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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