those countries.
Pencak Silat has also developed and spread outside its original countries, particularly after the founding of Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa (PERSILAT).