The 15th National Conference of the Indonesian Pencak Silat Association (IPSI) in Bogor on December 15-18, 2021, was themed “Indonesia is advancing, Pencak Silat is aiming for the Olympics.”
Realizing a big dream is not impossible, though a long path has to be walked, akin to what the case was for taekwondo and karate before they were officially held at the Olympics.
The attempt to include pencak silat as an Olympics sports must be supported by all Indonesian people since the martial art is the nation’s heritage that showcases the people’s history, characters, cultures, and arts.
Hence, it is not only about the sport and the biggest sporting event, but it is also about nationalism and promoting national characters, cultures, and values.
To this end, General Chairperson of IPSI Prabowo Subianto emphasized that the attempt required support and hard work from all parties as well as willingness to learn from other sports being contested in the Olympics, such as taekwondo and karate.
Before becoming a sporting event contested at the games, taekwondo originated in Korea and became deeply rooted in Korean culture. The name “taekwondo” was coined in 1959 with the establishment of the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA).
Hence, KTA was younger than IPSI that was founded on May 18, 1948.
In addition, several pencak silat training facilities were established in Indonesia long before the country’s independence, while South Korea built Kukkiwon or the national taekwondo academy in 1972.
In 1973, Kukkiwon and KTA founded the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) and held their first international championship in Seoul.
Since then, South Korea has been working hard to include taekwondo in the Olympics.
Furthermore, the martial art affiliated with the American Athletic Union (AAU) in 1973 to determine the international standards for taekwondo and WTF.
WTF later changed its name to become World Taekwondo in 2017 that made the organization to become more inclusive for the international community.
In 1974, WTF affiliated with the General Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF), which actively cooperated with the Olympics authorities and promoted cooperation between international sports federations.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized taekwondo five years later.
After being competed at the World Games, which contested various sports that were not included in the Olympics in 1981, taekwondo was adopted as a demonstration sport for the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 1992 Madrid Olympics.
During the period, taekwondo was also contested in various prominent international sporting events.
The martial art made its debut at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and continued to be competed in every edition afterward.
Similar to taekwondo, karate also endured the same lengthy struggle to gain its current popularity.
Its administrators had been striving for the sport to be contested in the Olympics since the 1970s, but it was not until 2020 that karate was competed in the four-yearly global sporting event. However, it will not be contested in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
With focus on conforming the competition rules of the Japanese martial art with international standards, the World Karate Federation (WKF) moved to simplify them before the sport was contested in the Olympics.
In fact, karate has been globally known, including in pop culture.
Various actors, such as Chuck Norris and Jaden Smith, popularized the sport through several successful films and series, for instance, ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Cobra Kai’.
As compared to pencak silat, which had been practiced for centuries, karate only became popular in Japan in the early 20th century.
Similar to the Indonesian martial art, the true value of karate is much more than a martial art. It has also become part of the people’s philosophy of life, especially for those who practice it.
Being competed in the Olympics has made taekwondo and karate even more popular, especially among children and youngsters.
Hence, the development of athletes become easier since more tournaments are held.
In addition, it strengthens the people’s national pride.
The excitement of the national sports industry also increases since sports popularity influences sponsorship and commercialization, which has become an important part of modern sports development.
Globalizing national heritage
The attempt to include pencak silat in the Olympics can also help to globalize Indonesian characters and values, thereby helping to preserve the national cultural legacy, especially since the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had declared the martial art as a world cultural heritage on December 13, 2019.
Moreover, the sport had a major role in advancing Indonesia at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games after bagging 14 gold medals and one bronze medal.
Hence, if Indonesia manages pencak silat like South Korea and Japan manage taekwondo and karate by striving hard and involving all related stakeholders according to its general chairperson’s directives, the martial art can also be competed in the Olympics.
However, the Indonesian martial art is not solely a sport related to competitions and achievements since there are also three other aspects linked to the martial art.
The first one is the mental and spiritual aspects that develop one’s noble personality and character.
Furthermore, there is the art aspect, which is described by the movement, music, and traditional clothing used in the martial art.
In addition, pencak silat includes the self-defense aspect, which encourages high confidence and perseverance and strengthens one’s personal character that is crucial for national character building.
Hence, the noble values in the martial art must be preserved and promoted to the world by embracing globality and conforming it with the locality.
Thus, holding tournaments is not the only way to promote it since pencak silat can also be introduced to wider audiences through films and other pop culture products.
In promoting the martial art, all Indonesian embassies around the world can also become involved by implementing various cultural festivals to exhibit the nation’s wealth in arts and cultures.
Furthermore, the sport must bring its organization closer to the international community, including by changing its organization’s name to offer a more global sense of belonging.
It is also crucial to mobilize all stakeholders, including inviting international athletes or actors, to make pencak silat more popular.
Regardless, every attempt must be made to globalize the Indonesian cultural heritage, so it can be assessed worthy of being contested in the Olympics.
Source: Antara News