If Korea has taekwondo and Japan has karate, Indonesia has pencak silat. This martial art has been officially recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural World Heritage since 13 December 2019. As a culture that grew from the Nusantara Archipelago, the many versions and forms of pencak silat can also be found in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. In Indonesia, pencak silat developed in numerous different regions, each creating a distinct branch due to the influences they took from their surroundings. Within the Betawi culture, pencak silat has cultivated into Silat Beksi, a type of martial art known for its close-distance combat style and lack of offensive leg action.
Similar to the previous entries of Buku Betawi, Silat Beksi is also a product of various cultural influences, namely the acculturation between the Chinese and Betawi Culture. Though there are various accounts on how Silat Beksi formed to what it is today, many have come to a common conclusion that it was started through one man, Lie Tjeng Hok (1854-1951), a farmer of Chinese descent, residing in Dadap village in Kosambi district, Tangerang.
With the knowledge of martial arts that he inherited from his father who came from Xiamen, China, Lie Tjeng Hok incorporated them with tricks and styles he learned from his native Betawi teacher, Ki Jidan and Ki Miah. A student of two different teachings of martial arts, Lie Tjeng Hok took the best out of these combat techniques and merged them into a new style of martial art, spreading them all over the region through his students, such as KI Murhali and H. Gozali, who later would bring Silat Beksi to Petukangan, Batujaya and Batuceper (often called Kampung Beksi), and other places with a concentrated Betawi population.
Silat Beksi has about twelve combat technique principles, most of them prioritising using low stances and fighting at close range. Punches, blocks, and elbows are a mainstay. Silat Beksi is very practical and simple in its practice, there are no high leg kicks like the ones in karate or taekwondo, nor does it gets as complicated as wushu. Kicks towards the head are even discouraged, due to the Betawi belief that the head is an honourable part of the body and even at fights, it is still considered disrespectful for the feet to touch the head. That rule might also be the determining factor that separates Silat Beksi from others, that they’re not ‘playing kicks’ but ‘playing punches’ or as what the natives love to call Silat Beksi by its other name, Maen Pukulan.