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Copyright © 2003-2004 Phil Elmore, all rights reserved.
Clear's Silat Defensive/Offensive Slaps
A Video Review by Phil Elmore
In the martial arts, there are practitioners who are afraid to have "nonbelievers" view their material, and there are individuals confident enough in what they do to stand behind it. Sigung Richard Clear is definitely among the latter.
Mr. Clear sent me, at his own expense, a video depicting both his Defensive Slaps and Offensive Slaps classes. He did this knowing I would review the tape. He did not hesitate, nor preface the tape with a warning that only those already steeped in Silat would be able to comprehend the video's contents. I think he has good reason to be proud of his work.
It looks like a camera was propped in the back of Mr. Clear's studio during the classes in question. Production quality is what one would expect of an informal setup of this kind. The sound is tinny but audible, and there is some background noise produced by the other students (who aren't normally visible). Periodically Sigung Clear pauses to let the students practice what they have seen -- producing a humorous "teleporting genie" effect when he stands in place but is somewhere slightly different when the tape resumes. I think at least once one of the students managed to bump the camera's tripod, too -- though none of these things prevented me from absorbing the material on the tape.
Sigung Clear works with two different training partners, and all three are dressed in what I always think of as Kung Fu uniforms. The willing victim for the defensive slaps course is a young man, while a petite blonde lady stands in for the offensive slaps portion of the tape. Sigung Clear, though he does not ad lib as glibly as some teachers I've seen in instructional tapes, obviously knows what he's doing. He's fluid, confident, and -- in those instances where he demonstrates techniques at full speed -- remarkably fast.
The defensive slaps portion of the tape covers a variety of similar techniques executed from a hands-up, open-palm stance. Clear demonstrates moving to the outside of the attacker while taking the same-side hand and slapping down and through to control the attacker's striking limb. He follows this by recommending drawing the feet in somewhat, narrowing one's stance for greater mobility. He advocates a balance of both speed and power, being careful not to sacrifice too much of one for the other.
Clear goes on to discuss why the open hand strike is often preferable to the closed fist. He quite accurately points out the gain in speed accomplished by keeping the hand open (though one can always make a fist as the hand reaches its target), discusses the benefits of the increased surface area and transmission of "shock" through the soft area of the palm, and demonstrates the difference between open-hand and closed-hand strikes using a focus mitt held by his partner. The ease with which an open hand is transformed into any number of strikes -- from spear-hands to edge-of-hand blows to cupped slaps to grabs -- is emphasized.
Sigung Clear also demonstrates a breathing exercise that he says helps move blood through the body, lessening the pain from slaps and causing cuts to bleed less. I am not qualified to comment on this aspect of the tape, but it's an interesting idea.
While the first segment discussed what I would call controlling parries -- joins -- the next segment explains "cuts," in which an open palm is used to slap and scrape the opponent's limb. Clear then demonstrates using joins and cuts together. Again, at full speed his skill is very apparent.
Time is also spent on a move similar to the first fan block I was taught -- a combination that looks like slapping one's opposite shoulder before bringing the free hand up and striking/blocking in the same direction. I was pleased to discover that the gross motor movements for this maneuver are already ingrained in me, though the hand positions are different.
The offensive slaps portion of the video provides more detail on cupped hand strikes. Clear describes targets that include the head, neck, and ears, demonstrating several slaps that can put an opponent on the floor. The hands-up, open-palm stance is used again.
Combinations, footwork (including the benefits of stepping into the opponent to deliver variations on the techniques I've described here), and one's inability to predict precisely from where an attack will come are all discussed. The primary focus, at least at this level, appears to be the execution of parrying and blocking combinations in conjunction with open-hand counterstrikes. At times it looks like open-hand grappling, in which leverage is applied through the limbs but relatively little grabbing is taking place.
Overall, I liked this video very much. It came with a card-stock pamphlet that uses a lot of the hard-sell martial arts marketing I do not like -- talk of "secrets" and "guarantees" of self-defense mastery -- and I have to admit that seeing the pamphlet alone would have put me off regarding this particular school. The tape content, however, more than made up for this. I know the tape was good, because it immediately made me want to call my teacher and work on some of the techniques Sigung Clear demonstrated.
If you're at all interested in arts of this type, by all means start with Clear's Kun Tao Silat.
The website is http://www.clearsilat.com.