One of the underpinnings of Steve Perry’s Matador series is the fictional martial art called “Sumito”, consisting of 97 steps. Throughout the novels, individual and groups of steps are either hinted at or briefly described.

From the Appendix in “The 97th Step” we know it is

… composed of an interconnected series of 19 shorter dances … range from a single step to as many as 10 …

In 2006 Steve Perry implies that he’s actually worked it all out in this newsgroup post. “The Man Who Never Missed” is being shopped around as a movie, so there’s also a reference to Sumito on its Facebook page.

Since, if the movie gets made, Sumito will probably actually have to be demonstrated, does anyone know of sources (Perry’s own, or even fan-based supposition) that describe / illustrate / draw out the 97 steps in full or in part?

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    It seems there should be a "matadors" tag or "the-man-who-never-missed" tag, for this series of books. – mrflash818 Dec 17 '17 at 19:31

From the September 6th post on the movie's Facebook page :

QUESTION AND ANSWER TIME! For the creator of the Matador universe, Steve Perry.

SCOTT NICHOLSON KURLAND: How real is the 97 Steps? Fictionalized silat?

STEVE PERRY: It was completely made up when I started the books. A blend of aikido, kung-fu, tai chi, wu shu, ballet and gymnastics. Later, when I happened across silat and saw the parallels -- patterns on the ground, black steel, and the efficacy of the fighting form, I was surprised. A lot of what I thought I made up was already out there. The Musashi Flex is pretty much pure Silat Sera Plinck.

Silat Sera Plinck is the variant of Pencak Silat Sera taught by Guru Stevan Plinck.

In the source you reference, Steve Perry admits to having practiced different martial arts to some degree. He explains that it allowed him to basically create a fake martial art that was realistic enough, yet 100% fake.

I got a fair amount of fan mail from martial artists who saw their art in mine because I was careful not to get too specific in the description of the stuff.

It is only years later, when he encountered Silat, that he realized how similar it was to his "fake" art. There were some differences, notably in the footwork, but it was close enough that Perry decided that Silat Sera would be the influence of Sumito for future novels of the series.

The most recent novel in the series, silat Sera is the core of the art of sumito, principles, philosophy, technique.

When the movie comes out, Sumito will thus most likely be depicted using Silat Sera Plinck moves. The 97 steps will most likely be basic sequences used in training, maybe extracted from the style's different forms and assembled in different ways.

If you want to see what it looks like beforehand, the Resonant-video YouTube channel has some trailers from Guru Stevan Plinck's seminars and workshops DVDs. Here is Guru Plinck demonstrating a Serak form 25 years ago. And for what it's worth, the Fight Quest series had an episode featuring Pencak Silat, which should provide a decent approximation.

There are countless videos available on YouTube featuring different styles and variants of Silat, if you wish to see more of the style in action. Most schools are descended from family styles, however, and they might differ to some extent from the style Steve Perry practices and uses as influence for Sumito.

  • Both validates and refutes my answer - I was not aware that the book arts predated his lessons in silat. +1. – JohnP Oct 22 '13 at 22:10
  • I'm aware of the connection with Silat and agree that that's probably what they will use in the movie - BUT - I just have this feeling that Perry's got something up his sleeve. Good answer providing more background info, thanks for the Fight Quest link, hadn't seen that. – Sindi Oct 22 '13 at 22:36
  • I never actually read these books, but I know the author from his work in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Now I really want to read them, but a quick query to local bookstore chains tells me the books aren't available. Do you think a reprint is in the works? – Dungarth Oct 23 '13 at 22:05
  • I count myself lucky to own them all in print (including a 1stEd of TMWNM), and there is a campaign on to have them reprinted - however they are all available as ebooks from Steve's blog site – Sindi Oct 24 '13 at 21:45

Recently found an interview Perry did with a comic book publishing house. It covers exactly where Sumito came from and where it is derived from. It is a pretty in depth interview. Check it out. It is also spread into two parts in that magazine. Which is free btw.

Here's the transcript for the short answer if you're feeling lazy and don't want to read through the magazine.

Q: I remember reading through a grizzled, hard sci-fi title called "The 97th Step." ( (Perry) It touches on many subjects like: warfare, love, race, gender, identity, politics etc and I believe was a book that was sincerely ahead of its time. What style(s) of martial arts were your inspiration for Sumito? As a martial artist myself, I'd say it had elements of a Kung-Fu/Karate hybrid, but can't be sure. Did your experience with Silat come into play here?

A: The 97th Step was part of a series about interstellar bodyguards who wind up leading a revolution against a repressive confederation, basic space-opera stuff, somewhere between E.E. Doc Smith and Star Wars. I was — still am — a long-time martial artist, and that comes out in my work more often than not.

Over the years, as a dojo bum, I studied whatever was available to me locally, and the initial version of my made-up art, Sumito (the “sum of it all …”) had elements of them. Some Karate, some Kung-Fu, a little Aikido, some Gymnastics, stuff like that.

I didn’t start training in Silat until after the bulk of the series was out, and when I did, it was because a lot of what I thought I had had up for Sumito was in Silat. Patterns on the floor, black steel, combinations of striking and grappling. The most recent published book look deeper into the origins of the art, and has a lot more Silat material in it.

The techno-thriller novels I did for Clancy’s Net Force had a lot of Silat in them, probably reached the widest audience in English with that as a core martial art. Those books began in the mid-to-late nineties, and I was only just starting my training in the art. Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck, for the full title of the style in which I am still training.


Steve Perry is a practitioner of an Indonesian martial art called Pencak Silat. Pencak is defined as "Choreography of movement that may be useful in combat", while Silat is basically combative knowledge. (The term is actually an overarching reference to all Indonesian martial arts). Sumito and Teras Kasi are essentially fictionalized versions of Silat.

While I cannot find a reference as to specifically which style of Silat he practices, a lot of it for the empty hand stuff is similar to the various animal styles of gung fu (kung fu), to where the techniques are based off of animal mannerisms and styles. There are also weapons, the usual assortment of curved/straight blades, long pole weapons (both bladed and not), and it is one of the few martial arts that uses chakrams and relatives.

One example: Water birds that stand motionless and then strike with their beaks to catch fish, this is mimicked by holding the thumb tight against the middle finger to form a "beak" with the hands (Think inside of a sock puppet), which is then used in strikes. Weaving of a snake for evasion/defense, etc.

As to whether or not he has drawn it all out, that I can find no references to, even in some of the Sumito discussions found on the old usenet group rec.martial.arts, where there are a couple discussions of sumito.

(Note: I have not practiced either Silat or gung fu, I am an advanced belt in tae kwon do and am familiar with the arts from an academic perspective.)

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    Thanks for researching rec.martial.arts, I hadn't gotten that far – Sindi Oct 22 '13 at 22:37

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