Malay martial initiations in the digital arena: Fragmented body or totalized body?

Research papers
By Gabriel Facal

The combat practices of the Southeast Asian region of the Malay world are very well established locally, but they underwent rapid and profound transformations from the beginning of the twentieth century. These transformations were driven by the widespread use of written and visual media, as well as the increased importation of Asian and Western combat practices. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the development of the Internet accelerated these processes of change. The circulation of information and the intensification of communications generated two contrary movements: an increased amount of networking between practitioners and a fragmentation of practice groups and their authorities.
In this article, I analyze how those who practice Malay combat use cyberspace by describing the narratives they employ, polarized between the notions of modernity and tradition. Based on participatory exchanges nurtured over fifteen years with a number of online communities of those who practice Malay combat, this article examines the impacts of cyberspace activity in terms of physical engagement, socio-relational relationships, and the consequent sociological developments. These developments reveal reconfigurations in the status relationship within practice groups, as well as hybridities between practices, which converge toward the emergence of new uses and representations of the combative body.

  • martial initiation
  • pencak silat
  • Internet
  • Malay world
  • body
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