Four Creatures Kuntao Silat is a martial skills curriculum built around six movement sets. We heavily emphasize fundamentals, especially at the beginning. You will re-learn how to breathe, stand, and walk, how to shift your weight, how to move your arms. From the first lesson, you begin playing with the movement, cultivating your ability to improvise. When you have a base of strong, improvisational movement, it turns out that you can fight very effectively with that…or do anything else that you want to do.
If that doesn’t sound very exciting, well…some days it isn’t. But in 16 years of teaching martial arts, I’ve found that a strong focus on the fundamentals is the best possible beginning, and will equip you to pursue whatever avenues you later want to explore. I am constantly amazed at the number of martial artists who have gaping holes in their movement fundamentals.
Four Creatures will equip you for a lifetime in movement disciplines, but it is not designed to be a lifetime pursuit itself. Twenty-year martial arts curricula are mostly designed to separate a student from his money for a really long time. People become rocket scientists in less time than that — what are the odds that it really takes that long to learn a physical skill set? In Four Creatures, you will see solid progress in three months. You will be competent in a year, good in three years, and finished with the entire curriculum in four to six years. Are there further vistas to explore and more arcane skills to develop? Of course–and you’ll have a solid foundation to build on. That’s what we’re here for.
Our parent arts are village arts, not military arts. They are closely held in small communities. We don’t line up in rows or wear colored belts to tell who’s who; everyone knows who needs to. We don’t require that you be young and fit to practice; when the pirates come to the village, Granny is in as much peril as the young and fit – maybe more. We don’t require vast hours of dedicated practice; we will teach you how to practice your art in bits and snatches as you go about your daily life. We don’t urge you to sacrifice your health for the sake of being able to do a few tricks for a few years; life is a marathon, not a sprint. If you cripple yourself learning to fight, how will you provide for your family? We aren’t grim; it’s just not psychologically sustainable. Practice time is play time; real life is grim enough.
If you’re new to martial arts, we’ll give you a solid foundation. If you’re an experienced martial artist, I can almost guarantee we’re a little different than anything you’ve done before. We’ll give you fresh eyes to see what you already know, and you’ll pick up some sweet tricks into the bargain.
The Four Creatures
The curriculum is organized around one of the deep motifs of the Scriptures, the four cherubic creatures of Ezekiel’s vision: ox, lion, eagle, and man. In Ox, you will develop coherent body movement in collision with other bodies and the skill of taking charge of someone else’s musculoskeletal system. Lion turns your attention to flowing, efficient movement and destructive anatomy. Eagle teaches circular evasion and very short, decisive engagement. Human integrates the other three into a seamless whole, refines your movement to a deeper level, and prepares you to become self-guiding in your training, equipped to pursue whatever further developments and directions you wish. In every phase, specialized practices develop the necessary physicality to support your skills.
Our parent arts come from Kuntao Silat, a Dutch-Indonesian hybrid martial lifestyle brought to the United States in the wake of World War II and tailored to the needs of American practitioners over the past 50 years.
Silat (or Pentjak Silat) is an umbrella term for the indigenous arts of the Indonesian islands. It encompasses everything from the fighting skills of stone-age tribes to the training of the sultans’ bodyguards. Kuntao is a broad term for the arts practiced by ethnic Chinese emigre communities in the islands. Because of the large cultural differences between Indonesia and China, the Chinese arts took on a radically different character over their centuries of separation from the mainland. If you’re familiar with Chinese martial arts, you’ll recognize the postures, but the angles and distancing are different, and there’s a wildly different culture to the training.
While mutually influencing one another, Kuntao and Silat were not generally mixed by their respective ethnic communities; in fact, they were often practiced in secret. However, the colonial Dutch-Indonesians, by virtue of their mixed bloodlines, family ties, social position, and wealth, could and did often cross cultural lines barred to others and learn martial skills from multiple cultures.
After World War II, the Dutch-Indonesians fell on hard times. Persecuted by the Japanese during the war, they found themselves persecuted by the Tyrant during the peace. Their assets stolen, confined to concentration camps in the land of their birth, unable to stay because they were Dutch and unwelcome in Holland because they were Indonesian, many of them came to America to find opportunity. They did, and the martial lifestyle of Kuntao Silat is their legacy to us in gratitude for finding a home here. We are privileged to continue that legacy.