JAKARTA (JP): Pencak silat is more than just a sport as it is also regarded as a way to strengthen relations between two countries of different cultures, like Indonesia and the United Kingdom.
"We have to admit there are differences of views between both countries. This is where pencak silat can play its role to bind the people," vice president of the Pencak Silat Federation of the United Kingdom (PSFUK), Otto Soeharjono, told The Jakarta Post on Friday on the sidelines of the 2000 Pencak Silat World Championships at the Pencak Silat Center in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, East Jakarta.
"We have conducted several activities to introduce pencak silat which also involve local residents. Most of them will join silat on a long term basis."
"We always keep good relations with the Indonesian Embassy in London and also take part in ceremonies and events held by ASEAN and other Asian countries," said Otto, a master of the Perisai Diri school.
"For example, we hold special training sessions for mentally challenged children every Christmas in Governor's Square Hotel. The children then perform the styles taught to them."
"The program is attended not only by celebrities but also the Royal families," continued Otto, who has been living in London since 1983.
The United Kingdom sent three athletes to the championships. Tony Shergill is competing in the H class (80-85kgs), Arief Kozkkoz in the I class (85-90kgs) and Suresh Vagjiani in the J class (90-95kgs). Kozkoz also takes part in the single men's martial events.
"We don't expect to get any medals now as our three fighters have very limited competition experience. It's their first step to meet and train with other pesilat," said Otto.
"After this championship, we'll prepare the fighters for the 2001 European championship in the Netherlands."
Otto admitted that he did not know exactly who brought pencak silat to the country.
"But one of the most noted pioneers is Aidinal al-Rasid who studied in London in 1975. He introduced the Silat Gerak Ilham school which has Bugis roots. His father is the grand master of the school," he said.
"Pak Aidinal is the oldest and first master in the UK so we appointed him as our federation president."
"Silat, however, has yet to be acknowledged as an imported martial arts, such as karate and kungfu, but it has attracted Londoners' interests."
"For example, my school has been appointed by the borough of Camden to provide compulsory pencak silat training sessions for the borough's children," said Otto.
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