30 November 2004

Evening Warrior

Though he may not come across as a health freak, Mohd Nadzrin Wahab’s brief at Whyfit Sport Adventure Sdn Bhd is to market health and fitness based team-building programmes for corporations.

But on certain nights of the week, he sheds his workwear for a dark blue tunic, loose pants and headgear and starts getting physical with a group of undergraduates. Nadzrin is an assistant instructor for Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Ustaz Hanafi Malaysia, a popular form of Melayu martial arts taught in many universities in the country.

He is currently helping out with the training sessions at the International Islamic University Malaysia Matriculation Centre, where he and seven others help instruct the undergraduates in silat techniques. During the twice weekly sessions, Nadzrin works under the supervision of instructor Mohd Azhar Mohd Ali.

“What we do basically, is to teach the syllabus and try to guide them as best as possible, so that they can reach the proper level of proficiency after six months. In universities, we have to stretch the programme longer because of the semester breaks and exams.”

He adds that to teach the technique, the student must experience for themselves the punches, parries and locks as shown by the instructor and his assistants before they try it out on their partners. Each assistant is in charge of about 10 students.

Nadzrin recalls that he developed an interest in silat early in his life. “I’ve been interested since I was a small boy. I naturally gravitated towards silat, even when there was a lot of Jackie Chan movies on TV. Naturally when I was much younger, I was really active. I liked to jump off the stairs, climb trees. I had way too much energy. And I’m also a fan of Spider-man,” he says.

His introduction to martial arts was when he was in primary school. At first, the school held only taekwondo classes. But when Nadzrin was in Standard Three, it offered silat classes as well.“I joined but I didn’t stay long. I wasn’t dedicated back then and the training was too strenuous for me at that point of time,” he explains.

Yet years later, he developed the dedication and discipline needed to learn the art. In 1994, during the long break after his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams, his interest in the Malay martial arts was rekindled by the introduction of the Rakan Muda programme. “What happened was that I filled up a form for Rakan Wajadiri. We waited months for a reply. One fine day, a letter came from the ministry inviting us to a martial arts demonstration at the field near the old A&W in Petaling Jaya.”

On that day, exponents of 30 different martial arts movements demonstrated their hand-to-hand combat skills en masse on the field. It gave the new Rakan Muda members an opportunity to window shop and to weigh the merits of each form and style before joining up. But only one form caught Nadzrin’s attention.

“I saw this one style of silat, with about 15 people participating in the demo. There was one person at the centre standing erect and he was deflecting the attacks from the rest of the group. One by one his opponents fell. That caught my attention because this martial arts form shows its true capability,” he recalls.

This was his introduction to Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Ustaz Hanafi Malaysia. Later, when he enrolled in the Matriculation Centre of the International Islamic University Malaysia, Nadzrin witnessed further Silat Cekak Hanafi demonstrations and fell in love with the art.

“The reason I chose Silat Cekak Hanafi was because of its unique characteristics. In this form of silat, minimal movement and minimal use of force can defeat an enemy. You do not use a lot of stamina. Since I’m naturally energetic and prefer high kicks and physical movements, I did not appreciate this until after studying this form of silat for a few months. In silat cekak, the kicks are never executed higher than the navel for safety considerations. And on another level, it shows a high regard for politeness and manners, even with your enemies.”

Silat cekak also stresses defence techniques over offence. “We don’t attack unless we’re attacked first. In fact, in Silat Cekak Hanafi, to go on the offensive is to open yourself to danger because you don’t know your enemy. He might very well be a black belt holder!"

“However, we are taught offensive techniques, but only as a necessity. Overall, you learn 99 per cent defence and just one per cent offence,” he says.

Nadzrin further explains that when you study the empty hand forms, you are already preparing yourself to use weapons in your defence strategy.

“You just need to modify it a little bit, but most of the time, you are taught empty hand techniques because you are assuming the worst case scenario, being attacked and not having any weapon. But you are prepared to face an armed opponent.”

The official weapon of the Silat Cekak Hanafi movement is the parang lading, a form of the traditional Melayu machete used by the warriors of old Kedah.

“In this form of silat, a parang lading is awarded to people who have done some service to the movement. The guru utama or lead instructor will select and award the weapon to deserving members. The uniqueness of this weapon is that it is held in a reverse grip position, meaning that it is a defensive weapon, not an offensive one.”

The Silat Cekak Hanafi philosophy states that you do not retreat, and you do not avoid blows by turning left or right. All attacks are countered with a forward movement.

Through his previous job as a writer and editor at SENI BELADIRI, a magazine dedicated to traditional Malaysian martial arts, he also became acquainted with many masters and instructors, which allowed him to appreciate other forms of silat, apart from what he practises.

“To me, silat is one of the last bastions of Melayu culture. Through silat, traditional Melayu values are transmitted, sometimes without people realising it.“Many of the masters inculcate moral values in their instruction. For example, Silat Cekak Hanafi places great emphasis on truthfulness, keeping promises and respect for parents and teachers.”

Has he ever had to put his silat skills to the test?“Thank God, no and I hope I never will. My personal view is that in any combat situation, there will be only two outcomes — you will either get hurt or your opponents will — I don’t think we should harm another human being. But if push comes to shove...”

Sourced from New Straits Times

28 November 2004

Hairulhasanah's fighting fit

STUDENT Hairulhasanah Shahbudin, who was recently in Pyongyang, North Korea to participate in the First International Martial Arts Games, tells SUZIEANA UDA NAGU about her passion for silat.

IT TOOK Hairulhasanah Shahbudin a while to figure out why her mother Siti Fatimah Ahmad had banned her from taking up silat when she was small.

For years, Hairulhasanah's mother gave her the typical "martial arts are for boys" excuse to keep the international business student at University College of Technology and Management Malaysia (or KUTPM, its Malay acronym) from pursuing it.

"I have been in love with silat since primary school. I love the graceful moves but, at the time, my mother thought it was a rough sport," says 23-year-old Hairulhasanah.

What really concerned Siti Fatimah were the myths surrounding silat, among others, that it involves the practice of ilmu batin (mystical powers) which conflicts with the teachings of Islam. She was worried that her daughter would be influenced.

Today, Siti Fatimah is happy that she gave her daughter a chance to try out silat. In just five years, Hairulhasanah has shown tremendous progress in the sport.

Two months ago, Hairulhasanah and three other members from the Seni Gayung Fatani Society were invited by the Youth and Sports Ministry to perform silat demonstrations at the First International Martial Arts Games in Pyongyang, North Korea. (see accompanying story) It is no surprise that her mother is now Hairulhasanah's No. 1 fan.

Hairulhasanah, a black belt holder, says times have changed and so has silat.

"There may have been silat groups in the past which incorporated `black magic' into their teachings but I assure you that silat today is not what it used to be," she adds.

Two years ago, the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, the Education Ministry and Pertubuhan Silat Kebangsaan endorsed the Seni Silat Malaysia curriculum, which is considered the most comprehensive and up-to-date syllabus.

One masters silat by completing seven-level modules of training.

The curriculum is based on the one used by the Malaysian Seni Gayung Fatani Society.

Although it is an intensive programme, students are not subjected to unnecessary examinations and tests.

The curriculum has given silat a modern feel without compromising its originality.

For example, the curriculum does not mix silat movements with those from other martial arts. Silat performances are still accompanied by baku music, whether it is practised in Malaysia or in Europe.

"The curriculum has attracted martial arts lovers to come to Malaysia to deepen their knowledge about silat," says Hairulhasanah, who enrolled in her first Gayong Fatani silat class in 1999.

"Despite being a late-starter, I managed to finish six levels and earned my black belt in just four years. It is not that hard if you are committed," beams the Kuala Lumpur-born lass.

Hairulhasanah is currently a certified silat instructor and teaches the sport at KUTPM (where she is currently completing her Bachelor's degree in International Business) and, more recently, at the Malaysian Cultural Office which is next to Malaysian Tourism Centre in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.

Hairulhasanah feels it is time that Malaysians accepted homegrown martial arts like silat.

Currently, silat is mostly practised by the Malays. "So, before we start claiming that silat is a Malaysian sport, we must make sure that all Malaysians embrace it," she says.

She and fellow members from the Seni Gayung Fatani group plan to teach silat to primary school pupils, particularly those from Chinese and Tamil schools beginning next year. There have been mixed responses from school heads.

"The headmistress of Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Lai Meng whom we approached welcomed our initiative. She even asked when we can start the class," says Hairulhasanah.

But others question her motives.

"A headmaster of a national school we approached was not keen on having his students learn silat at all. He bombarded us with plenty of questions about our intentions. That was when I realised how badly some people perceive silat and those who practise it," she says.

The incident made Hairulhasanah more determined to prove disbelievers wrong.

For Hairulhasanah, silat has opened many doors for her. It has also taken her to places she never imagined she would visit.

Typical of an all-rounder, Hairulhasanah does not neglect her studies. Indeed, she's a regular on the Dean's list and has even been named her college's Best Student.

Hairulhasanah graduated from Pusat Teknologi dan Pengurusan Lanjutan (PTPL), KUTPM's affiliate college, with a score of a 3.95 cumulative grade point average.

Between studying and coaching, one can imagine how busy Hairulhasanah is.

"If I am not home, I'll be at college or teaching silat. I rarely have time for leisure but I don't regret it one bit," she says.

Sourced from http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-14631247_ITM

An eye-opening trip to North Korea

ONLY few people can claim that they have set foot in North Korea and 23- year-old Hairulhasanah Shahbudin is one of them.

Two months ago, she and three fellow members from the Malaysian Seni Gayung Fatani Society were in Pyongyang, North Korea to take part in the First International Martial Arts Games at the invitation of the Youth and Sports Ministry.

It was the silat trainer's first international sporting event and her excitement is still visible today.

"North Korea is an entirely different experience. I learnt a lot of new things there," recalls the wide-eyed Hairulhasanah.

The international business student was particularly impressed with the young North Koreans she met at a youth centre in Pyongyang.

There, children and teenagers are given training in fields of their interest such as martial arts or ballet for free.

"I caught some students at martial arts practice and I was impressed by what I saw. I have never seen children that young perform difficult selfdefence moves with such perfection. They never complained even when they were clearly tired!" she gushes. Her six-day stay in Pyongyang has made her more appreciative of the freedom Malaysians enjoy.

North Koreans are banned from keeping in touch with outsiders, so Hairulhasanah cannot correspond with the locals she befriended.

"They would not give their addresses.

Thankfully, all the memories I have of them are captured on camera," she adds.

Outsiders are prohibited from bringing out any printed material from North Korea.

"My team received a lot of coverage in the local publications. Naturally we wanted to keep a copy of the articles but the organisers wouldn't allow it," she says.

At the end of the games, the Malaysian team was given the highest diploma for its effort.

"I suppose it was because of our performance.

We did not want the crowd to get bored so we added new choreography to each silat demonstration. We were the only team which was asked to perform daily (at times twice a day) throughout the games," she says.

Hairulhasanah is glad to be able to introduce silat to an international audience, particularly the North Koreans, who are very proud of their taekwondo.

"They found silat to be an art form. Groups from Nepal, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan even encouraged us to set up silat academies in their countries," she says.

The Malaysian group has already received an invitation to perform in Italy next year.

You can bet Hairulhasanah and gang will wow the Italians as well.

Sourced from http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-14631248_ITM

20 November 2004


Manado, N Sulawesi, Nov 20 (ANTARA) - Two "pencak silat" players from Indonesia's North Sulawesi province will join players from other provinces to represent the country in the Pencak Silat World Cup to be held in Singapore on Dec 9-14.

"The two are in Jakarta, training with the other players," head of the technical commission of the local branch of the Indonesian Association for Pencak Silat, Ventje Simbar, said on Saturday.

The two are Royke Maengkom and Kasaman Hulinggi.

"Pencak silat" is a traditional art of self-defense.

Sourced from http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-14534726_ITM