The Lading is a unique single bladed weapon that has served Melayu as both a tool of war and farming. The weapon, which is normally classified as a type of Parang (machete-like blade) is made up of three distinct parts: the Hilt (hulu), the Blade (bilah) and the Sheath (sarung).The word Lading exists in many several Nusantara languages, including Banjar and Kutai, which use the term to mean knife. During the 1948-1960 Emergency Period in Malaya, the Banjar united the Melayu in Sungai Manik, Perak to oppose the Communist Threat. This was conducted as guerilla warfare and named the Perang Sabil (Religious War) or Perang Sungai Manik and employed among other weapons, one similar to a sword called the Lading.
In the Minang culture, the Lading is clearly a parang, as mentioned in this poetic verse:
Si-Muncak mati tarambau,
Kaladang mambao ladieng,
Adaik jo syarak di Minangkabau,
Ibaraik aua dengan tabieng.
Si Muncak dies in a fall,
To the field we bring a parang,
Custom and religion in Minangkabau,
Is as the bamboo and the riverbank
And the Melayu sayings:
Belakang lading kalau diasah lama-lama tajam juga
Translation: Sharpen the back of a lading and eventually it will be.
Meaning: A fool, when taught well, will eventually become wise.
Mencencangkan sesuatu lading yang hilang/ lading patah
Translation: Slashing with a lost lading/ broken lading.
Meaning: Taking pride in something worthless.
Lading tajam sebelah.
Translation: A lading with only one sharpened edge.
Meaning: A taker, but never a giver.
Bagai lading tak tahu akan majalnya.
Translation: A lading unaware of its own bluntness.
Meaning: Someone who never realises his sorry state.
Memakuk dengan belakang lading
Translation: Chopping with the back of a lading
Meaning: Making a request or an inquiry that offends another person.
Although it rightly started out as a farmtool, but the utility of the weapon has made it a favourite among several groups of users. There is a difference of opinion as to its origins. Some scholars point to the long age of the Kedah kingdom and theorise that being the dominant culture, it would have influenced the exportation of the lading to Sumatera.
Others theorise that large kingdoms often attract immigration and influx of knowledge and technology from outlying areas, suggesting the lading being imported from Sumatera instead. Either way, it was well-known that Kedah once had very strong political and trade links with Acheh and undoubtedly this is when the use flourished.
As with many Nusantara weapons, the exact design date of the Lading cannot be ascertained. It is clear, however, that the basic design of the Lading follows the theme of the traditional round-tipped parang.
The Lading can generally be categorised into two types, based on location, Sumateran and Malaysian from which two sub-categories can be observed: Lading Kedah and Lading Cekak. These categorisations are mine, to lend easier understanding.
The Lading Kedah is often forged without a sheath, unlike its Sumateran cousin. The Lading Kedah is often used as a farmtool and has no unique specifications between different forging.
It is customary to fashion the hulu (hilt) from the horn of the Balau buffalo. There are etchings on the tip of the hulu ring-shaped etchings on the top area of the hulu. Some assume that the etchings help to keep a grip on the tool.
Although within the state, farmers are normally seen carrying the lading over their shoulder with the blade facing outwards, outside of Kedah, the Lading is not as well known as the ever-regal Keris. It is often confused for its cousin, the Kelewang, which is widely used in Kedah and Kelantan because of its higher utility. The Kelewang is often designed with hooks and tentacles for odd jobs and farmwork, whereas the Lading more often has only a hacking and slashing function.
A normal measure for the Lading Kedah is:
- Blade body= 60cm.
- Tang breadth = 1.5cm
- Blade body width = 0.5cm
- Blade breadth at tip = 7cm
The present Lading Cekak is a recent innovation, believed to be introduced by Allahyarham Ustaz Hanafi during the height of Silat Cekak's founding in the 1960s as a continuation of an older warrior tradition. The Lading Cekak has 3 unique attributes:
- The measurement
- The grip, and
- The cutting edge
Like many Nusantara weapons such as the Keris and the Pedang, the Lading also employs the customisation philosophy by ensuring that each weapon is tailor-made according to specific measurements off the user's body. Each measurement has a corresponding philosophical meaning.
These measurements have been published as:
- Blade body (A): Equivalent to the distance between the left ear to the right eye, or the right ear to the left eye, which means: "Whatever seen or heard, the blade will find".
- Tang width (B):Equivalent to the width of the thumbnail.
- Blade tip width (C): Equivalent to the length of the thumbnail.
- Cutting edge length (D): Equivalent to the distance between the two eyes.
- Hilt (E): Shaped like a deer's hoof.
Rumours suggest that there are other measurements, but that these are supposedly kept secret to preserve the copyright of the weapon.Grip
The Silat Cekak practitioner always only uses a reverse grip to keep the weapon hidden behind the forearm in a standing position. The hulu employs the Melayu handle shape (curved) which allows the user to hold the weapon comfortably in his hand.
Any weapon, when held in a reverse grip, will naturally yaw away from the forearm. This forces the wrist to bend downwards to keep it against the forearm. To compensate for this, the hulu is curved away from the hand, while the body of the blade bends towards the upper arm, sometimes in sharp angles, thus reducing the radical weight to nearly zero. This bend is named the Lentik Pelepah Kelapa (Coconut Leaf Bend). Other non-Cekak ladings also use Lentik Pelepah Pisang (Banana Leaf Bend).
The sharp-ended hulu can also be used to strike the ribs, solar plexus or the face.
The cutting edge of the Lading doesn't extend along the whole body of the blade. The only sharpened edge sits at the final few centimetres at the blade's tip. This innovation allows the Lading to not only act as a cutting instrument but a leveraging one.
The blunt edge of the Lading can be used to parry incoming arm or leg attacks by meeting the opponent's forearm, upper arm or lower leg. As the blunt metal makes contact, follow through movements apply greater pressure to the parried appendage and slides across it, until the blade comes to the sharpened edge.
What follows is a deepening incision that cuts straight to the bone and exits just as cleanly, by seesawing the hulu. Because of the apparent weaponlessness of the practitioner, opponents are often caught unawares by the solid parry which cuts at the last moment.
Targets for the Lading are often the abdominals, triceps, jugular, ribs and the inner thighs.
The Lading is used in Silat Cekak as an add-on to their empty hand methods. Thus, since Silat Cekak employs a 99% defensive and 1% attacking policy, the Lading is never used to initiate a strike, rather to counter it.
The body of the weapon is made of metals culled from specific backgrounds of former use, similar to the Keris's '7 Pa' of nominal metals: paku, parang, payung, puting, pahat, pedang, pemukul. These secret metals are forged together with other materials to add bisa (poison) to the blade.
The Hulu is made from the horn of a male Balau water buffalo (Kerbau) or a female water buffalo. It is claimed that powder scraped from the hulu can be applied to a Lading wound as first aid to staunch bleeding.
Lading players in history
According to Silat Cekak lore, the famous Panglima (War generals) of Kedah wielded these Ladings into battle. The most well-known among them are Panglima Ismail and Panglima Tok Rashid.
This claim is corroborated by Pak Guru Sani Zainol Abidin of Silat Kuntau Tekpi, who is the direct descendant of Panglima Taib, of the Baling district in Kedah. He says that the Lading is a favoured weapon among the Panglima of the period between 1804 and 1879.
How to get one?
The Lading is granted by the Guru Utama (Principal) only to those who have contributed much within Cekak (currently represented by two organisations, Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Malaysia and Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Ustaz Hanafi Malaysia).
This tradition is said to have been carried over from Kedah, when the Lading Berambu was given to honoured Panglima by the Sultan.
Similar Lading uses
Aside from Silat Cekak, the Lading also exists as an optional weapon for Silat Kalimah, which according to Pak Guru Zuhdi Mat Yusof (guru utama of Persatuan Seni Silat Kalimah Yahya Said), is used in alternating reverse and forward grips, unheard of in Cekak.
The Lading belonging to Panglima Tok Rashid, a common ancestor in both Silat Cekak and Silat Kalimah lineages is now kept in the safekeeping of the leadership of Silat Kalimah.
The Lading is also part of the arsenal of Silat Kuntau Tekpi which, other than its normalised weapon, the Tekpi, also teaches various common and uncommon traditional weapons such as the Keris, Rantai (chain), Cindai, Tongkat and many more.
Mahaguru of Silat Harimau Bentara Garang, Pak Jaafar also reports that the Lading can be used as a stabbing weapon, using the sharp triangle tip to penetrate straight to the heart.