Book review:Indonesian fighting fundamentals: The brutal arts of the archipelago by Bob Orlando

Here’s another old review: Indonesian fighting fundamentals: The brutal arts of the archipelago by Bob Orlando. I cleaned it up a bit and added some extra information. Enjoy! 

Bob Orlando is a martial arts teacher and writer perhaps best known for his knowledge of Penchak Silat and Kuntao. In this book, he explains the fundamental principles that form the backbone of these two arts. As these are also covered in the video Fighting Arts of Indonesia, I will not go into great detail about them here but will do so in another review. I’d rather tell you some more about the material that isn’t covered in the video. 

Bob Orlando on the right, about to punch one of my students.

Bob Orlando on the right, about to punch one of my students.


The book starts with a foreword and preface, including some acknowledgments. There is also a note to the reader, giving information on the demonstrated techniques, clothing and spelling used. In the introduction, Bob defines some terms, explains how the book came about and stresses the value of concepts and principles. 

The chapter “From osmosis to order” explains how the basic learning process works and shows some methods of entry for further reference: block left and right, strike left and right. 

The following chapters deal with the fundamental principles of the art: Adhesion, whiplash, gyroscopic rotation,shearing, seating, leg maneuvers and “peanut brittle”. Suffice it to say that these principles are very sound and work as they claim to. The reason why is that they can be backed up by science. Action-reaction, friction, inertia and gravity are all things we have pretty much accepted. They work. And so do the principles Mr. Orlando describes. 

Now comes a chapter about Kuntao. This art is a result of fighting methods, as practiced by the Chinese immigrants living in Indonesia and Malaysia. They were confronted with fierce warriors and altered their arts to respond to the local fighting methods. The result is a particularly aggressive art. Bob discusses it’s history and future while showing how it differs from Silat. 

Next is “Jurus”. You can compare these to kata or forms found in other arts. A couple of sequences are shown, followed by (a few of the) applications derived from them. The idea is not to show a full Juru, but to give you a better understanding of their beauty and martial value. 

Silat vs Kuntao is an explanation of the unique style called Mustika Kweetang Silat, presented by Mr. Jim Ingram. This martial art was developed from both Silat and Kuntao and is therefor a rather interesting one. Mr. Ingram demonstrates techniques that allow you to distinguish between the different sources. 

The next chapter talks about magic and mysticism. This is a side of Silat that few people are willing or able to explain in clear terms. Mr. Orlando writes about the influence major religions had on the Indonesian culture. He also mentions the use of magic and inner force that is often claimed by practitioners, but rarely proven. 

Next is a more ethical discussion: When you teach such destructive arts, some level of ethical conscience is necessary. There are personal and social issues you have to take into account and Bob makes some very good points concerning this. 

The chapter about “Kun Lun Pai” is a bit problematic to cover. The subtitle is “The heart and soul of Willem de Thouars”, which I feel is the best description. I cannot synthesize this chapter without leaving out important aspects. It is best read as a whole so read the book and find out. 

There is a short epilogue and biography of the author in closing. 

Trademark move of Mr. Orlando during his seminars: people enjoy themselves.

Trademark move of Mr. Orlando during his seminars: people enjoy themselves.


Interest: This book is an excellent example of what authors should more often do: Instead of just rehashing the same material, Bob gives you information on several topics that aren’t included in the video. As a result, both the book and video are excellent companions for each other. You can read the book and then see the principles come to life in the video. However, once you’ve seen all this, there is even more to ponder when reading. The best description is “added value”. Too often, I review products that say the same thing several times but in a different package. 

This book is not one of those. There is a wealth of information in it, that isn’t limited to Silat or Kuntao practitioners. If you do happen to study these arts, you will be even more happy to get a copy. Another “must have” item for your wishlist. 

One word of warning: The book isn’t about specific techniques. It’s not a “how to” guide. The purpose is to show why techniques work, not how many different ones there are. 

Another point is that the book was published in 1996 and the martial arts world was different then. Nowadays, every other teacher talks about “principles” but back then it wasn’t the case. In that regard, Mr. Orlando was one of the pioneers of this approach and many teachers owe a debt of gratitude to him. It also means that today, you might be less impressed by his book. Simply because you’ve been exposed to this way of teaching from the get go.
That said, the information in this book is still as worthwhile now as when it was first published. So don’t hesitate to get it, it’s real good. 

Quality: The format of the book is very large which makes for pros and cons. It offers a clear lay out and the pictures are very big and of great quality. You don’t have to page all the time to see a sequence completely. However, you definitely won’t carry it in your pocket. 

Mr. Orlando’s site 

Buy it here.




  1. great article about bob’s book, thanks guys!

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