Silat is the traditional art of war of the Malay race, who is inhabitants the southern part of the Asian continent, covering the Malay Archipelago from the Easter Island in the east to Madagascar Island in the west.
It is believed that the word silat came is from the combination of two syllables, Si and Elat. Si is a title or a pronoun for a person who is involved in a certain occupation, for example, Mat Situkang shall mean Mat the Craftsman and Sipenjala shall mean the fisherman. Elat means to contrive, to deceive, to trick, to confuse or to cheat. Bersilat is when an exponent is demonstrating or practicing silat. Menyilat on the other hand means the act of avoiding or receiving and attack and overcoming it with another attack or defense. Pesilat would mean a student of silat, and silat experts are called pendekar. The word Melayu generally refers to someone who speaks the Malay language practices the Malay culture and is a Muslim. The Malay art of war is thus called Silat Melayu.
Silat, Gayung, Pencak and Kali bring the same meaning. The word silat however, is more widely used. Generally, the word Silat or Gayung is used by the Malay community in the Malay Peninsula. Silek and Gayuang in Sumatra, penca and maempok in West Java. Pencak in Middle Java and East Java, mancak in Madura and Baewan, encak in Bali, mpaa sila in Dompu and Nusa Tenggara Barat and bermanceak in Bulungan and Kalimantan, memencak in Bugis and Sulawesi, akmencak in Suku Makasar and also Basilat and Kali in Mindanao, Philippines.
Silat has become the symbol of Malay warriors with the existence of different streams of silat, depending on its society which for instance are Silat Minangkabau, Silat Jawa, Silat Bugis, and Silat Kurinci. Generally, Silat Melayu refers to the silat practiced by the Malays in the Malay Peninsula. In Silat Melayu, the names of some silat discipline depend on the district. Examples including Gayungman Kedah, Gayung Fathoni (Gayung Fatani), Silat Petani, Melayu Kelantan, Pukulan Melaka and Buah Mersing.
Some Silat were also named after figures such as Silat Mat Kilau, Langkah Hang Tuah, Gayung Tok Janggut, Cekak Hanafi, and Kalimah Yahya Said. Some were also named after animal movements or spirits like Silat Harimau, Hanuman, Monyet, Helang Putih Perkasa, Lang Merah, Lang Sewah, Selendang Merah, Siamang Laut and Serimau Hitam. As it is compulsory for all silat to be registered, the amount of disciplines keep on growing such as Silat Budi Bahasa, Gayung Asli, Silat Seni Gayung, Gayung Fatani, Lincah, Cekak, Tekpi Tugkat, Kalimah, Abjad and a lot more.
Humans would naturally defend themselves using their intelligence and physical capabilities. Misunderstandings between humans can cause them to quarrel, fight, clash up to the point that they might go to war using weapons. The traditional Malay literary works showed that the ruler of the kingdom at the time encouraged the prince, princesses and children of nobility to master the art of war which was known as ilmu hulubalang or ilmu penjurit to shape them into gallant warriors. It is then that these educational institutions became known as Silat.