He said, "To me, elements of mysticism that surrounds silat eg. stories of invinciblity, the claim of dim-mak@death touch like strike, the Saint-like feats of the founders have created/will only create illusions to the present students and public alike".
"...some Silat system still restrict non-Muslims by imposing the 'must-be-Muslims' or right to the 'must be Malays' conditions."
He asked two questions related to the above, "perhaps Silat would be better off without it?" and "Is it possible to promote Silat devoid of these rituals and conditions?"
The first question was answered adequately by the other forum members, but the second question can be answered with both a 'yes' and a 'no' provided certain conditions are met. My answer for the second question sought to clarify the issue rather than give a close ended answer.
The Mystical Rituals
Taekwondo has been lauded as the most successfull international martial art because of its seemingly non-partisan, non-religious, non-ritual outlook in teaching. It is no longer a Korean art. It has gained immeasurable popularity and there are millions of people studying it.
However, the new millenium has seen the West lose its scientific mind, bit by bit, as world events no longer make sense from a logical point of view. The West has become more spiritual and anything 'New Age' is now popular. Yoga, meditation, Hinduism, Budhhism, magic, etc tries to fill in the spiritual gaps.
Thus mystical rituals (meaning rituals of which you don't endevaour to understand the meaning of, but just want to feel) become the flavour of the month. Believe it or not, the Seni Gayong hot oil bath videos make a very big impression on Westerners as they search for something exclusive to learn.
Malaysians, on the other hand, generally shun away from such mysticism because of two things. Non-Melayu view them as Islamic religious rituals that will eventually convert them to Islam. Melayu view them as unIslamic rituals which do not contribute to martial prowess. Isn't that funny?
Malaysia is catching the last wave of the 'power without God' idea that martial artists in the West have held on to since Bruce Lee came onto the scene and said that there's nothing mystical about Kung Fu. It's all science.
The opposite is happening in the West. Some Western martial artists are now purposefully seeking these mystical experiences because they perceive that arts stripped of their cultural background and rituals are inferior.
So my point is, this being Malaysia's 50th year in Independence, maybe it would be better if we promote all of our mystical rituals as tourist attractions! (Since promoting Mat Rempit to tourists was such a 'good' idea, I don't see any problems with my suggestion).
As our politicians are fond of saying, this is a sensitive subject. There are two reasons I think exist for excluding non-Muslims or non-Melayu from silat.
The first being that not many people around the world understand how closely the Melayu relate themselves to Islam, or how inseparable the Islam is from the Melayu. For many people, religion and race are two different things. This is not as simple for us. Separating Islam from Melayu will give no meaning to being Melayu.
Thus, when someone wants to embrace and master a particular aspect of Melayu culture, we deem it insulting that that someone will not convert to Islam (just being blatantly honest) because in our view, that's what shaped a large part of our culture, including Silat.
The second reason directly relates to Silat. Melayu are generally well-meaning people and should be very giving, based on a definition that we often hear. We can share our language, our baju Melayu, even our Ketupat. But when it comes to our skills, we are often shadowed by our real and imagined histories of loss of power and influence.
We hear of Greek medicine being developed to a higher science by our Muslim doctors, of Muslim scientists making great strides in progress when the rest of Europe were living in filth, of Melaka, the world greatest port of call, of the Melayu's incomparable sailing prowess, and more, and more...
The Renaissance and Christian Reformation changed all that. Europe became a scientific and industrial hotbed while the Muslims degressed. We heard of our sciences being 'stolen' and Islamic history being 'erased'. That's when the golden age of Islam became our dark age of fear and insecurity.
With the advent of Portuguese, Dutch, British, American, Spanish and Japanese influence and occupation, the Melayu have become a distrusting, introverted race. (Am I apologising for us? Maybe. But can you really blame us?)
Now that Malaysia has a mix of races and racial politics scare us into thinking that the Chinese will overrun us at any moment, the Melayu hang on to anything and everything they can keep, just to ensure that they don't lose whatever power or influence they still have left.
Thus, if you're not Melayu, or not Muslim, we find it very hard to believe that you won't run off with our Silat and claim it for your own self.Until this opinion can be changed, we are going to find it very difficult for masters to open up to teach non-Melayu or non-Muslims. We need to create an environment of safety and surety for them. There are already efforts by the government and some local silat federations to do this.
But until then, silat in Malaysia is still going to be a closed issue for many.