Efforts to revamp pencak silat were badly needed in the early years of the Republic. Manyperguruan were no longer functioning, and many leaders and masters had withdrawn from the world of pencak silat because of the political instability and uncertain economic situation in the newly independent nation. A dearth of external stimulation to kindle the development of pencak silat was also partly to blame. During the time of Dutch colonial rule and the Japanese occupation,pencak silat played an intrinsic role in society as an instrument of defence and offence. But after the revolution, it had yet to find a purpose and function befitting the new era of peace.
Some masters were moved by the urgency of the situation to propose the establishment of a national organisation that could foster the development of pencak silat throughout Indonesia, consolidate different styles under one umbrella, and create a national pencak silat system. Their lofty ideal could not be easily realised as many perguruan were closed to outsiders, in competition with each other, or in conflict with splinter groups. Masters too were divided by party affiliations or loyalties to differing ethnic groups, and were hesitant to co-operate because each ‘felt he was the head honcho in his district’.
Actually, moves to unite pencak silat had already began during the Dutch colonial period. In 1922, in Segalaherang, Subang, West Java, the Perhimpunan ‘Pencak Silat’ Indonesia (Indonesian Federation of ‘Pencak Silat’) or PPSI was established to bond the West Javanese styles which had spread throughout the islands of the archipelago. During the Japanese occupation, Soekarno was once the association’s patron. After a few years, PPSI ceased its activities owing to the political upheavals, but in 1950 it was reorganised to cover seven residencies in West Java. Elected as chair was Raden Poeradirja, who had previously been decorated as a guerrilla. The purpose of PPSI was ‘to serve public interest in order to realise the objectives set forth in Pancasila and the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, working in the spheres of social affairs, economics, and culture to improve people’s welfare’.
A similar effort was undertaken in Yogyakarta. In 1943, four renown pencak masters –Sukowinadi from the Perguruan Pencak Mataram (Perpim) Harimurti, Tardjo Nagoro of Phasadja, Alip from SH Yogyakarta, and Soewiknjo from the Persatuan Hati (PH)– set up an organisation called Gabungan Pencak Mataram (Gapema) to collectively support the development of pencak in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta. Several years later, to be exact in 1947, another organisation, called Gabungan Pentjak Seluruh Indonesia (Gapensi), was set up in Yogyakarta by Mohamad Djoemali in association with several pencak leaders, namely Ndoro Sutarjo, RMS Dirjo Atmodjo (who went on to found Perisai Diri in Surabaya in 1953), Widji Hartani (who would later found Perisai Sakti), and Widjaja. Its aim was to unite pencak styles all over Indonesia.
Although the organisations in West Java and Yogyakarta projected a national image, their membership was actually local. And this, despite growing demand that pencak silat be promoted in all corners of the archipelago as an expression of national culture. The public also hoped thatpencak silat would be standardised so that it could be included in educational curricula and in national sporting events. To address these matters, the Persatuan Olah Raga Indonesia or PORI (Indonesian Sports Association) organised a Pencak Conference in Solo on June 2, 1948. The conference, which was attended by PORI regional delegates and representatives from the Ministry of Development and Youth and the Ministry of Education, Teaching and Culture (now the Department of Education and Culture) was fraught with obstacles because of divergent views among the participants. Not everybody agreed on the need for a national organisation, and there was concern that pushing for a single national system of pencak silat would have an averse effect, and even spark dissension among perguruan as each would claim its style to be the best. Nevertheless, the final decision was to form a committee chaired by Mr. Wongsonegoro –then Minister for Education, Teaching and Culture– to draw up the articles and rules of association for the Ikatan Pentjak Seloeroeh Indonesia (All Indonesia Pencak Association), or IPSI.
IPSI was meant to develop one national style of pencak silat that would be accepted by allperguruan throughout the archipelago. For the time being, the basic ‘standard system’ of studying ‘pencak and silat’ drawn up by RMS Prodjosoemitro was adopted. This system was explained in 1947 in a book entitled ‘Elementair’, which had been distributed to schools in the Solo area with the support of the Surakarta Office of the Ministry of Education, Teaching and Culture. The output of these initial standardisation efforts could be observed at the Pekan Olah Raga Nasional I (PON or National Sports Games) held in Solo on September 8-12, 1948. Some 1,000 children gave a demonstration of pencak with standard and synchronised moves. At this first sportive event of a national scope, contests of pencak demonstrations were also held, with unarmed/armed solo and double categories; a tradition that would be continued in future National Sports Games.
With the support of the Ministry of Education, Teaching and Culture, IPSI began to gain nation-wide authority. Still its presence was not easily accepted by the other national organisations. In Yogyakarta, Gapensi strongly opposed a proposed merger because the IPSI committee was thought to be dominated by SH members. In addition, these two strongholds had differing political affiliations: Gapensi members favoured the Indonesian National Party (PNI), while IPSI officials aligned themselves with Marahen and the breakaway Partai Raya Indonesia (PRI).
The perguruan in Kauman also resisted Mr. Wongsonegoro as IPSI chair because he was a recognised leader of the mystical (kebatinan) movement. Gapensi’s opposition eventually collapsed when Sukowinadi left to set up a rival organisation, Persatuan Pencak Indonesia (Perpi), drawing members from the perguruan Benteng Mataram in Bantul, Mustika in Kali Jeruk, and Bayu Manunggal, Bima Sakti and Trisno Murti in Yogyakarta. The new organisation was also supported by Phasadja and the perguruan in Kauman. After some time, Perpi merged with IPSI, and eventually Gapensi –which had become isolated– joined too. On December 21-23, 1950, the second IPSI congress was held in Yogyakarta. There it was agreed to strengthen the organisation and form a new IPSI Board of Directors with Mr. Wongonegoro as Chair, Sri Paduka Paku Alam as Vice-Chair, and Rachmad as First Secretary.
A peaceful end to the conflict among perguruan in Yogyakarta was marked by the appointment of Sukowinadi (Perpi) as chair of the first Yogyakarta IPSI Chapter, and Mohamed Djoemali (Gapensi) as Head of the Technical Section of the IPSI Board of Directors and Head of the Pencak Section at the Yogyakarta Office of the Ministry of Education, Teaching and Culture. Two years later, RMS Dirjo Atmodjo (Gapensi) would also be appointed as Head of the Pencak Section, at the Bureau of Physical Education Inspection in the East Java Office of the Ministry of Education, Teaching and Culture.
Since this time, IPSI devoted its full energies to develop a standardized system which could be acceptable to all parties in Indonesia and abroad. As we will see in the next edition, this process has been full of challenges lasting to the current days.