21 August 2001

Deadly yet graceful silat

Besides the beat of the kompang and the glittering bunga manggar, no traditional Malay wedding is complete without a silat performance.

However, silat, a generic term for the martial arts of Malaysia, south Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and south Philippines, is not only limited to ceremonial receptions.

"It can be deadly and it is deadly," says National Silat Federation of Malaysia (Pesaka) secretary-general Megat Zulkarnain Omardin.

It is also known as penchak silat in Indonesia, where penchak means body movements while silat, the application and use of movements during the actual fight.

Whichever way you look at it, silat has been labelled as a "Jack of all trades" as it packs in the power of karate and Thai boxing, the sensitivity of kungfu and the throws of ju-jitsu.

Silat has its roots as far back as 6 AD when it was formalised as a combative system. So powerful was silat that the SriVijaya and Majapahit empires were able to expand their influence beyond their shores.

Even the Dutch, who colonised the Indonesian archipelago in the 17th century, couldn't disregard its threat, leading to a total ban on silat.

This resulted in the local populace going underground to practise the art until the country gained independence in 1949.

Basically, silat has four roles: to develop mental fortitude; to build one's personality and develop noble characteristics; for self-defence as well as a cultural enrichment as it combines physical movements with music.

"Silat not only helps to develop self discipline and self confidence, it also helps to promote the richness of the Asian heritage and strengthens the brotherhood among its practitioners," says Megat Zulkarnain.

Then again, silat is a sport to build a healthy body and sound mind.

To date, there are 380 registered silat associations, with four national bodies. There are more than 300 genres in Malaysia, with each having its own curriculum, history and traditions. The naming convention normally follows a particular geographical area, animal or combative system. In the Tiger style, for instance, the movements resemble the antics of a tiger.

Silat lincah, which is among the earliest form of silat in the country, started out with only five members.

Today, it has the largest following, with 800,000 members. It is still regarded as a combative system because the moves are fast and aggressive.

Other popular forms include silat cekak, silat gayung and silat gayung fatani, silat nafi, helang putih, sendeng and rajawali.

All the moves are consistent with the ethos of silat, which uses hand and feet movement.

Although silat emphasises the bare hand combative technique, exponents are also required to learn how to wield traditional weapons in real combat situation.

It is said that no silat is complete without the spiritual concept (ilmu kebathinan). Much of the philosophical teachings leads to the philosophy of life and there is a parallel between the physical and the spiritual concept.

There are some silat exponents who carry amulets to induce invincibility.

"But it is just to reinforce his belief. Wearing a tiger's tooth will make him fight with the tenacity, courage and ferocity of the tiger," explains Megat Zulkarnain.

To bring silat into the international arena, he believes that it will have to be "introduced as a sport (silat olahraga)."

However, there are those who feel that silat olahraga will compromise its combative value. They argue that while the traditional silat is defensive in nature, an exponent of the sports silat may have to go on the offensive, as the idea is to score points.

There may be some truth in the rationale but Megat Zulkarnain feels that the steps taken are justified. Otherwise, silat will slowly fade into oblivion.

But this is unlikely to happen as it is now an event in the SEA Games while the World Silat Championship is on world martial arts sports calendar.

"Right now, we're aiming for the Olympics," says Megat Zulkarnain.

Silat is also part of the Rakan Muda Wajadiri programme and he hopes that it will be incorporated into the co-curriculum of institutions of higher learning.

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15 August 2001

Pesaka: Judging will be fair

THE Malaysian Silat Federation (Pesaka) have assured there will be no biased judging at next month's Kuala Lumpur Sea Games.

Pesaka secretary Megat Zulkarnain Omardin said yesterday this was important as there were cases of biased judging in previous Games which had peeved other countries.

He said the matter was discussed at the four-day technical delegates meeting in Kuala Lumpur which ended yesterday, and they have decided on a set of stringent criteria to determine the points and penalty.

"As you know, sports like silat can be very subjective. So the 54 delegates from eight countries have decided to approach the matter point by point to avoid any accusation of biased judging," he said.

Megat Zulkarnain refused to give examples of biased judging but many observers still remember the 1997 Jakarta Games where the host country swept 17 of the 20 gold on offer.

And many countries were disappointed with the results then. Some had said the jury deliberately turned a blind eye when an opponent scored against Indonesian exponents but were quick to take note when the opposite happened.

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Pesaka: We can top '89 haul

THE stage is set for a golden harvest when Malaysia host the Sea Games silat competition in Johor Baru next month.

Although our best haul so far was four gold at the 1989 Games in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Silat Association (Pesaka) are confident they can meet their target of eight gold from 21 events in KL 2001.

Pesaka secretary Megat Zulkarnain Omardin said the exponents who would compete in 10 men's combat categories, six women's and five under the silat seni (the kata version of silat) are capable of exceeding the target but it is best to keep the target at eight, at least officially.

Megat Zulkarnain said the national team, who are currently training in Johor Baru, will be stepping up their preparations and those in the combat categories would go for an eight-day training stint in Vietnam from next week.

Those for silat seni would train in Indonesia for five days.

He said Pesaka chose these countries because it would provide the best environment for the respective branches of silat.

"Vietnam are the best in combat due to their fighting spirit. This is something we want our exponents to emulate. Indonesia are better in silat seni and we will train with their national team in this," he said.

Five national silat exponents have been picked by Megat Zulkarnain as the ones to watch in KL 2001.

These are 1995 Chiangmai gold medallist Ahmad Faisal Omar, who won the 2000 world championship silver, Brunei 1999 gold medallists Mohd Azrin Malik, Muhammad Zainal and Marwat Mad Rus and world silver medallist Rina Jordana Adnan, who is a newcomer to the squad.

In the past, the exponents to watch were world champions Azlinda Ahmad and Mohd Zakri Ibrahim but they have been dropped for disciplinary problems. However, the coaches reckon the squad have more than one able replacements.

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03 August 2001

National silat exponents ready for SEA Games challenge

JOHOR BAHARU, Aug 10 (Bernama) -- The national silat exponents are ready for next month's SEA Games despite having two world champions dropped from their line-up.

National silat olahraga coach Ahmad Khusari Ibrahim despite the abscence of Azlinda Ahmad and Mohd Zakri Ibrahim, dropped for disciplinary problems, the national squad had able replacements.

The exponents are however expected to face stiff challenge from regional silat powerhouses Indonesia and Vietnam apart from Brunei and Singapore, he said.

"Zakri and Azlinda will be missed but we have capable replacements," he told Bernama here today.

The SEA Games silat competition will be held at the Johor Corporation's Indoor Stadium in Pasir Gudang near here. There are 21 gold, 21 silver and 32 bronze medals at stake.

The national silat squad of 23 exponents including eight women are undergoing intensive training here and in Pasir Gudang.

The men's silat squad: Ahmad Faisal Omar, Ahmad Shahril Zailudin, Azhar Ahmad, Idzir Shaik Abdul Razak, Marwan Mad Rus, Mohd Azrin Abdul Malik, Mohd Roslan Ibrahim, Mohd Syafridzan Muhammad Baid, Muhammad Zainal, Nik Adli Abdullah, Shamsuddin Mohd Darus, Ismail Darus, Mohd Fajar Subhi, Roslan Hamid and Samsul Nizam.

The women's squad: Hamidah Jaafar, Noorsyahidda Wati Abdullah Sani, Shalina Abdul Ghafar, Suryati Azlinda Jack, Mastura Sapuan dan Rina Jordana Adnan, Syarina Abdul Fatah and Sukinah Buang.

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01 August 2001

A German's love affair with the art

SILAT is making inroads into Europe, says 30-year-old Andre Mewis, one of the finest exponents of the martial art from Germany.

Mewis, who won the silat championship in 1992, recalled that it was "love at first sight" when he attended a silat demonstration in Berlin at 12. Although he is a kungfu as well as full-contact karate exponent, it is silat which had him hypnotised. Mewis, who runs his own professional martial arts centre, said: "I was fascinated with its graceful movements as well as the Malay culture."

Without hesitation, he packed his bags and left the country to master the art under several well-known gurus from Indonesia, the Philippines as well as Malaysia.

Mewis soon discovered that "finding teachers who can pass on invaluable knowledge is not easy," as the gurus do not compete for students and the acceptance process is very selective. Each teacher has his own selection criteria, which often include the student's character, moral standards and ethics.

"One's willingness to learn is also important." Once accepted, an exponent also has to take an oath.

Mewis agrees that silat is more than just a martial art. "It emphasises self-discipline and the building of inner strength."

Although silat emphasises bare-hands technique, Mewis says that when confronted, an exponent can turn simple items like combs, belts or a salt shaker into useful weapons. Another remarkable feature is the spiritual aspect.

"It is not like street magicians because there is no room for illusions.

This search for the truth will lead you to humility and reverence for life."

Mewis makes it clear that silat does not depend on mysticism, which means depending on something outside your inner resources.

"It's only when you begin to think, live and feel what you have learnt, then you will understand what silat is all about."

To enhance its popularity, Mewis plans to package it together with other more popular contact sports like karate, taekwando or judo.

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