Finding Pukulan in the Unified Art
I received my eight PDT Bukti Negara tapes from uncle Paul de Thouars over 20 years ago in 1996. I went to southern California twice to train, the second time was May 24 & 25 1997 for the annual 2-day gathering.
Afterward I had trouble staying in touch with the head student at the time (early days of email) and later studied under Victor de Thouars in his version of Serak from August 1997 to February 2005, and earned Guru Satu ranking from him in 2003.
Around 2000 I also had the opportunity to train with a pesilat from Holland who I believe later introduced Walter van den Broeke to the de Vries family. At that time he had been training with them for two years. He was amazed that we in the U.S. had all these juru-juru.
I asked him how many he had and he said, “None! All we do is hit, hit, hit.”
It was so great to reconnect with Olivier Blancquaert upon meeting Walter in 2013 and I value our friendship.
From 2006 through 2012, I studied with Stevan Plinck, by bringing him to Santa Cruz for 11 weekends, and by promoting gatherings for him on two weekend occasions, 2006 in Reno and 2008 in Las Vegas. His approach was different than Victor’s and I liked it for that reason. Mostly from him I learned his 16 or so “defensive sambuts”, and a couple of speak forms and flow drills, which I also learned separately from my friend Narin Latthitham (R.I.P.), who was widely regarded as Stevan’s longest and top student.
During those 15 years I observed and worked out with many students who descend from the teachings of Oom Paul deThouars, including some who claim other lines but who clearly were practicing PDT juru-juru. Their range of expression was often highly personalized or stylized but the root movement, philosophy, strategy, priorities and tactics were all the same.
Observing clips now, I can see that there is a very wide range of good vs. horrible movement, but all within the PDT USA Serak/BN paradigm – even if it was poorly understood or applied by most on the many video clips.
I was always concerned with the full name of the art starting with the word “Pukulan” because in all my travels I never saw any foundational hitting drills. Victor had some hitting strategies (clearly invented by Victor) that came into play 2 or 3 years into his curriculum and Stevan’s sambuts indicated hitters (I first saw them in 2000 as he was teaching one of his long distance students in his hotel room at a gathering, and for which I was very happy to see) but they were taught as indications only, (“Yes, he’s been hit”…) with no apparent hitting drills to match the choreography.
After extensive emails with Walter van den Broeke in 2012-13, in May I went to Southern California at his invitation to meet and thank uncle Paul for bringing the art to the U.S. We immediately became friends and uncle Paul accepted me as a student. Later that summer Narin and I trained with Walter it became immediately apparent that Walter had tools that simply did not exist in either Narin’s or my understanding of what we had been taught. I was excited and Narin was depressed! But for both of us it was a no-brainer to learn this new aspect of the art that we had not seen before. The same epiphany was shared by
several people who I trained with over those first fifteen years and who had achieved rank in 2003 from VDT.
As an aside, the current VDT successor and Maha Guru –awarded that distinction following our departure – as featured in his many videos – doesn’t perform the VDT Serak as we did even though we came from the same teacher at the same time. Also noticeable in his many videos is the complete absence of any discussion or demonstration of hitting or kicking strategy or execution.
I started in Unified Bukti Negara with Walter in May of 2013, and for 4+ years now 80% of what we have done has been the practice and refinement of hitting and kicking, which form the foundation of this art. This was simply not the case with what I have seen taught or posted from people descending (whether they admit it or not) from the PDT Serak or old Bukti Negara lines.
The great news is that I clearly see that it is the SAME ART, but more complete. There really isn’t much I need to “unlearn” from what I learned before – other than my own bad habits, of which there are many – and so I’ve started over in some ways but am simply continuing my education of the art in most ways.
I could walk around with a big head and pretend that I already “had it all” or say, “It’s all the same art”, or say that “It’s not the art we here in America do so it’s not legitimate”, or something other that would be dismissive of Walter and the de Vries way of doing things… but I’d rather learn. And I remain grateful to Walter for recruiting me and to Oom Paul for accepting me. I am also grateful that Oom Paul wisely gave Walter the flexibility to adjust the curriculum to reflect the art as practiced by both Oom Paul and his cousin Oom Dolf de Vries – to create this awesome Unified art from their teachers, Oom John and Oom Ventje de Vries.