This website is an extension of my Master Research Project, called Fight Like a Girl. It considers the full portrait film of Eka Ardiana, former Indonesian national athlete of pencak silat, in the style of Purti Ganda (Women’s Doubles). Then, two ethnofiction films of her pencak silat students, Atiatul Muna Magfiroh and Deslya Anggraini.

The idea of doing a martial art film was something that had stayed with me since I was a little kid. I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands and spent my teenage years in a virtually all-white high school. It was a continuous reminding of how non-Dutch I was compared to rest, despite being born as Dutch-Indonesian. My face still resembles a Chinese-Indonesian, rather than Dutch-Indonesian.  My favorite genre of film of became martial art film and mostly Kung-Fu films. I saw people, whose physical appearance resembled mine, do all these awesome tricks and fight bad guys. Then I found myself lost in Muay Thai films, boxing films from Thailand. My example became Jeeja Yanin, a female fighter who has years of experience in Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do. Hence, I hoped that Indonesia would soon follow and show their beautiful arts to the rest of the world.

Eventually, I decided in these years to also study silat myself, a traditional Indonesian martial art. Silat is as diverse as the people who practice are. As a home of many ethnicities, Indonesia knows many different schools of silat with many of them having an own philosophy and particular fighting style. I had waited so many years to watch a silat from the country I had left so early. Then finally in 2009 it happened, Merantau was released. This silat film follows Rama, a young man from a village who moves to Jakarta who hopes to improve his life. Then he gets caught up in Jakarta’s underworld.

Here is a picture of during my last month of fieldwork. I am posing with two trainers, including Haidir who participated in Atia’s film, and the SHT kids who are trained under the main supervision of Eka.

Creating this project

The research project was foremost inspired by Evans film The Raid 2: Berandal. This was the first film to feature a female fighter. However, to my surprise, the fighter, portrayed by Julie Estelle, did not have a background in martial art. Instead, she is an experienced and famous actress. Still, I was confused by this because the main male leads had all a background in silat, such as Iko Uwais who practices silat since he was ten years old and Yayan Ruhian, who used to train the army. This gave me an idea to create an own film with actual female martial artists and see how they would create (possibly) a different story from major production houses.

Though the idea started as a counter-reaction to films of major production houses, eventually the stories that the students wanted to tell became more important. Hence, the focus of my overall project lies in the content of these stories and what they mean to the students.