Originally, pencak was the term used in Java, while silat was used in Sumatra and Borneo. The Modern term combines both words together as pencak and silat are often seen as being two aspects of the same practice.
The early fighting arts can be traced back to prehistoric tribes- due to an absence of a written language, its stories are passed down as myths, backed by archeological evidence.
The earliest evidence of silat being taught in a structured manner comes from the Sumatra-based empire of Srivijaya. As the story goes it was created by Rama Sukana, a woman who witnessed a fight between a tiger and a large bird. By using the animals’ movements, she was able to fend off a group of drunks when attacked. She is then said to have then taught the techniques to her husband Rama Isruna who formally passed them down. Other variations of the story involve her learning these teqniques from watching monkeys fight each other or seeing a monkey battle a tiger.
Because Southeast Asia was an agriculturally based society, many of Silat weapons originate from farming tools- the most common of them being the kris, spear, stick, kerambit, sickle, machete and sarong.