Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Obituary for the Founder of Amerindo Pencak Silat

Ellis Amdur is a well known martial artist and author. His many books on martial arts and other subjects may be found here.

At Mr. Amdur's excellent blog, Kogen Budo, there appeared a guest post which was an obituary for the founder of Amerindo Pencak Silat, 90 year old Jim Ingram.

 An excerpt is below. The full post may be read here.


An elderly man in ball cap and windbreaker walks his toy dog around the neighborhood. Beneath the visor of his cap, eyes smile from behind his glasses. He waves and nods to people as they pass. A harmless old man. But what the passers-by don’t know is that they have been assessed for potential danger. This smiling old man constantly scans the environment for threats and items that he might use as weapons: without paranoia, he catalogues them. In his own estimation, he won’t last long in a fight at his age, so this, too, he takes into account.

On June 12, 2021, Jim Ingram died at the age of ninety. Among other things, Ingram was the founder and head of the Amerindo Self-Defense System. He created this mixed system, drawing from numerous combative traditions, mostly Indonesian in origin, but also including modern military combat training, all filtered through Ingram’s real-life experiences. He considered this to be a family art, making all of his students part of that family. His students all call him Oom, meaning Uncle in his mother tongue, Dutch.

When Ingram heard of the death of one of his seniors or contemporaries, he would say: “When a teacher dies, a world of knowledge is lost.” In the following, I share a little bit  about the man who gathered, tested, and passed on this knowledge, and how his personal vision of survival intersects with other martial traditions–about this world of knowledge that has recently been lost.

James Ingram Jr.

Jim Ingram referred to himself as a survivor and a teacher of survival. He experienced street violence in colonial Indonesia, Holland, and the United States; imprisonment in Japanese occupation camps; and serving as a draftee in the KNIL (Royal Dutch East Indies Army), experiencing combat against Indonesian independence fighters post World War II. His approach to combatives came from a lifetime of learning, training, and experience. He learned from teachers of various systems, but always insisted that he wasn’t a ‘martial artist.’ He claimed not to have even heard the term ‘martial arts’ until he moved to the United States.

He was born in 1930 in a place that no longer exists, the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He was an Indo: a Dutch-Indonesian, the mestizo class of that colonial time and place. Generally, the Indos started with Dutch fathers and local mothers. They were set apart in the colony, learning from both sides of their heritage, but also never completely part of either the native society or the European. This type of social strata is common in colonial settings, and the contradictions of partial inclusion and exclusion were most clearly revealed after independence, when neither side wants to admit the in-betweens into full membership. In this wise, the Indos often served in mid-level roles in the colonial administration. Ingram’s father, for example, was a member of the Netherlands Indies Police Force in Jakarta.

Ingram’s father was his first teacher in combatives: pukulan (West Javanese striking arts) and police tactics. As a lot of the police force in the Dutch East Indies was made up of Indos, this was a space in which native and European forms of combat met and mixed in a training environment (as opposed to an actual combat situation). The pukulan that James Sr. passed on to his son (Pukulan Japara) was typical of the native combat traditions that were practiced in the police forces. Police and military personnel were more likely to practice native forms of combat at this time, because they had a ‘legitimate’ reason for doing so. Otherwise, local traditions of fighting were seen as suspect and low-caste.

The Indos of West Java didn’t refer to this as silat at that time, but spel (Dutch for play) or maenpo (a Sundanese term for fighting, denoting speed and subterfuge). Generally, the Indo approach to combat traditions is eclectic and practical, reflecting, perhaps, their social position where they had to be adaptable, depending on what social milieu they were in. Traditionally in Indonesia, the martial art one learned was whatever was local, and you spent a lifetime learning just that. This can be seen in the names of the older (pre-Independence) systems, which often were simply the names of the village. For example, Cimande (one of the oldest West Java styles) is the name of a village, and Pukulan Betawi could be translated as ‘Betawi Boxing’ (Betawi being the Indonesian rendering of Batavia, the Dutch colonial name for the place now known as Jakarta). Since independence, there has been a proliferation of silat styles that reflect the vision of a founder, rather than simply the locale of their origins.

Through his father’s connections, Jim gained access to his next teacher, Willem Lorio. Lorio was a retired sergeant in the KNIL and was recognized as a jago (local strongman/champion/enforcer) in Kampong Kwitang, where Lorio and the Ingrams lived. In contrast to what one usually expects in martial arts training, Lorio did not start teaching Jim exercises, stances, or forms. He started straight off with bela diri (self-defense against various holds and attacks). This focus stayed with Jim throughout his life, and in particular, exemplified his approach to exploration of other methods. First learn the usage, and then pick up the form for solo practice.

Technically, Lorio taught from three systems: Kwitang, Silat Kemayoran and Spel Si Pecut. Following the Indo perspective discussed above, he did not stress tradition, forms, or history. Initially, Ingram was not interested in the history—he just wanted to learn to fight. Once, when he asked Lorio where this stuff actually came from, his inclinations were confirmed by his teacher’s dismissive response: “From Shaolin.”

Ingram’s early training served him well both in the Japanese occupation camp that, he says, stole his childhood, then later fighting for the Dutch queen’s rule over the Indonesian archipelago, and again in Korea, where he served as part of the Netherlands Detachment United Nations. Ingram’s military training consisted of “O.Z.” (ongewapend zelfvededeging – unarmed self-defense), in addition to training with firearms, knife, and stick. The Amerindo curriculum retains some of the lessons from this training, as well as from Ingram’s combat experience. During this period of military training, Ingram also learned some Pakistani wrestling that is incorporated into the Amerindo ground-fighting.



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