30 November 2007

Review: Human Weapon - Silat, Martial Art of Malaysia

"Silat: The Martial Art of Malaysia" started off well enough with a view of the 50th Malaysian National Independence Day parade. Hosts Jason Chambers and Bill Duff sauntered over to a Silat Seni Gayong demonstration, seemingly held in commemoration of the day.

There, they are issued a challenge by the Gayong master in attendance, guru Malik, to study several styles throughout Malaysia, and return to face six of his best fighters. Now, this is obviously set up, since the whole premise of the Human Weapon series is to train in various styles and eventually meet up with the first style they feature for a challenge match.

Among those they would train with were: Silat Seni Gayong, Silat Lian Padukan, Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 and Silat Harimau.

The problem is, there was no one here who thought that this was a good idea. The moment word got out, I started receiving calls, SMSs and emails from friends and strangers who demanded to know, who these arrogant Westerners were, and where they could be found. What the camera never recorded, was how many people actually offered themselves, thinking it was a real challenge to silat as a whole.

Needless to say, I told them honestly, I didn’t know. Although I was originally part of the project, but scheduling problems forced me to sit it out. What a mistake that was.

The whole episode did a good job of introducing different silat styles to the public. However, almost immediately after the show aired in America, forums buzzed with the inanity of the weak showing of Malaysian silat. That, and the fact that Jeff Davidson switched off the television before the episode ended filled me with curiousity. What the hell happened? I intended to find out.

So, after a kind blog fan posted the download links, I spent the next 3 days downloading the episode and lo and behold, not only did I see the corn, I tasted it as well. Because, if the American martial arts community pooh-poohed it, then the Malaysians are definitely not going to be happy, especially those who were interviewed.

For a cable channel calling itself History, there’s a lot of research that they missed and it’s obvious they were careless in quite a few facts. Below are some of the more glaring errors I managed to catch:

"We’ve travelled to the island nation of Malaysia"
Malaysia is not an island nation. It’s made up of a peninsula extending from the south of Thailand and half of the Borneo island.

"Nearly 1 out of every 5 Malaysians is schooled in silat"
Untrue. This would only be true if you said 1 out of every 5 Melayu.

"Seni Gayong is taught to all 9 million members of the Royal Malaysian Police Force and military"
Firstly, Gayong is taught to the Police as Silat Polis, a combination of Gayong, Judo, Aikido and Karate. Secondly, the military has no silat syllabus, only Taekwondo has only ever been an official insertion. The official method is still only called TTS, Tempur Tanpa Senjata (Weaponless Combat). Thirdly, 9 million members means that every third person in Malaysia is in the civil service. Fourthly, this figure contradicts the 1 in 5 statement in no. 2.

"We climbed into a traditional Malay boat and headed to Putrajaya"
There’s no way you can take a boat from Kuala Lumpur to Putrajaya. Literally, there is no water route.

Caption: "Shamsul Balim"
Correction: Guru Sheikh Shamsul Bahrin S.M. Salim.

"And Filipino eskrimadors lent aspects of their weapons work and empty hand forms to silat"
Not an offensive statement, just that it’s the first time I’ve heard it, and is yet to be proven.

Caption: "Yazid Abdul Ran"
Correction: Yazid Abdul Rani.

"But in 1969, this cultural melting pot reached a boiling point. Malay and Chinese rioters fought one another in the streets of Kuala Lumpur with bladed weapons, farmtools and silat. In the end, these riots left some 6,000 people homeless and claimed over 200 lives. In the aftermath, both sides incorporated what they’ve learned from the other into a hybrid style that infused Chinese Wing Chun techniques into traditional silat. It’s called Lian Padukan."
Anyone who even casually browses the Lian Padukan website will know that this is untrue. Lian Padukan was formed long before 1969, when Pak Mat Kedidi studied Buah Pukul from guru Cu Aman and integrated it with Silat and Tomoi. The absorption of the Chinese element itself happened in 1897, when the founder of Buah Pukul, Awang Daik studied it from Syed Abdul Rahman al-Yunani.

"Together, they formed just the move that Bill and I were looking for, the Polick Haimau"
I have confirmation from guru Yazid that there's no such thing as a Polick Haimau. Polick here refers to ‘Polek’, but I can’t figure out where they got Haimau from.

"Is this the type of silat that the people used to defend themselves at this port when they were invaded?," asks Jason and guru Azlan Ghanie answers, "Sama ada dia berpenyakit ataupun tidak berpenyakit" (Whether he is diseased or not) and his student-cum-interpreter replies, "Yes it is" (By the way, guru Azlan speaks excellent English)
It is obvious that the three scenes were spliced together, just to get a reply from guru Azlan, irrespective of what he really said. I guess the editors hoped Americans would know no better.

"Coupled with the silat skills of the Malay warriors, the keris helped Melaka fend off the better equipped, more heavily-armed Portuguese soldiers for more than 40 days"
Not necessarily untrue, but the statement could be misleading. Melaka actually had a good amount of cannons defending its city and was not wanting in warriors. However, it has been agreed in many circles that bad management and infighting caused the Melaka empire to fall, not the lack of firepower.

There are dozens more that I could go on and on about, but I’ll stop here before I start boring you to death. My only worry is, if this happened to silat, how much credibility do the other episodes have?

My rating? I give it a 4 ½ out of 10.

Read MadMike's review here.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab


Anonymous said...

I wonder whether this episode can at least show the basic picture of Silat.........

Anonymous said...

i just cant stop laughing seeing those guys...LuLz

ps: polick haimau?? nguih?? kikikiki

Anonymous said...

can haimau possibly be haRimau?? Im not sho about lian padukan myself, in case they borrow some chinese terms...
oh, i wrote a review too:

/*written after 1 run of the episode. Urs is mo detailed.*/

ps: ahah, touche. U actually mentioned about the 'cut & paste' which might explain why the translation is conflicting with the original statement. /*polis kata jangan*/

Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Salam hormat,

Aside from the obviously choreographed everything, the episode was a general letdown. In fact, guru Yazid and guru Azlan Ghanie have both expressed disappointment, not only with the execution of the show, but the characters of both hosts, which they claim caused quite a bit of friction during the shoots.


Salam persilatan,

Anonymous said...

IMO we dont have to totaly frown coz actually the series is known for its inaccuracies. I'd watched some other episodes & also read many complaints e.g jason pulled a twister in a fight, bill draws with pedro rizzo, the kneebar is not correct, the RNC is plain wrong etc. Even if we do youtube search on it, we can have some vids posted as "Human weapon screws up human anatomy". The idea of the tv prog is actually good but the audience these days r wiser, as in they know the "fancy bombastic pretty moves" r for movies & pro wrestling is half-real.

Anyway, it's something that we can learn from and prepare in case similar thing is to happen in the future. For example:
1) Where's PESAKA at that time? They don't even mention about it.
2) Yea, I know some participants can speak better english, but to be on the safer side, i think an 'official translator' should be there /*cough aljazeera...cough...interview...cough.. information*/
3) After practicing with the matsallehs for quite some time, exchanging ideas through forum (not MCM), reading their articles, actually they're aware of the terms 'berserker', 'pretender', 'we take it easy' & such among emselves--> pretend or ask the partner/ opponent to go easy, giving excuses, this & that, then suddenly pump up their adrenalin out of nowhere. I saw a snippet on SB cover: "...minta jgn cederakn host" & prolly we fell for it. (The test was more like 'technique review' & the price for going easy on em is they din cut the scene when the bengkung hijau dude eats an elbow & another guy took a punch with his chest and slowly kicked bill's shoulder with hesitation)

mehh...turning into a blog entry again. d'oh =P

Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Salam hormat,

Sigh. That makes me feel so much better. Not.

PESAKA? You mean the Persekutuan Silat Olahraga Malaysia? Well, let's just say that if guru Azlan Ghanie is involved, PESAKA might not have much say anyway.

The translator thing is my fault. I was slated to be the interpreter. Which is why I feel like **** for missing it (or may it's a good thing I missed it. If it turned out bad anyway, I'd be scarred for life).

I know what you mean about the pretender bit. Quite a few of those walked through the SB doors when I was there. They caught us off guard a couple of times, but we learnt our lesson soon after.

The best part is, now SB looks for opportunities to publicize their 'humility', so I guess it backfires somewhat on them.

This topic is getting old really fast. Let's move on. Better yet, give us an anecdote I can post on this blog. Hehehehe...

Salam persilatan,

Mr_Hulk said...

anda masih ingat lagi Bill Duff, host Human Weapon yang berbadan besar. Saya ada terjumpa video Bill Duff ditendang sampai KO oleh seorang ahli taekwondo dalam episode Human Weapon yang akan datang. Sian Bill Duff :D


Bobbe Edmonds said...

Hello, my name is Bobbe Edmonds and I am a Pencak Silat (Indonesia) practitioner in America. I just wanted to say that those of us who train Silat in America had such high hopes for this program, and have been severely disappointed in the end.

I happen to have seen some of the styles represented on the show, and they showed NOTHING of their true nature and ability. I woulod have loved to see some real knife play, but it would have been over too quick and the Americans would have had to be rushed to the hospital. Furthermore, the two Americans came across as arrogant and conceited, and personally speaking, the whole episode made me cringe for both being a Silat player and being an American.

Pencak Silat has so much potential in America, but this program isn't helping it. However, there are legitimate Guru and exposure to Malay-Indo culture that are opening the path.


Bobbe Edmonds



On this article, I just want to say this :

"What A CRAP!!"

On the responses given by Nadzrin:



Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Salam hormat,

Hi Bobbe! Fancy seeing you here! Thanks for visiting and don't worry, Malaysian pesilat don't really care what people think of them.

However, my responsibility is to keep them informed of how silat is being represented outside of our 'island-nation'.

To Poknik... er, you mean my article is crap? :) The harshest critics are often the ones you love... :)

Salam persilatan


Nay..I was referring to 'the crap' accusations made by that cable channel calling itself history,

Your answers are Marvelous!