27 November 2007

Cross Training in Silat

Martial arts cross training in the West has become a norm for their martial artists. Originally, the method was meant to create a complete understanding of personal combat by looking into various arts' repertoire.

Unfortunately, some haphazard cross training has resulted in frankenstein arts created by practitioners who regard themselves qualified to mix and match. Definitely, qualified practitioners have no problem doing so. In fact, they have examples in the late sifu Bruce Lee and his protege, guro Dan Inosanto.

Lee analysed the Chinese, Japanese and European fighting methods and extracted its most basic principles for his use in Jeet Kune Do, while Inosanto created the Maphilindo style based on his research into Kali and Silat.

Malaysia has its own cross training masters who include names like guru Dahlan Karim of Silat Setiabakti (a synthesis of 10 styles), guru Pak Mat Kedidi, of LianPadukan (a synthesis of 3 styles), guru Allahyarham Abdul Hamid Hamzah of Silat Sendeng Muar (a synthesis of 3 main styles and various others) and many more.

In fact, I dare say that cross training IS a traditional method of Silat Melayu and that in generations past, it was a norm. However, the sequence of training is not what is common today. Back then, a pesilat would study a base style up to proficiency.

Then, he would seek out specialists in different areas to further enhance the skills he acquired; in pukulan, in kuncian, or in buangan. These enhancements would be further explorations of the basics he already had.

However, silat cross training normally occurred within a particular aliran (style) or fighting genre. Thus, those who studied formerly known as Silat Pulut would continue their studies with Pulut masters expert in Pukulan, Kuncian or Buangan (Pulut style, of course).

This means that the compatibility of the arts need to be taken into account when cross training. What styles are we speaking of here? What is the prerequisite conditions set by the masters involved when studying them? What are the basic technical philosophies underlying each style? These questions and more will help determine, whether a style is compatible within oneself or not.

For example, if you study Silat Cekak Hanafi, Silat Kuntau Tekpi and Silat Kalimah, you will find that because they share a common technical base, you will be able to integrate them into a solid method within yourself. However, if you try to combine Cekak and LianPadukan, you'll run into a problem. The technical philosophies are different. Cekak awaits attacks, while LianPadukan preempts them.

It is a simple matter to say, 'I'll just decide when to attack and when to wait', but the nervous system is not that easy to train. Creating a Frankenstein silat inside yourself will only cause confusion. This is the same when you try to integrate Cekak and Gayong together, because they don't share common footwork systems. Footwork decides 90% of a technique's effectiveness. Playing Lego with different silat won't work.

This is what happened to me when I studied Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9. Trying to keep teaching Cekak in my classes and study Lok 9 at the same time caused an internal 'software conflict'. My Cekak was being systematically deconstructed. Needless to say, when I should have parried, I evaded instead (which Cekak doesn't allow).

So, the only solution is to choose. Choose an aliran (style) and stay within that particular line. If you study Silat Melayu with Tapak 3, Tapak 4 and Tapak 5, keep studying within that direction. If you already have Gayung Fatani, then Silat Telapak Nusantara, Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9, Silat Cakak Brunei, etc would be good options to increase your repertoire and skill.

If you study Pukulan styles, then Sendeng, Kuntau, Buah Pukul and many other of the Sulawesi pukulan genre would help. Most importantly, be good at what you have. As the Melayu saying goes, 'masakan belakang pisau diasah akan tajam', if you really train to be good in one expertise, you'll have a huge advantage over those who only have passable skill in ten expertises.

However, if you want a taste of different things without having to study them, find friends of different aliran and have friendly sparring sessions with them. This will allow you to discover new uses for your present techniques and explore new interpretations of old methods.

As for me, I have managed to solve the problem of integrating my various arts into one useable base. That, however, is a post for another day...

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab


Anonymous said...

The appropriate way in deepen one's understanding and elevate one's skill in silat will be learning from the acquired knowledge. Let the knowledge 'mutating' itself into an 'unseen being' that'll guide oneself towards perfection.

In our style, Silat Bongsu, apart from being the "Ibu Silat", it is also known as "Sendi Silat" or The Joint of Silat. Thus it is suitable to be incorporate into all kind of silat or non silat martial art. This can be done with strict adab.

Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Assalamualaikum Ustaz,

I agree wholeheartedly. The mutation you speak of is, I noticed in my research, a hallmark of many masters who created their own arts.

They speak of a period of deep thought and meditation culminating in a period of physical trials to prove that the path they are on is correct.

I would love to publish an article on Ibu Silat, if you would contribute it :)


Anonymous said...

I've been reading ur works for quite some time, here & senibeladiri when i was in Msia. Gratz for the good insights on MAs esp silat.

Neway when it comes to this topic, crosstraining in silat, i would like to share my 2 cents, hoping to give something in return rather than just sit back & enjoy a cuppa.
IMO, the purpose of crosstraining is pretty str8fwd. To fill in the gap/ complement what a particular discipline lack of. Being a fan of MMA, yet still love my very own heritage, I see the prob in implementing crosstraining in silat is as what u mentioned, conflicts, or to make it worse, 'politics'.
1st rule that i found beneficial for crosstraining, and is pretty common: "Leave the ego at the door"

I'm glad u touched on Silat Cekak as example. Maybe im not as good compared to u, but i found my years training silat cekak(hanafi, since u mentioned quite a few) dznt affect my training pretty much. I boxed in my college years while doing cekak at the same time, but i stick to the rule and it works. To give a brief idea, in boxing we wear gloves and the basic skill is at the very least to keep the guard up. So, getting into the ring in hope to catch the opponent with 'kaedah A' is quite impossible or even if 'buah serang' is applied, the opponent has the option to block and move away or even come up with a combo counter when our attacks r fading (talk bout rope a dope hey). But to play boxing with silat cekak rules will be a disaster. They'll take the back, press on the knee joint, target the 'illegal part', lock the limbs etc. So the simple trick to crosstrain boxing and silat cekak is to learn silat cekak during silat cekak class, and boxing during the boxing session. We are there to learn anyway, not to show off our skills. A 10th dan judo master is a 10th dan judo master but when starting a muay thai class, he's still a noob.

Oh, maybe I shouldn't make my comment look like a blog entry at ur site. Sorry if it's pretty lengthy. Anyway, in case u want to reach me, u can visit my site, either blogspot or multiply and drop some words. Or it'll be useful to have u around in MCM: http://martialarts.com.my/community/index.php

Hope to hear from u. Sorry if there's 'wrong use of word' or foul language in my comment.


Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Salam hormat Mike!

It's an honour to have you here. I follow your blog and discussions on MCM too. However, I never felt worthy enough to jump in. The discussions there never seem to suit my objectives.

As for your comment which looks like a blog post, no worries. At least I know someone reads this stuff... hehehehe... Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

I observe that when cross training, many people seem to understand martial arts as set techniques, and not natural survival expressions.

When we think like this, then cross training becomes difficult, because we are tied down to the instructor's way of thinking (notice I didn't say guru).

An instructor normally understands an MA as a syllabus of techniques, and sadly this is rife in silat today.

However, traditional silat, once upon a time simply called Silat Melayu (now this term encompasses all type of silat), focuses more on development of core competencies such as strategic thinking, tactical analysis, kinesthesis and understanding kinetic energy, human and animal psychology and many, many more.

Thus, many people accuse Silat Melayu of not having a syllabus, when in fact it just means they have no set techniques.

What they do have, are training methods that provide understanding for self empowerment, creating positive mindsets, and applying it to various aspects of life.

This 'life-wisdom', when taken into a physical direction, becomes Silat, the art of war. When taken into politics, becomes Percaturan or Siasah, the art of persuasive management.

The source of this life-wisdom is various, depending on the area of Nusantara and the worldview each different Melayu clan accepts.

In some areas, it is clearly Hindu, as in Bali. In others, it is Budhhist and Animism or Natural Tauhid (like the Natural Americans, who many claim to be pantheists, but actually subscribe to a Single Diety idea).

When Islam arrived in Nusantara, it affected quite a bit of these life-wisdoms and collapsed these sources into two: Islamic and Folk.

Now, because these life-wisdoms are so vast and various, it is impossible to encapsulate it all into a syllabus.

Thus, masters often only transfer mental tools, paradigms, maxims, or in Bahasa Melayu, called Petua which allows the student to explore his abilities, his weaknesses, his life, alone, without continuous guidance.

Essentially, the master gives his students the necessary tools to master himself and eventually become a master.

I believe this is what Ustaz Saiful meant when he wrote:

"The appropriate way in deepen one's understanding and elevate one's skill in silat will be learning from the acquired knowledge. Let the knowledge 'mutating' itself into an 'unseen being' that'll guide oneself towards perfection."

These Petua are not unique to Silat, but exist in many different MA under different names. Void, Point, Straight Line, Circle, Compass Points, Opposites and Switch. Terminologies used by English-speaking martial artists.

Melayu call these petua: Ruang, Titik, Alif, Lam Alif, Mata Angin, Jantan Betina and Jengkal. These petua exist on different levels of understanding and usage.

Among them, the physical (as in physics) realm, the social realm, the financial realm (no kidding), the psychological realm and the spiritual realm. In reality, all part of the single realm we call Life. Thus, the term Life-Wisdom.

Successful cross trainers are those who realise that all MAs share a common element: Human.

This is why we find that people who cross train from one Silat syllabus to another find it difficult to adapt, whereas those who have good grounding in traditional Silat Melayu can easily take to the structured arts.

This too, is what I believe Ustaz Saiful meant with:

"In our style, Silat Bongsu, apart from being the "Ibu Silat", it is also known as "Sendi Silat" or The Joint of Silat. Thus it is suitable to be incorporate into all kind of silat or non silat martial art. This can be done with strict adab".

This is why we find that THESE people never become newbies in ANY gelanggang.

I have met many silat masters who fit this description very well. However, I would like to pay homage to Grandmaster Leo Gaje Jr of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

He has the ability to look at any technique, silat or non-silat and immediately perform it, integrate it within his own fighting style and in many cases, reexplain it better than the owner of the technique himself.

If he only held to techniques in the first place, he wouldn't be able to do this.

Sorry if this became a blog post, too. :)