The History of PGB White Crane Silat courtesy of: www.silat-white-crane.de & PGB White Crane Silat New York The genesis of SILAT The era of development The present
White Crane Silat traces its origins to the monasteries and convents of China around 600 A.D. At this time the first patriarch of the legendary Shaolin temple, Bodhidharma (a.k.a. Ta Mo), first integrated internal yoga disciplines and martial arts training into a new movement practice.
As the centuries passed, successive generations created new systems and refined the old. By 1200 A.D., other major centers had appeared on several of China’s sacred mountains, and secular schools also flourished. We are especially indebted to two of these schools: the Taoist Wu Tang monastery, which originated the concept of long forms, and the Buddhist O Mei convent, which was the source of most of the women’s systems.
By this time, movement styles included animal forms (white crane, tiger, snake, monkey and dragon, etc.), elements of nature (wind, bamboo, earth, etc.), and Buddhist and Taoist deities such as the Goddess of Compassion, the God of Justice, and the Eight Immortals (including the drunken system). Many of these movement systems were also associated with specific forms of energy cultivation (Chi Kung), which variously aimed at developing power, health, and spirituality.
Prominent martial artists often travelled across the country in search of new techniques, and then retired to one of these monastic communities where they engaged in meditative practice and passed on their skills. As a result, these communities experienced a number of renaissances, and indirectly influenced each other’s styles. In latter centuries, this process of cross-fertilization accelerated, as much that was hidden within these institutions became open to lay people, first in China and then abroad.
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The era of development
The White Crane Silat lineage is currently taught through Persatuan Gerak Badan (the Orginazation for Harmonious Body Movement), an Indonesian organization founded in 1952 by the late Grandmaster Subur Rahardja (Suhu). Born in 1925 to a martial arts family (clan) in Bogor, West Java, Suhu became a student of Silat from a very tender age. Suhu’s uncle and first teacher, Liem Kim Bouw, was a martial arts master and respected healer. Later, Suhu studied under several other martial arts masters who came to live with his uncle during times of difficulty in Asia in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Suhu demonstrated prodigious talent for the martial arts from a very early age. He also demonstrated the extraordinary discipline necessary to learn various styles and to endure the rigorous years of study of martial arts often taught only in monasteries.
According to one of Suhu’s most famous teachers, Agung Gedeh Jelanktik, the former King of Lombok, he had mastered the external form of martial arts by the age of twenty. Suhu then went on to master the internal styles as well. It is said that the current White Crane Silat style taught by PGB represents Suhu’s synthesis of four martial arts styles with that of his original clan style of kun tao.
In the years following World War II, Suhu joined his country in the battle for independence. Suhu gained a reputation as a formidible fighter during the geurrilla campaign against the Dutch and English colonial powers. Due to his bravery and common sense, Suhu often found himself in the role of leader. Suhu naturally began to share his martial skills with his close friends and comrades during the struggle for independence.
From this close knit group of young fighters Suhu founded his first group of 18 students, known as the Block-18. This group provided the foundation for the the forming of Persatuan Gerak Badan in 1952. Suhu chose the White Crane as the symbol of the school because the crane is a social animal which represents balance and grace, and only fights in self defense.
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In the 1970’s young men and women from the West came to study White Crane Silat in Bogor under Suhu. Inspired by their commitment and interested in achieving a wider audience for his art, Suhu began to travel to the West to teach.
Soon White Crane Silat branches began to crop up in Germany, France, and the United States. Enthusiastic students often traveled to Bogor to train under Suhu in Indonesia and some of Suhu’s senior students traveled to the Western countries to provide instruction. The White Crane Silat center in Bogor began to take on a very international flavor with students from all over the world coming to stay and train for a few weeks to a few years.
Suhu died in 1986 leaving the care of PGB to his son, Gunawan Rahardja. Gunawan, the current Grandmaster of White Crane Silat, has continued and expanded upon his father’s work.
The center of White Crane Silat in Bogor continues to provide a high level of training for Indonesians and students the world over. Every year an international retreat is held in a different host country and students come from around the globe to attend a week long intesive training seminar. Gunawan also continues the healing traditions of his uncle and father by providing traditional Asian healing practices to a wide variety of patients. And, as has always been the case, many of these patients, once well, become practitioners of White Crane Silat.
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