What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

The Foundation for a Successful Relationship

This topic has come up in conversation a couple of times recently, and it has been discussed on some TV shows I've been watching. Inspired by these synchronistic occurrences, I decided to write this post about the topic.

The topic is relationships.

For a relationship to exist, everyone involved must trust everyone else. Even among enemies, trust is required for the relationship to exist. Think about your worst enemy, or the closest thing you have to an enemy. I bet you can predict, with fair reliability, how that person would respond to a given stimulus, at least within the context of your relationship with that person. If you said or did X, you can predict that person will respond with Y. You trust him/her to do so.

In cooperative relationships, such as friendships or romantic relationships, the trust goes beyond the reactive level where antagonistic relationships tend to stay. I trust my friends to have my best interests in heart in interactions which directly or indirectly affect me. Obviously, there are many levels of trust, and they don't always look the same.

Rick And Margaret

Here's an example of a trust level a lot of people can't relate to. My friend Rick, my brother in every sense of the word except by shared parentage, hit on my wife, Margaret, the entire time we dated, and even for a while after we married. Many people, in my position or my wife's position, would feel Rick was violating a trust and betraying me. He wasn't, though. In his mind, he was protecting me. If Margaret had ever accepted Rick's offer, she would have proven she wasn't good enough for me. Rick would have called and said, "Dump her, man. She's no good." I trusted him to have my back. Period. Even if his methods were unorthodox, I knew he acted in my best interest. Yes, I know it's nuts. Yes, I know his perspective was wildly skewed. I also know he did it because he loved me, and it's the only way he felt he could protect me.

Rick And Kristyn

Here's another story involving Rick. About twenty-five years ago, I dated a young woman named Kristyn. Kristyn had attended college in Texas, and her abusive ex-boyfriend, David, still had some of her stuff in his dorm room, and she wanted to get it back. She didn't want me to go with her for fear I might hurt David or something and get in trouble. Rick had recently gotten out of the Air Force and had to go to Texas, too, to handle some things with his ex-wife there. Rick and Kristyn drove to Texas together, retrieved the stuff from David's dorm room without incident, Rick handled the situation with his ex-wife—and there was an incident, but that's a story for another time—and they returned.

While they were gone, the manager of the yogurt shop where Kristyn and I both worked, asked me, "Aren't you afraid something will happen between Rick and Kristyn?"

I said, "Something will happen. It will go like this. Rick will make a pass, because he's Rick, and Kristyn will turn him down."

"What if she doesn't?"

"She will."

"You don't know that."

"You're right. Here's what I do know. First, if she takes him up on it, Rick will tell me. Second, as soon as she decides to take him up on it, my relationship with her ends. At that point, she's free to do what she wants with Rick or anyone else, and it's none of my business."

The manager was flabbergasted. "You're telling me you wouldn't be upset?"

"Not at all. I'd be mad as hell, and I'd let her know it, but the choice is hers. If she prefers Rick to me, that's up to her. It would hurt like hell, and I'd express that, but I'm not going to worry about it."

Meat And Potatoes

Here's the thing, once trust is violated, the relationship ends. Period. As soon as the trust is violated.

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "What if Kristyn had slept with Rick, but Rick never told you, and you never found out?"

I'll reiterate: once trust is violated, the relationship ends. Period. I may not know the relationship has ended, but it will become apparent, one way or another, over time. In the situation you're wondering about, if Kristyn had slept with Rick, it would have affected both of them. They would have behaved differently around me and around each other. I may never have figured out what happened, but the relationships would degrade and, eventually, the break would be obvious to me and everyone else. It may have take a while, and I may never have known the specific reason, but the bottom line is, the relationship would have ended the moment she made that decision.

That relationship ends when the trust is violated. That doesn't necessarily mean you walk away and never look back. You might decide to start a new relationship with a new level of trust.

As far as I know, Kristyn and Rick did not sleep together on that trip, but Kristyn did break up with me several months later. Kristyn didn't violate my trust, but the relationship ended. We started a new relationship in its place. Kristyn and I are still very close. She's a dear friend, and we talk and visit regularly. She and my wife are friends, too. When Rick died, Kristyn and I held each other as we cried.

My wife's ex-husband, Lon, did violate her trust. Since they had a son together, she decided to start a new relationship with Lon when the first one ended. They became friends with a common interest in the welfare of their son. Margaret and Lon are now good friends. They love each other as friends, and the level of trust they have works for them, and has done so for decades.


I split jealousy into two categories. One category, I'll call envy. You might be envious of the time someone else spends with your spouse or friend. You might wish you could spend more time with that person. These things fall into the category I'm referring to as envy in this context.

Jealousy, though, refers to a lack of trust. If, for instance, my wife suspected me of having an affair and said, "I don't want you spending time with Kristyn." That would be jealousy. It's rooted in distrust.

While this can apply to friendships as readily as spouses, I'll use a spousal relationship because people can more readily identify with it in this context. If you feel yourself feeling jealousy, the relationship is over. Period. If your spouse exhibits such doubts or behavior, the relationship is already over. Even if there is no affair happening. As soon as the trust degrades, whether by action or supposition, the relationship ends. A new relationship might take its place, but that relationship ends.


Now we come to the next huge aspect of a successful relationship. Lack of communication often breeds mistrust. If trust degrades, communication is the only way to define the new relationship, if there's to be one.

If trust is the stones which make up the foundation of a relationship, then communication is the mortar holding those stones together. When a new relationship gets defined, communication is the mortar used to develop the foundational trust in the first place, or to develop a new foundation after mistrust has broken the old relationship.

The communication might literally be a discussion about the relationship and the trust and boundaries. More commonly, it takes more subtle forms, but the communication is vital.

The Wandering Guru

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Silat Primer

First, a note on pronunciation and spelling. In this article, I'll use the modern spellings. In the modern spelling, the pronunciation looks like this in English:
  • "c" = "ch"
  • "a" = "ah"
  • "u" = "oo"
  • "e" = "ay" as in "today"
  • "au" = "oh"
  • "k" at the end of the word is usually softened a bit, pronounced more like a guttural "h"
This modern spelling was instituted after Indonesia gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1945. During the Dutch colonial period, the word jurus, which describes a type of form in Pencak Silat, would have been spelled "djoeroes." To a native English speaker, the modern spelling, jurus, makes much more sense. However, the switch in the spellings, and the speed it happened, means you often find people mixing and matching. So, I have seen the word jurus spelled as "djurus" and "joeroes" where the old and new mingle. I suspect such hybrid spellings will fade with time.

The word Silat is used to varying degrees throughout Southeast Asia, but it is most prominent in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines. In Indonesia, they add the prefix "pencak," so if you hear someone talking about Pencak Silat, they are talking about a system from, or with roots in, Indonesia.

The term "Silat" doesn't refer to a single system of martial arts. Rather, like the terms Karate and Kung Fu, it refers to a large family of martial arts systems. Each system has its own specialties. Any martial arts specialty you can imagine likely has one or more Silat systems which specialize in it.

To give you an idea of numbers, Pak Herman Suwanda, a highly respected Pencak Silat instructor, once explained there are over three hundred officially recognized systems of Pencak Silat on Java. This doesn't count systems who didn't officially register, nor does it count systems from any of the other six thousand or so inhabited islands in Indonesia, nor does it count any of the systems from outside Indonesia. From this one can infer the likelihood of over five hundred, if not over a thousand, systems of Silat.

For scope, let's look at a handful of Silat systems and their specialties. These are systems to which I have had some personal exposure:
  • Cimande: specializes in striking, conditions forearms and shins to use as striking tools
  • Sabetan: a blade system based on Cimande
  • Harimau: a ground fighting system from Sumatra
  • Cipecut: flexible weapons, traditionally trained with sarong
  • Serak: uses strikes to disrupt balance and set up sweeps and takedowns
  • Rikesan: specializes in joint locking and breaking
This list gives a taste of the breadth of Silat, and all these listed are from Indonesia, mostly from Java. As you can see, you can look at ten different Silat practitioners and see vastly different things.

The Wandering Guru

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Blame Game

Assigning blame is futile.

Determining what went wrong, which might include acknowledgement of someone's mistake, is useful for learning, for preventing similar problems in the future. Beyond that, though, blame serves zero purpose.

In fact, I'd say assigning blame is counterproductive in most situations. As an example of this, let's say something goes wrong and I blame John. I fail to learn anything of value about preventing future problems. The only possible lesson from blame is, "Don't let John near it in the future," but that's of very limited use because without identifying the problem itself, we don't know if it was an "oops" on John's part, or if it's a systemic issue that anyone might do in John's place. Assigning blame to John might end up being nothing more than a band-aid.

Focus on what went wrong and how to prevent it. Everything else is, in most instances, inconsequential and might be counterproductive.

The Wandering Guru

Blaming provides a scapegoat and feels good
because it feels like you've accomplished something but,
most likely, you've only applied a band-aid to a much larger problem.