July 7, 2020

Indonesian embassy visits local dojo

The Williamsburg Dojo was honored on Dec. 7 with a visit from officials of the Indonesian Embassy, who marched in the Christmas parade with them and participated in a reception at the dojo.

The embassy visit recognized the dojo as one of relatively few schools teaching the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat. Owner Chris Robinson, a 1985 graduate of York High School, has been training in the art of pencak silat for 12 years, as well as more than 40 years in martial arts in general.

“To have the mother country support us is really good,” he said. “They’re very humble, they’re very nice — and they cook fantastic food.”

Pencak silat is an umbrella term referring to a diverse number of martial arts hailing from modern-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and other area countries, according to the website for the U.S. Sport Silat Association, for which Robinson is vice president. The art is a complete fighting system that incorporates strikes, kicks, grappling, throwing and weapons and “has come to be recognized as one of the most versatile and simultaneously beautiful martial arts,” the website states.

“It’s very dynamic,” said Robinson, who said the art originated in the rural areas of these countries where it was necessary to defend oneself and one’s livelihood without waiting for law enforcement — because in some places, there was none.

Robinson said he loves all of the martial arts but was intrigued by silat when he first found it.

“I started a very dogged, single-minded pursuit to understand the art,” he said.

He eventually left his job at Williamsburg Honda to start Williamsburg Dojo. The school teaches pencak silat as well as Indonesian yoga, STACT — Specialized Tactical Combat Training, Robinson’s own blend of martial arts — and women’s self-defense. It has about 75 children and about 30 to 40 adults as students.

The representatives who visited on Dec. 7, including Denny Zaelani, second secretary of the embassy, and Rahmat Kusma, first secretary of the embassy, marched in the parade with students alongside a float displaying traditional Indonesian architecture and dress. They later visited the dojo at 6610K Mooretown Road.

Robinson said it was gratifying to have them visit and to see pencak silat becoming more mainstream — and even getting some screen time in Hollywood.

“It’s mind-boggling,” he said. “I’ve been saying for a long time, ‘Silat’s coming.’ It’s a fantastic art.

“For them to come down today, I got teary-eyed at least two or three times,” he said. “We are connected. They left saying our bond is strong. It means a lot.”