Vol. 1 No. 5
A Journey of a Life Time
The Black Macaques of Indonesia
made me a Player not a Master
by Willem de Thouars
Macaque monkeys from Indonesia have attributed and sharpened an
awareness in my mentality, in the behavior of my martial practice. By
observing them, I learned that they have filled "a loose end," in my
subconsciousness for the reality of combat.
is a behavior of primitiveness, often lacking in man, that the primates
have guided me through during physical encounters with them.
have often endured my true behavior in anger, with clear avoidance of
being deceived by my own consciousness and "imagination" through the
science of real practice.
Truthfully, I am expressing my feelings, in essence, that no human teacher was ever able to teach me an introduction to reality.
up on plantations in my native country was a rich experience in
commemorating the past. Congruous as it may have seemed between man and
beast the environment of nature’s purity allowed the growth of a
free-spirited life for living. It was unlike living in cities where
politicians ruled the inhabitants.
coffee plantation was perhaps, in my opinion, the best-suited
environment for myself as a child to live in. I was much better for
health and there were fewer staff employees and less plantation
workers. The plant where coffee was processed was rather small by
comparison to a large sugar-cane factory.
form of transportation was mostly by a small motor-driven railway car,
on horseback, or automobile. We shared the same elementary school,
together with kids from other plantations. And a small hospital was
staffed with doctors and nurses, managed by the Amsterdam Trade
Corporation. The Corporation built the school near the health care
facility in order to benefit the employees and families.
lorry station was just a few kilometers (within walking distance) and
we had to go through the forest, before we could board the railway car.
A lorry was only capable of transporting six passengers, and several
runs had to be made in order to provide a daily ride for 26 kids. Most
of the kids were escorted to the station by the plantation guards.
Plantation guards function like policemen and were armed with fully
automatic rifles, against possible attacks by terrorists or ambush by
I always felt
"purely" uncomfortable to have someone trailing behind me as an escort
and decided to take another path (by myself) leading to the station.
The road I chose had several obstacles and one was the terrain was very
slippery, full with lava mud. During my walk through the muddy path,
that was 3 kilometers longer than I had anticipated, I was often
shocked by the big roar of a tiger. The sound of the echo from the
large cat almost glued me to the mud.
was there thinking hard about the idea of becoming an early breakfast
meal for our big kitty. A roar of a lion is scary enough but a tiger on
the other hand, when this cat opens up his lungs with self-containment,
it will out do in range any king of the jungle. I could sense from the
distance where the cat might be roaming around for his prey. He must
have been miles away by the rubber trees in the jungle. I was safe for
the moment and had to hurry my walk to the station.
I was able to overcome my most unpleasant experience of mud walking and
followed a path that would lead me to my objective. Continuing my
journey through the forest, I was taken by curiosity when I discovered
an old Hindu ruin. The temple was built 800 years ago by an Indian
Maharaja. The magic of secrecy of old ruins summoned a highlight in
many of A Thousand and One Stories, I began to feel like I was playing
Ali Baba and the 40 thieves together with John Hall and Sabu. I felt
that I had gone back hundreds of years in history, almost missing out
on my ride to school that morning.
was always a certain charm to old ruins of buildings and temples in the
forest; they sheltered snakes to nest (in particular the king cobras),
leopards, tigers and the macaque monkeys. Black Macaques are one of the
most aggressive and fierce of the primates. They were once observed by
hunters, jumping off trees on a deer in full run and smashing the
antelope with brute force to the ground. The deer was knocked out by
A very large male
weighs 70 to 96 pounds of pure muscle, and always provokes a
confrontation. These Macques live in groups of between 40 to 60 monkeys
and fear nothing. Even tigers avoid being attacked by a group that
size. Large males are capable of pulling a weight of 600 pounds with one arm.
story with them began that morning, when my mind wandered off, so
involved with the past that it was too late for me to notice — I was
encircled by the black monkeys who inhabited the temple ruins. I should
have known I had shot myself in the foot and put myself in an
unpredictable situation that I had brought upon myself. I had no one to
turn to for comfort and was forced to handle the endeavor with control.
monkeys were screaming, hitting, jumping and tearing my nicely pressed
shirt into ribbons. Despite their physical tormenting of my body, I
remained calm and stood very still watching their continuous attacks.
a while things started to simmer down, the primates were checking me
out with wearied looks. They left me alone with high-pitched screams
and the big males showed me their enormous fangs in a display of
not about to show them any fear but respected them as "individuals"
like I would humans. They sensed my impulse, I felt that their
perfunctory "display" at my presence was the same as being accepted.
pain inflicted upon parts of my body was indescribable, though having
lived through worlds of pain it was not bothering me, instead I learned
a great lesson about "feeling" in combat.
thanked my primate teachers for teaching me the best essence in life:
"Inhale Pain with your body and breath out softly like downy feathers."
They have never known what I really thought of them with their
When I got
to school hours later, my teacher Mrs. Van Dalm could not belief the
exciting experience I had undergone that morning. She made me write one
thousand times: "I shall not lie, I must tell the truth, and I will not
lie." Poor teacher. She thought that I had lied to her, and all the
kids in class were laughing at me too.
inside of me, a high voltage of energy dwelled through my veins for a
desire of expanding my horizons for more lessons. I knew then that I
was not about to give up until I learned how to learn the monkey’s art
The next day I
came back and did exactly what they were doing. Together we played fun
games and one of the alpha males came around in a big leap and hit me
so hard that I fell down to the ground like a log of wood and saw
before me the American flag with its stars and stripes forever.
primate’s merciless slap was another good lesson for me, and from the
ground I suddenly jumped up and punched the monkey in the face. Or I
thought I did, he countered me so fast and quickly scored on me with
bites, kicks and more of the monkey slaphappy go-arounds.
monkey and I fought for ten minutes; I became so tired that I was
leaning against a tree with extreme weariness, while my opponent was a
happy camper fighting other monkeys in his tribe.
remembering my friends in the jungle and with my most compassionate
feelings toward them, I realize it was truly a life’s treasure
endlessly engraved in my soul. For what they have taught me, without
them even knowing, was foremost the best experience of my life in the
practice of martial behaviors.
the Macaques don’t seem to care about anything but playing, fighting,
eating and chasing each other around without stop.
energy level far surpasses any of the world’s greatest athletes. A
well-trained martial artist has a full day of workouts after 4 hours of
training. A Macaque does it constantly in his daily practice of
training — without-training.
observed once the behavior of these primates, I discovered with
astonishment that the males in general played, fought, ate and were
practicing their skills for 16 hours at a time.
They rest when they sleep and to them fighting each other was the greatest fun and relaxation.
them in their own environment of the animal kingdom as they were 50
years ago — emotional, playfull, canny and strong — the impact of
their reflections on me must definitely be that these were some of the
best years of my life.
my deep concern for them and their future at stake for newer generation
to come, in this ever-expanding-society-in-greed, I grieve. I have
observed that man’s destruction of his own world environment leaves him
nothing of the species behind to be admired. My compassion in spirit
for the black Macaques shall forever be!
had saddened me for a long time that many of my jungle friends found
their end at the hands of poachers, who killed ruthlessly whole
colonies of the primates to extinction only for their meat and
beautiful pelts which they sold on open markets in Taiwan, China and
South East Asia.
memorabilia of the deep-seated happenings in my life, were perhaps my
most profound expeditious encounters with primates in the forest.
one occasion I saw the alpha male who had beaten me weeks before, in
riotous action of beating up the smaller males and females and chasing
the poor defenseless creatures way up in the trees.
it were not enough to his pleasure he also picked on the bigger males
by antagonizing them; he was spitting, biting and almost "human-like"
kicking the tribal members that were in his way.
aggressive behavior was fiercely returned like for like by the other
males and soon all the males were chasing this young rebel into the
The females displayed
their full support for their counterparts and were letting out very
loud screams of encouragement that could easily be heard miles away in
the jungle. Macaque monkeys could really perform a display in
acrobatics high in the trees when they pursued each other in anger.
young alpha male, who provoked the incident, was so quick he escaped
like a trapeze artist flying through the air and landing perfectly on
tree branches then hanging on a twig with his two fingers.
was really on the rampage with his continued fighting spirit; he took
his aggression out on the poor females by slapping their heads
forcefully with his open palms. When he chased a female high into the
tree, almost nearing the top, a huge alpha male suddenly appeared.
Presumably he was the leader and was quite large weighing 90 pounds. He
stopped the young alpha male in his chase and a very interesting match
between the two males evolved into a vicious battle.
They leaped on thin tree branches and tore each other apart at the same time. Their balancing act still amazes me today.
leader often grabbed the other male in a sudden leap, picked him up
like a feather and threw him literally spinning through the air in a
fall 150 feet down.
first to my mind with great concern for the ape that the primate would
be unable to survive the fall. I felt sad with unexpected emotion.
somersaulting to the ground with only seconds to spare, the monkey
grabbed on to a twig 5 feet off the ground and jumped quickly to a
larger branch above, catching it with his two fingers. Letting out
challenging screams at the leader, he suddenly jumped to a nearby
branch and punched another male off the tree. Finally the young alpha
had enough of himself and withdrew into the trees.
of the younger males were very playful and some of them climbed on my
shoulders and took everything that I had in the upper pocket of my
shirt. They were all used to me being around the group.
felt like I was one of them, even in a changed mentality. When any of
the larger males approached me I was prepared to do battle; fighting to
me as a human means to them a friendly play. Some of the martial arts
experts in Indonesia were classified as players rather than masters.
The name player came from the playfulness of monkeys. A player in many
ways has more tricks from formless martial practice than so many of the
traditional fighting arts experts.
For information on attending or sponsoring seminars with Willem contact Vicky de Thouars at 303-452-8502.