Silat is a collective word for indigenous martial arts from a geo-cultural area of Southeast Asia encompassing most of the Nusantara and Malay Archipelago, as well as the entire Malay Peninsula. Originally developed in what are now Indonesia,peninsular Malaysia, south Thailand, and Singapore, it is also traditionally practiced in Brunei, Vietnam and the southern Philippines. There are hundreds of different styles but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, throws, bladed weaponry, or some combination thereof. Silat is one of the sports included in the Southeast Asian Games and other region-wide competitions. Training halls are overseen by separate national organizations in each of the main countries the art is practiced. These are Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (IPSI) from Indonesia, Persekutuan Silat Kebangsaan Malaysia (PESAKA) from Malaysia, Persekutuan Silat Brunei Darussalam (PERSIB) from Brunei and Persekutuan Silat Singapura (PERSISI) from Singapore. Practitioners are called pesilat.
While the word silat is used by Malay-speakers throughout Southeast Asia, the art is more often called pencak silat in the modernIndonesian language. Systems that were created on the Southeast Asian mainland are grouped in the category of silat Melayu, in reference to the Malay Peninsula. The oldest of these originated in what are now northern Malaysia, Thailand and southern Vietnam. Silat as practiced in Brunei is also grouped in the same category for historic reasons. Generally speaking, silat Melayu is characterized by fixed hand positions and today is often thought of as a slow dance-like art among non-practitioners. In Indonesia, pencak silat displays greater diversity and its use of high kicks, jumps and agile maneuvers are comparatively more well known among the public. While this generalization does not necessarily reflect the reality of silat’s techniques, it has had a notable influence on the stereotypical way silat is portrayed in Malaysia and Singapore.