Southeast Asian Grappling systems?

Discussion in 'Indochinese Martial Arts - General' started by destructautomaton, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. destructautomaton

    destructautomaton Green Belt

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    I saw some burmese naban and made me think if grappling or wrestling was still around or still is taught in southeast asia?
     
  2. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Bando certainly has it.
     
  3. destructautomaton

    destructautomaton Green Belt

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    Yes, i saw dr gyi once do a little at a seminar which was what piqued my interest. i was wondering if its still active and taught in the other countries including burma.
     
  4. blackdiamondcobra

    blackdiamondcobra Purple Belt

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    Wrestling systems still exist throughout Southeast Asia, though not as popular as they once were when the empty hand, weapons and wrestling systems thrived in ancient times. In the case of thailand, the complete wrestling systems pretty much died out survived only in moves or movement sets within certain systems, though it was recorded and eyewitness accounts from various festivals give us a good picture. Wrestling tactics remain in the bare knuckle systems and weapons, but they are just streamlined quick trips, throws, etc.

    Burmain the West maintains their traditions of naban and its not as predominate as one thinks in Burma. You wont just be able to find it unless you are in the right areas.

    Cambodia even through all the turmoil it has survived luckily many old teachers continue to teach the old wrestling methods of champab.

    Laos had wrestling too but how its surviving or will it survive into the future is still in question. Vietnam maintains it as well and its shown during festivals as wrestling is usually shown or played throughout se asia.

    In Burma and cambodia, you can see the elaborate dances before the fights, which remind me of the mongolian matches, and of course there is clearly indian, mongolian, possibly tibetan and chinese involved in certain parts of burma. Burma has many ethnic groups so I mainly trained wrestling in the west but in the north it might look a bit different and might be influenced a bit more toward the old tibetan/chinese ways. Cambodia actually had several excellent teachers who had young students they trained which was very encouraging.

    Its also good to take a look at indian and mongolian wrestling so you can get an idea of the old wrestling methods and it makes viewing and training in lets say the burmese and cambodian methods very interesting. I did my two dvds on indian wrestling the physical body 1 and 2, shot a lot of footage in burma and cambodia and have shot some mongolian wrestling, so hopefully in the future I will focus a special project on those systems.

    Of course also there was the older kushti indian wrestling which was far more brutal type of wrestling with fish hooks, hair pulling, and alot of what we would call foul tactics. In the old wrestling in se asia, this was what it was like and then it willowed down to a more sportsman like and civilized game. It was the same route for bare knuckle, thailand slowly moved away from the free for all bare knuckle type bouts which ended in people getting hurt and sometimes killed to a more modern westernized sport that became what we now know of as muay thai. We see the brutal form of mixing kushti with stand up fighting with a knuckle duster as an early form of indian vale tudo. Alot of the matches were fought in the sand or dirt with a lack of firm footing, still today, alot of wrestlers and even bare knuckle fighters in Burma prefer that.

    I find the research into wrestling quite interesting. It seems to have survived pretty much intact in certain areas of burma and cambodia and it was very educating learning and training with the masters.

    I also gained tremendous insights to the actual records in thailand as to what it was like and how it was played. Some thais have tried to recreate it but without an understanding of wrestling itself especially neighboring burma and cambodia as well as india and mongolia, its really an empty vessel being sold without any merit or worth in my opinion.
     
  5. Fede

    Fede Green Belt

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    That's amazing, there is so much and so little is heard.

    I liked the comparison between old bare-knuckle and ancient Indian wrestling, it looks to be the same the ancient Greeks and Romans did (from what I have read they used an impressive array of knuckle dusters and such), so it's amazing you found the old material intact, I always wonder why the ancient fighting matrial goes lost so easily as it was an integrant part of life back then and almost all that has survived are the sport versions of it. It was very brutal and fierce ao definitely not for everyone but it doesn't mean it couldn't survive along the sport versions.
    I just read an old article on Ssireum, it pretty much said it was the old tribal fighting method which became streamlined into a national sport, so I guess that here too the ancient version of it is probably lost or not practiced anymore.
     
  6. blackdiamondcobra

    blackdiamondcobra Purple Belt

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    Fede:
    What I found in my research and my training especially digging for the old systems and old masters is that there is usually a dividing line or point in the history and progression of systems that things changed for various reasons. In burma and india, british suppression of martial arts, though they were maintained underground and when they re emerged they sort of went in another direction or toward a more "civilized" interpretation for want of a better term. Some systems just remained underground until they died out or where carried on. Some became hybrids keeping the old as root and grafting whatever was popular or accepted to it. Even Letway, bare knuckle boxing in Burma, has changed a bit over time, they fight in a ring primarily now though the old fighters still love the original extended rounds in sand or dirt which still occur from time to time. In Thailand where there was no higher control or suppression outside of japanese occupation and burmese intermittent control of the kingdom in their see saw battles, the leaning toward westernized standards of physical education and reducing the label of barbaric especially when deaths were common in sport led the art into a new direction simply by what was happening in Government and reform. In india, the blood thirsty forms endorsed by maharajahs also were reformed into safer formats and/or more phys ed formatted systems later on so when suppression was released they looked more viable to the world and accepted by the populace.

    99% of the people just accept what is here now "as it". Meaning alot of people never delve back or ask questions or bother. We see this with a lot of systems( we highlighted this in the krabi krabong thread when I talked about old kk and new kk, big differences between the two, but the current landscape teachers dont want the old kk, it has no place in their teaching and progression). It was eye opening in India to study, document and train Kushti then to meet people who were showing the older methods with documented photos, text and their own progressions inherited from teachers. It was the same in every country. There were the few who held onto the authentic original ways usually overridden and forgotten by the more "popular" interpretations. But what is most telling is their actual lack of definition, ask the teacher or head is this a phys ed or reformatted system and they will say..."this is the system" as if the debate is ended.

    Burma and cambodia were fertile because of the lack of overriding commerce and the lack of understanding what was happening in the martial arts of the last 30 years of so in the west. You can find masters who just practice and teach what they know and many will teach openly and accept you and explain everything in detail. Alot of teachers had methods that were continually passed on from father to son and so on. Very direct lines of purity and understanding outside of commercial interests and ego. In wrestling we see this surviving in a direct fashion at yearly festivals with full peformance to music and a clean display of clearly a very old art.

    When i first got to thailand and started in bare knuckle, muay thai and kk, there was little to no interest from the younger thais in the old stuff, they were more into tae kwon do, hapkido, aikido, and anything else. The old teachers would say in frustration that they wish the younger people would train them and carry it on. It was my entry point because they would let me train where before it was usually off limits to foreigners because there was just no interest. Now its popular again so people think it was popular all along, the media with tony jaa, ong bak, the muay chaiya teachers exploding out of the woodwork brought a new level of acceptance so the thai kids would be more interested in it and indulge it a bit more than in the past. If you werent there for that progression of events meeting and discussing the past and present with the old masters who are mostly gone, you would never understand what happened and to see what is lost and what is gained. Understanding the evolution within the climate of the actual country over time gives a depth of understanding that is crucial in seeing what each martial system is in its current state.

    Cambodia is starting to get tainted a bit with the whole bare knuckle thing as one teacher is following the sort of muay boran craze and creating a system he believes is old but is just making things up from a little research and watching what is happening in thailand and following the commercial path. Of course, we will see where this goes and how it affects the others, whether it dominoes into something bigger or just remains isolated to his exploits. Wrestling in Cambodia holds into its traditional values and other forms of wrestling and even judo are common there now, so grappling is strongly represented in not only traditional form but alongside olympic styles and japanese ones.

    Nothing wrong of course with commerce, progress, and evolution but its nice to keep the old combative ways intact so we dont lose them. They are vital links to understanding the actual progressions but the barriers it seems are the people themselves who want to barricade the lines between the new and the old for their own commercial control(we can see this with people saying they are the only living grandmaster and propagating an art entirely of their own making only to watch the true grandmasters die off one by one because everyone thought what he was saying was actually truth and never challenging or investigating the notion that he was totally wrong and trying to rewrite history in his own way and making).

    As one top government Burmese official told me when I was angrily summoned to his office for traveling to meet several old masters in locked off zones, "why bother with the past, we are not interested in the old masters, we have restructured the system into a way that works and a way that is easily understood and taught. We have taken all the information they have and brought it together. You dont need them. If want any information you can come to us and we will give you all the training, all the information and all the translation you need."

    It was a nice sentiment but it just highlighted the deeper urgency of my work and how the grains of sand in the hourglass are sadly running down faster than we know.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2009
  7. Fede

    Fede Green Belt

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    That's a nice and clear explanation, thanks for that Vincent. It clears up many obscure points I had on why muay boran and bokator came to be. The background of the teachers of those arts is clearly bogus as even they don't know it, they just filled the void of their ignorance with what better suited them.
    As you said nothing wrong with comerce and evolution, but when people want to have information about any product or topic they expect the truth as an answer, not fake embellishments used to sell better.

    What the Burmese official told you sounds exactly like the Chinese Culutral Revolution, erase the past and change it to something that is better controlled and sold. Sad but true.
    Losing the traditions, any tradition, is losing part the history of a country and part of its soul and martial arts are no exeptions.
     
  8. Stickgrappler

    Stickgrappler Purple Belt

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    hello:

    *bows deeply to all*

    awesome info! thank you.

    very truly yours in the MA,

    ~sg
     
  9. destructautomaton

    destructautomaton Green Belt

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    its great to know at least the old grappling systems are still alive and sort of under the radar for now in those countries. i know i read and watched the physical body that indian wreslting is dying out, is that still true that the old way of wrestling is fading?
     
  10. blackdiamondcobra

    blackdiamondcobra Purple Belt

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    The issues with Kushti need a bit of explanation. People have written articles about how it exists and still flourishes because they are taking a very myopic look at it from outside and not from inside out.

    Kushti as a traditional sport is losing favor in terms of building more wrestlers for olympic and international style competition. Traditional kushti tournaments will hopefully always be there but the number of them is slowly dwindling down. The major tournaments favor international style matches on a mat. So I believe the next decade could be a transitioning time to see how many of the international tournaments are held vs the traditional.

    In Burma, as well as cambodia, again we will see how they surivive into the next decade. In Cambodia, they are doing already international wrestling as well as judo. The good thing there is that at least the coaches and teachers respect the old traditional wrestling and actually invite those teachers and students to demonstrate at their events. I like very much how that is handled there and should serve as an example for others in how one can progress but also hold onto the ancient ways.

    In Burma, the government hasnt seen a way to use or exploit it yet in any way that benefits them since there are so few practitioners and generally just let it be.
     
  11. Trent

    Trent Green Belt

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    Interesting material above on related arts; however, in answer to the original post, Indonesian Kun Tao Silat certainly has grappling-- empty-handed, knife, stick and utilizing flexible weapons. I've been training in it for years via Kun Tao Silat de Thouars.

    In fact, several years ago when my oldest son was an entering sophomore in high school he decided he wanted to try out for the wrestling team. Now, he had never participated in Western style wrestling but had been training in kun tao silat with me for the previous couple of years. He decided to join late in the season and the school team desperately needed people, so they agreed to let him join. One practice later they entered the city championships with high school wrestling teams from the regional area. Despite the fact that he could only use about one-quarter of the grappling techniques he was aware of due to the rules, and almost disqualified several times, he was awarded the sliver medal in his weight class (light heavyweight) out of a field of over sixty competitors from approximately twenty schools. One of his coaches trains with "Gladiators," a gym that trains fighters for the UFC and asked me where my son learned "jiu-jitsu" because it looked so different than what he had seen before. I told him he had never learned any jiu-jitsu but had been training with me for the last two years.
     
  12. blackdiamondcobra

    blackdiamondcobra Purple Belt

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    Interesting insights about your son, trent. I believe the older grappling methods or the ones inside or part of these systems have the components or universal elements that are easily adapable and escalated into other grappling systems as in your sons case wrestling. Grappling was always a component for me so i could work within any method or system both modern or ancient because the components were well built in from the original systems which had excellent integration along all lines as your training seems to be within the kuntao matrix.
     
  13. Fede

    Fede Green Belt

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    This certainly is interesting, I wasn't aware of the fact there were common principles in grappling as well. although it's logical. This surely comes from experencing the different grappling systems and methods, just like in the stand-up methods.
    I am thinking about what Bruce Lee said roght now, that there would be a different form of fighting if there were people with four arms and legs.
     
  14. Trent

    Trent Green Belt

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    Indeed, grappling is grappling to greatly simplify. The only real differences are cultural, ethical, personal or sportive (i.e., background and goals resulting in the unconscious or conscious rule set limiting the movement and applications).
     
  15. destructautomaton

    destructautomaton Green Belt

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    it seems the se asian grappling stayed pretty authentic and straightforward which is really great. I hope to see more coverage of them in the future i recently read an article on wrestling in vietnam and like the posts on it above it fits in and makes total sense.
     
  16. orang_baik

    orang_baik Yellow Belt

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    indonesian wrestling = benjang gulat its also from sundanese art
     
  17. blackdiamondcobra

    blackdiamondcobra Purple Belt

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    Orang_baik-thanks for the posting. Do you have any links to teachers or footage we can see on that? Is the system located in java as i think the sudanese are from java?
     
  18. orang_baik

    orang_baik Yellow Belt

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    cant find english link in google :(, rather infamous

    1 pdf in http://pdfdatabase.com/index.php?q=benjang

    but i check its already broken link :(

    yes sundanese tribe is in java island (western java to be exact)
     
  19. orang_baik

    orang_baik Yellow Belt

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  20. doc D

    doc D Orange Belt

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    The late Guru Besar Herman Suwanda incorporated Benjang into Pencak Silat Mande Muda. One of the reasons for doing so was because he liked the material and thought it would be a nice complement to the Pencak Silat in the system. The other reason was , he felt it was dying out in Jawa Barat and wanted to preserve it. He did state that it was a distinct form of indigenous Indonesian grappling that was not a Silat style per se.123
     

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