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Defence for an Anthropology Thesis

Learning is not limited to the classroom or even a laboratory for PhD student Paul Mason, who travelled to Bandung, Indonesia, recently to chart the developments of a prestigious martial arts group called, Pencak Silat Panglipur.

The Group comprises over 2500 practitioners and students from around West Java who have been preparing for their 100th anniversary, which is being celebrated before and after the fasting month of Ramadan.

Paul, who performed ethnographic fieldwork with Pencak Silat Panglipur in 2008, was recently awarded a Postgraduate Research Fund with a Deputy Vice-Chancellor's commendation to return to Bandung and document the preparations for this festival.

The 100th Anniversary commemorations are being celebrated by national and international guests who are arriving in Bandung as well as Garut, the home village of the founder of Pencak Silat Panglipur. Paul had the opportunity to catch up with local Gurus, martial artists and musicians.

During this brief stay in Bandung, Paul lived with an old Pencak Silat Guru, Pak Haji Uho Holidin, with whom Paul spent an intensive anthropology apprenticeship in 2008. Another person Paul caught up with was Pak Darman, a blind musician.

 Pak Darman (wearing the blue shirt) takes a break during an extended Pencak Silat rehearsal. Photo: Paul H. Mason
Pak Darman (wearing the blue shirt) takes a break during an extended Pencak Silat rehearsal. Photo: Paul H. Mason

Pak Haji Uho demonstrates his double-sword technique. Photo: Paul H. Mason

Despite his disability, Pak Darman can play the most beautiful and tranquil melodies on the Kecapi and invigorating crowd-pleasing tunes on the Tarompet. Pak Darman recently starred in a Pencak Silat Jamboree that was staged to promote environmental protection.

Performing to Pak Darman’s music was Champion martial artist from Pencak Silat Panglipur, Dian Nur Dini. Paul got the chance to interview Dian:
“It is very rare for a school of Pencak Silat to reach 100 years of age.

This anniversary represents a proof of Panglipur’s continuing efforts to protect and further our cultural heritage, and also a proof that Pencak Silat will not lose appeal amid the growth of foreign martial arts in Indonesia. Our 100th anniversary is a historical landmark in the world of Pencak Silat.”

Read more about the Department of Anthropology or Pencak Silat Panglipur, Music for the Fight, Movements for the Soul.

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