12 October 2006

Don't worry. You decide. Be Free.

If you're a true Silat Melayu fan, I'll bet you can't stand next to a silat master without eventually asking a question. That was most often the case with me. But, if you're familiar with one, sometimes, you forget what a treasure trove of knowledge comes to your doorstep every day, and you never take advantage of it.

Once, I casually posed a question to Guru Dahlan Karim, founder of Silat Setiabakti, a very effective pukulan style. Although he visited my former office almost every day to deliver his articles to be published, it had never occured to me to actually consult the man about my confusions regarding silat (d-uh!). [Rest assured, I studied briefly with him soon after].

I formed scenarios as to what I should do if someone comes at me like this, or like that, or like that, or however. Every answer he came up with was a natural, and painful, response (those who know my former line of work also know that I was often the punching bag for masters like him).
After what seemed the most medically challenging lesson, I suppose he got tired of my prodding and said to me:

"Buat apa risau buah orang? Risau buah sendiri sajalah"
Translation: "Why worry about what other people will do? Focus only on what you want to do".

This startled me for two reasons. First, I thought responding to an enemy attack WAS silat. Apparently not. This offhand statement made me rethink my previous trainings. The change in perspective made me realise how important it is to be the active party in anything. Like a dance, you lead, not be led.

Guru Azlan Ghanie, founder of Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 has a favourite saying, whether it relates to martial arts or publishing:

"Kita buat dia"Translation: "We decide"

Whenever a particular combat scenario seemed to end in a stalemate, or worse, in me being locked or on the receiving end of a barrage, I tended to assume a defensive mindset, assuming that since silat is about yielding, it meant the same thing as retreat. But, in reality, it's about thinking outside of the box, and he would always show me a way out of the problem that I hadn't seen before.

Ustaz Hanafi, founder of Silat Cekak, said it more poetically in a pantun:
"Lahirnya Cekak kerana kesedaran,
bukan bermusuh sebagai tujuan,
untuk mendaulatkan seni kebangsaan,
mensesuaikan dengan makna kemerdekaan"

"For awareness was Cekak thus born,
not enmity, nor trangression, nor scorn,
to uphold the heritage we claim,
towards true freedom we aim"

Silat is about being yourself. No. It's about being a better yourself. It's about being free from the machinations of other people, or the stubborn, unproven ideas of yore. Silat is about being confident in knowing what you're doing and why you're doing it. Being a leader means the awareness of knowing where you're going and why, while being a follower means you only wonder about these things.

Silat is about your freedom in making choices, and accepting the consequences of those choices, good or bad, and learning from them. Taking the experiences of others as a guide, but not as a limit.

Being Muslim, this kind of train of thought always brings me back to Allah. If we are truly to be free of man and all of man's ways, to become ourselves, to attain haqq diri (self-actualization, self-realisation, enlightenment, whatever), then we have to submit to the One who created them all.

So, worry not about the opponent. Worry about who really controls you. Your government? Your media? Your friends? Your enemies? Who decides what you do and how you do it? Yourself or others? Are you free of them all? Or do you miss the point that the One who really controls you is none of them?

Don't worry. You decide. Be free.

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