IF someone (me) were to face immediate danger (hostile girlfriend who just found out that I cancelled a date with her because of an emergency - a few dozen laps around the go-kart track with my friends), it would be useful to know some form of self-defence (aside from running away while flailing my arms and screaming like a little girl). Silat is a good option.
For centuries, silat was practised mainly by members of royalty and their warriors. During the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin (1854-1879), a senior officer in the Kedah military was instrumental in helping to defend the State from enemy incursion. This officer was a silat exponent. Many legendary names have become synonymous with this Malay martial art such as Hang Tuah, Mat Kilau and Tok Janggut.
At the turn of the century, more people began to practise silat, usually taught by gurus who had picked up the martial art from other exponents.
Traditionally, the art was spread through physical contact between guru and student.
However, modern technology is threatening to change all that. Silat groups have begun to make their presence felt in cyberspace, and a number of Web sites dedicated to the martial art have sprung up and are attracting a lot of attention. Among them is Silat Cekak Hanafi Malaysia (www. cekakhanafi.com).
But first, a little bit of background. Silat Cekak Hanafi, originally known simply as silat cekak, was first practised in Kedah during the 1800s. It was passed down from generation to generation, right up until 1965 when Hanafi Haji Ahmad became its Guru Utama (Supreme Master). Under his leadership, the martial art was given a breath of fresh air, thus re- inventing itself as Silat Cekak Hanafi.
Today, according to its communications and publicity chief Amrahi Buang, they are the pioneers in bringing silat to the virtual world. Besides helping to promote silat, their Web site also serves as a communications centre for members of Silat Cekak Hanafi Malaysia, which consists of 36,000 members spread over 13 branches throughout the country.
It is through this Web site, which is in Bahasa Melayu, that the members organise themselves and keep in touch with each other. Memos and official announcements are all sent via electronic mail (e-mail) as this, says Amrahi, eliminates the risk of getting things lost in the mail.
The main feature of the site is a bulletin board called Bulletin Lading Online. It contains a schedule of events and happenings in the silat community. The Sejarah section presents a short history of Silat Cekak Hanafi. It is an impressive database of information about the martial art, from its origin to the basic fighting techniques.
Chatroom. Then there is Virtual Office, a section for registered users only. In this section are an official forum for members to hold discussions, a chatroom where members can drop in for a chat, and e-mail facilities.
Averaging 500 hits per day, the efforts of the Silat Cekak Hanafi Web site have not gone unnoticed. It has received several awards, the most notable being the USMA Martial Arts Web site Excellence Award. It has also been selected as the main Web site representing all other local silat groups.
Through the Web site, the Malay martial art of silat has found a new home and a new set of followers.
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