Pengajar Sean Stark
The first of these was Pengajar Sean Stark, of Pencak Silat Pertempuran or as they call it in the USA, Combat Silat. He originally contacted me through an early website I had called Silat: Seni Warisan Bangsa which was hosted in Bahasa Melayu.
We had many email exchanges about silat and I had my introduction to American silat culture through him. I also participated on his Desa Silat Forum and I had a wonderful time asking and answering questions.
Guru Idris bin Alimuda
Another Silat Master whom I befriended was the mysterious and controversial Guru Idris bin Alimuda, whom many martial arts forums know as IBA or JatiDiri. The first time I met him was, again, through my website many years ago and not long after that, actually physically met him for teh ais.
I can tell you this, he is as eloquent and confusing in person as he is online, but the vast amount of knowledge he carries around can never be properly represented on a computer screen nor understood by those whose cup is already full.
Recently, I met him again when a couple of students of a British pesilat, Simon Das, came down to Malaysia to study various styles. We sat down to drink and once again, he managed to give me more food for thought. The last time this happened, it took me two years just to figure it out. I shudder to guess when our next meeting will be.
Jeff Davidson is by far the best friend I have online, and we have never even met. We originally met through one of his students, who asked me questions about silat and Senaman Tua. It turns out we are related via Silat Kuntau Tekpi. Jeff studied it from Omar Hakim, who came to Malaysia and studied it from cikgu Norazlan Abdul Wahid, one of my mentors and currently the administrator for SilatMelayu.Com (SMC).
Jeff is a highly accomplished pesilat and martial artist and often travels the world to learn (but never to Malaysia!) and as blood brothers, we have shared some amazing experiences and secrets together, none of which will ever see the light of day.
The only one thing I can reveal is that, we might actually have been the earliest people to conduct a silat initiation and silat classes over a chat application! With no video! Weird.
Ustaz Saiful Muhammad
The latest addition to my list of esteemed friends (and I really do mean esteemed) is the honourable Ustaz Saiful Muhammad, President and current Principal of Pertubuhan Seni Silat Telapak Nusantara Malaysia. If you read Jeff Davidson's blog, he beat me to including something about Ustaz Saiful's silat style in either of our blogs.
I met Ustaz Saiful less than a year ago, when I was trying to get SMC up and running. He was among SMC's most ardent supporters and today I am among his. A humble, caring and passionate gentleman, Ustaz Saiful is a gem in the Malaysian silat world.
When outside forces threaten to modernise or secularise Silat Melayu, Ustaz Saiful is evidence that Silat can be a tool for dakwah and more, that Islam has made real impacts on silat in terms of its pedagogy and content. He wears many hats comfortably: A devoted husband and father, a deeply knowledgeable religious teacher, a highly skilled IT support specialist, a formidable silat master and a fantastic cook.
When Jef'f's questions began to turn to fields within silat that were outside of my knowledge, I introduced him to Ustaz and they have gotten along fabulously. Ustaz is still a very mysterious, although jovial figure in my life, but I appreciate any and all scraps of knowledge that he shares with me.
This goes to everyone I've mentioned above. May their lives be filled with everything they've ever dreamed of and more, insyaAllah.