06 December 2002

Silat exponent Sutton to write book on `most beautiful form of martial arts'

JOHOR BARU, Wed. - Those interested in silat will soon have a new source of reference in the form of a book, penned by a very unlikely author, English language teacher Nigel C. Sutton. The 42-year-old native of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, England, has completed his five-year training in the Lianpadukan and Silat Melayu Lok Sembilan schools and is now preparing to write about it.

Sutton, who is also a master in wushu and taijiquan, speaks Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia fluently. Teaching English at the First English Language Centre in Batu Pahat now, Sutton has written seven books since his maiden effort titled Applied Taijiquan was published in 1990.

"I want to write the book on silat because it is perhaps the most beautiful form of martial arts which is less known outside the Malay world. "I also want people from other societies to learn more about the richness of the Malay traditions by providing them with an insight on the intrinsic and graceful art of silat."

Sutton will use what he learnt from his silat gurus, Azlan Ghanie and Mohammed Hasyim Salleh, as materials for the book. The Englishman, who has been residing in this country since 1992, recently procured the white belt, which is the highest level of grading for silat exponents.

Recalling his graduation night for the Lianpadukan silat school, Sutton said he completed it after a sevenhour ritual which began at 10pm. Describing the experience as scary, Sutton said one of the tests he had to undergo was to spar against five seniors.

"It wasn't actually just a case of sparring, as they practically attacked me with lethal blows and devastating kicks." Other than the bruising encounter, Sutton was also required to undergo other tests such as breaking the buah keras with his fingers and hammering nails using his bare hands.

"As the ceremony came to a close, I had to endure a cold shower which signified the cleansing of the body. According to my guru, this will bring God's protection for me when I meet with danger.

"When I got my white belt, my guru asked me if I would be able to turn the other cheek when I am slapped by someone and I said that I couldn't. To this, my guru said a true silat master is like a holy man and the art of restraint is essential in this craft."

Sutton's wife, Tan Mew Hong, 39, of Batu Pahat, is also a martial arts enthusiast and is learning silat at the first grade. Like her husband, she is also a master of wushu and taijiquan.

On his passion for writing, Sutton said he normally writes about 1,000 words a day. He had recently launched Silat Warrior, a magazine on martial arts targeting readers in the Western countries. On the circulation of the magazine, Sutton said it was less than encouraging judging from the three issues produced since May last year, but he was not about to give up.

Sutton is also planning to set up an umbrella organisation for local and foreign martial arts enthusiasts next year. He believed Malaysia had the potential to attract foreign martial arts enthusiasts as the Muay Thai Institute and the Lanna Muay Thai Boxing Camp were doing for Thailand.

"For one thing, Malaysia is even better than Thailand; there are more English-speaking people here. "Tour packages can be arranged for family members while their loved ones train under a proposed 21-day module programme."

A member of the Zhong Ding Traditional Martial Arts Association, Sutton said the association was celebrating its 15th anniversary here next September. Raised in a musically inclined family where his father was a musician and younger sister a composer, Sutton said he picked up taijiquan at the age of 13 and had never looked back.

His love for martial arts took him to Beijing where he won the gold medal in the Tianjin International Cup in 1986. Since coming to Malaysia in 1992, Sutton has been spending every Christmas in this country.

"Except for the weather, there is little difference in spending Christmas here compared to England. In fact, my 10-year-old son and six-year-old daughter love Malaysia so much as they also get to celebrate other major festivals," he added.

Sourced from http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-26964167_ITM

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