Pencak silat adalah suatu seni bela diri tradisional yang berasal dari Kepulauan Nusantara (Indonesia). Seni bela diri ini secara luas dikenal di Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, dan Singapura, Filipina selatan, dan Thailand selatan sesuai dengan penyebaran berbagai suku bangsa Nusantara (Indonesia). Unsur-unsur untuk membela diri dengan seni bela diri, yaitu dengan menggunakan pukulan dan tendangan. Pencak silat merupakan bela diri yang banyak diminati oleh banyak orang terutama masyarakat Indonesia.
Berkat peranan para pelatih asal Indonesia, kini Vietnam juga telah memiliki pesilat-pesilat yang tangguh.[butuh rujukan] Induk organisasi pencak silat di Indonesia adalah Ikatan Pencak Silat Indonesia (IPSI). Organisasi yang mewadahi federasi-federasi pencak silat di berbagai negara adalah Persekutuan Pencak Silat Antarabangsa (Persilat), yang dibentuk oleh Indonesia, Singapura, Malaysia dan Brunei Darussalam.
Pencak silat adalah olahraga bela diri yang memerlukan banyak konsentrasi. Ada pengaruh budaya Tionghoa, agama Hindu, Buddha, dan Islam dalam pencak silat. Biasanya setiap daerah di Indonesia mempunyai aliran pencak silat yang khas. Misalnya, daerah Jawa Barat terkenal dengan aliran Cimande dan Cikalong, di Jawa Tengah ada aliran Merpati Putih dan di Jawa Timur ada aliran PSHT, Perisai Diri.
Setiap empat tahun di Indonesia ada pertandingan pencak silat tingkat nasional dalam Pekan Olahraga Nasional (PON). Pencak silat juga dipertandingkan dalam ajang Pesta Olahraga Asia Tenggara (SEA Games) sejak tahun 1987. Di luar Indonesia juga ada banyak penggemar pencak silat seperti di Australia, Belanda, Jerman, dan Amerika.
Di tingkat nasional olahraga melalui permainan dan olahraga pencak silat menjadi salah satu alat pemersatu nusantara, bahkan untuk mengharumkan nama bangsa, dan menjadi identitas bangsa. Olahraga pencak silat sudah dipertandingkan di skala internasional.
Pada 13 Desember 2019, Pencak Silat ditetapkan oleh UNESCO sebagai Warisan Budaya Tak Benda Dunia (Intangible Cultural World Heritage). Hal ini adalah salah satu upaya pemerintah dalam memajukan pencak silat sebagai warisan budaya Indonesia. Manfaat Pencak Silat yang diakui sebagai Warisan Budaya Tak Benda Dunia adalah mendapat pengakuan dunia internasional, memiliki peluang dipertandingkan dalam cabang olahraga di Olimpiade dan menggali nilai budaya yang terkandung dalam silat.
Pencak silat was chosen in 1948 as a unifying term for the Indonesian fighting styles. It was a compound of the two most commonly used words for martial arts in Indonesia. Pencak was the term used in central and east Java, while silat was used in Sumatra. In modern usage, pencak and silat are seen as being two aspects of the same practice. Pencak is the performance aspects of the martial art, while silat is the essence of the fighting and self-defense.
The origin of the words pencak and silat have not been proven. Some believe that pencak comes from the Sanskrit word pancha meaning five, or from the Chinese pencha meaning avert or deflect. The most prominent origin theory of the word silat is that it derives from sekilat which means "as (fast as) lightning". This may have been used to describe a warrior's movements before eventually being shortened to silat. Some believe it may come from the word elat which means to fool or trick. The term is also used in Malaysia and the word pencak appeared in Malay language as early as Adat Raja Melayu the text: 1779; manuscripts: 1817, 1873, provenance: text & manuscripts: Melaka.
The pencak silat tradition is mostly oral, having been passed down almost entirely by word of mouth. In the absence of written records, much of its history is known only through myth and archaeological evidence. The primary weapons of Indonesia's tribal peoples were the single-edge sword, shield and javelin. The inhabitants of Nias Island had until the 20th century remained largely untouched by the outside world. However, they are culturally similar to the Himalayan Naga tribe. Neighbouring Sumatrans are said to have left the Nias people alone because they were fearless warriors.
Balinese warriors armed with kris in the 1880s.
India and China were the first civilisations from outside Southeast Asia with whom Indonesia made contact. Both countries influenced the local culture, religion and martial arts. Bas-reliefs in Srivijaya depict warriors wielding such weapons as the jian or Chinese straight sword, which is still used in some styles today. Additionally, Javanese blades are of Indian derivation. It was during this period that pencak silat was first formulised. The earliest evidence of pencak silat being taught in a structured manner comes from the Sumatra-based empire of Srivijaya where folklore tells that it was created by a woman named Rama Sukana who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a large bird. She then taught the techniques to her husband Rama Isruna from whom they were formally passed down. There are several variations of this story depending on the region where it is told. On the island of Bawean, Rama Sukana is believed to have watched monkeys fighting each other while the Sundanese people of West Java believe that she created cimande after seeing a monkey battle a tiger. The accuracy of this legend cannot be substantiated but the fact that pencak silat is attributed to a woman is thought to indicate their prominence in ancient Southeast Asian society.
Srivijaya had control of the Melaka Straits, making it one of the most powerful kingdoms in the history of Southeast Asia. Its reign encompassed what are now Sumatra, Singapore, western Borneo, peninsular Malaysia and Thailand. The empire was also a centre of learning and religion, attracting scholars and holymen from around the Southeast Asian region. More than a thousand Buddhist monks were living and studying in Srivijaya-ruled Sumatra alone. Among them were Javanese, Siamese, Malays, Chams and Khmers. This not only allowed pencak silat to spread throughout the archipelago but also brought the art into contact with what would become sibling fighting systems.
While Srivijaya dominated the coastal areas, the Sanjaya (or Mataram) and Sailendra kingdoms ruled central Java. Pencak silat especially flourished in Java which is now home to more different styles than any other Indonesian islands. In the 1200s, Srivijaya was defeated by the Cholas of south India. This was followed by the decline of the Sailendra and Sanjaya kingdoms but it also gave rise to the Majapahit empire. This was the first empire to unite all of Indonesia's major islands. From its base in eastern Java, Indonesian culture flowered and pencak silat became highly refined. Weapons made by Majapahit smiths were greatly prized in the peninsula such as Hang Tuah's famed Kris Taming Sari.
Pencak silat was later used by freedom-fighters against Dutch colonists. During this time the Bugis and Makasar people from south Sulawesi were very well-known as expert sailors, navigators and warriors. After achieving independence, pencak silat was brought to Europe by Indonesians of half-Dutch ancestry. The art is now popular in the Netherlands, Spain and France.