Five traditional martial arts in Malaysia, from silat to wushu

The practice of silat in Malaysia can be traced back from the Melaka sultanate. - Filepic

Besides self-defence, martial arts is a great confidence booster and improves your overall athleticism. Pertubuhan Ajaran Baba Buddha Ji Akhada president Kashminder Singh thinks that everybody should learn basic self-defence techniques to keep themselves safe.

“Learning how to defend yourself in any situation is essential as we are exposed to unknown risks each day. It is important to be alert in any environment. Self defence training can also help you go about more confidently, ” said Kashminder, 30.

The aircraft and maintenance technician from Kuala Lumpur is also an instructor for Gatka, the ancient Sikh martial art form. He adds that learning martial arts can also improve agility and give one better mental focus.

“While martial arts may seem violent, it requires discipline and teaches students self control, and patience and spiritual well-being.”

Below are a few types of martial arts practised among different Malaysian communities.


Silat is an ancient combative art of fighting that can be traced back to the Malacca Sultanate. It is believed that Malay warriors used silat to fight Portuguese invaders. This traditional form of martial arts has evolved in Indonesia and Malaysia civilisations for centuries. There are many different styles of silat, including silat lintau, silat panji alam and silat gayong.


Silambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art originating in South India. - FilepicSilambam is a weapon-based Indian martial art originating in South India. - Filepic

Silambam is a South Indian weapon-based martial arts. It existed over 5,000 years ago, making it one of the world’s oldest martial arts. While bamboo sticks are the preferred weapon, other weapons like aruval (sickle), savuku (whip) and kathi (knife) are also used in silambam.

In the 1950s-1960s, popular Indian actor M.G. Ramachandran showcased silambam in many of his movies, to promote this art form.


This is an Iban self-defence technique passed down the generations. This Sarawakian martial arts form relies mainly on hand and leg movements that with or without weapons. Like other martial arts, kuntau practitioners focus on not just the self-defence facet of the art but also on building self-confidence and preserving the dying cultural heritage.


Gatka is an ancient martial art practised by Sikh warriors. Photo: The Star/Art Chen Gatka is an ancient martial art practised by Sikh warriors. Photo: The Star/Art Chen

Gatka is a Sikh ancient martial art that has been around for centuries. This art is deemed both a spiritual and physical exercise and uses weapons such as sticks, swords, and knives.


Wushu is also a full-contact sport. - FilepicWushu is also a full-contact sport. - FilepicThis is a form of contemporary Chinese martial arts that incorporates elements of performance with martialarts application.

Wushu encompasses different martial art styles, including weapon-play styles and bare hand.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong actors Jet Li and Donnie Yen helped to revive wushu by using many techniques like acrobatics, spins and high kicks in their films. It is also a full-contact sport.

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Gatka , Silat , Wushu , Silambam , Martial arts , Asia


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