31 January 2008

"Malay Dancers 1928" Postcard

The postcard pictured above was taken from the Malaya: 500 Early Postcards exhibition currently being held in Badan Warisan Malaysia, No. 2 Jalan Stonor in Kuala Lumpur.

I was honoured yesterday by an invitation to the launching of Prof Cheah Jin Seng's book of the same name which showcased in full colour 500 postcards from his personal collection displaying life in Malaya before Merdeka. The book and exhibition was launched by Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji, President of Badan Warisan Malaysia.

The postcard read 'Malay Dancers' and was issued in 1928. The caption describes two Malay men performing silat to the music played by three musicians. This postcard was among 150 original postcards being displayed.

The event was organised by Editions Didier Millet Malaysia, who also publishes the Encyclopedia of Malaysia. Volume 16: Sports and Recreation is due to be launched this year and includes an article on Silat Melayu written by Anwar Wahab and Ramzi Ramli and yours truly.


To visit the exhibition, go to Badan Warisan Malaysia, No. 2, Jalan Stonor, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The exhibition is open Mondays to Saturdays, 10am to 5.30pm from 30 Jan to 23 Feb 2008 (public holidays closed). For more information, go to http://www.badanwarisan.org.my

For more information on the book, visit http://www.edmbooks.com/index.php/main/book/181

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

30 January 2008

Final fight: When Hang Tuah killed Hang Jebat

Below is the story of how Hang Tuah killed his brother in arms, Hang Jebat. The account is difficult to verify, but many Melayu believe in the story implicitly. There are several variants to the tale, but I've selected the most popular one and provided video links to how several movies portrayed the battle. Salam persilatan.

The Story
Hang Jebat was the closest companion of the legendary Melayu hero Hang Tuah. He is well known for his vengeful rebellion against the Sultan of Melaka whom he served.

After Hang Tuah was sentenced to death, Hang Jebat was conferred by the Sultan of Melaka with the Taming Sari, a sacred keris formerly used by Hang Tuah. Believing that Hang Tuah was unjustly murdered by the Sultan he served, Hang Jebat turned against the Sultan to avenge his friend's death. No one knew, however, except the Bendahara who went against the Sultan's orders and hid Hang Tuah in a remote region of Malacca that he was still alive.

With the keris in his possession, Hang Jebat became invincible and there was not one person in the entire Melaka Empire who was capable of killing him. Hang Jebat's revenge had forced the Sultan of Melaka to abandon his palace. Jebat seduced the women of the palace and spent his days eating, drinking and sporting with them.

All the warriors sent by the Sultan to challenge him were killed.Even his friend Hang Kasturi was driven out when Hang Jebat realized that the other man hadn't come to join him in merrymaking.

After learning from the Bendahara that Hang Tuah was still alive, The Sultan had him recall Hang Tuah and gave Hang Tuah full amnesty. The Sultan then ordered Hang Tuah to kill Hang Jebat. Being unquestioningly loyal to the Sultan, Hang Tuah obeyed the Sultan's biddings and went on to challenge Hang Jebat.

After fighting in a battle that lasted for seven days, Hang Tuah eventually managed to reclaim the Taming Sari by tricking Hang Jebat. Although stabbed by Tuah, Hang Jebat bandaged his wounds and ran amuk in the city square for three days, killing thousands of people before retreating to Tuah's house and dying in his friend's arms.

Hang Jebat's famous quote was "Raja adil raja disembah, raja zalim raja disanggah" which literally means "A fair king is a king to obey, a cruel king is a king to fight against".

After the fight, The Sultan ordered his men to tear down, burn and throw the ashes of the house into the sea. Two months later, when a lady of the Bendahara's retinue gave birth to Jebat's son, the sultan ordered Hang Tuah to throw the baby into the sea as well. Instead, the laksamana entrusted the child, Hang Kadim, to the Bendahara.

Right now, most of the people agree that Hang Jebat was actually a very good man that put his friends first before him especially Hang Tuah as he treat Hang Tuah more like a brother and not just a friend.

Furthermore, in the story Hang Tuah was sentenced to death because he was accused of having affair with the royal servants which is forbidden at that time. Because of that he purposely seduced the woman of the palace. He stand because of his friends and he died on his friend's hand.

Sourced from Wikipedia

The Movies

1. "Hang Tuah"



2. "Hang Jebat"






3. "Tuah"



29 January 2008

Keeping the Keris alive

Scents are out of place in the cool, antiseptic air of museums. But until the end of this month, Muzium Sultan Alam Shah in Shah Alam will remain the exception. Visitors entering its Weaponry in the Malay World exhibition will notice a wraith-like emanation from aromatic oils and incense.

Follow your nose and you'll stumble across a re-enactment of the keris cleansing ritual, one of the very few times in decades such an ancient courtly rite is performed before the public. Comfortably stationed on a small dais, a man clad in black baju melayu and the blangkon, a Jawa head dress, bathes a keris blade in a small wooden trough.

He then dries the blade over hot coals placed in a small incense burner. He also introduces father and son Syed Hussain AlJunied and Syed Abu Bakar, who are showcasing their own collection of Melayu weapons alongside those owned by the museum.

Syed Abu Bakar says that even today, many Melayu families pass down the odd keris or badik, a dagger originating from Makasar, as family heirlooms, with bits of family lore attached to the weapon. A connoisseur can trace a family's origins by studying the weapon's fittings and details, which differs in every region of the archipelago.

"I can tell more about the family history and ancestors from the weapon than what the owners know themselves. It's just a matter of experience and exposure," he says.

Keris made in the Melayu peninsula for example, often carry a birdlike hilt called the jawa demam, while those from Jawa are smooth elongated affairs, with small carvings called patra. The gradual loss of knowledge about the keris, he believes, was caused partly by the long period of colonisation in the region, and the belief that traditions connected to the weapon were somehow unIslamic.

Some of these misconceptions were instilled by Western scholars during the colonial era, he says, in an attempt to disarm indigenous peoples under their rule. Though Western scholars were also responsible for the extensive body of knowledge on the keris and other Melayu weapons, they were not immune from arriving at wrong conclusions in their scholarship.

For example, Europeans had branded the keris as a cowardly weapon, as the blade was said to be laced with warangan or arsenic, a substance used in its cleaning ritual.

"Arsenic is not like snake venom, which attacks the heart. It attacks the stomach and the intestines, so the victim dies a slow death as he practically explodes from within. So if the poison used is intended to kill, then it would have been better for the Melayu to use the Ipoh sap used by the Orang Asli in their blowpipes," he says.

He explains that the warangan, obtained through the complex process of mining, is used to raise the pamor or damascene pattern, which looks like silvery whirls and spirals on the black surface of the keris.

It is ironic, then, that Westerners today are working hand in hand with locals to preserve the art of keris-making and other fading traditions in the Melayu archipelago. More than half of the available references on the keris are published in the West, with only a handful written in Bahasa Indonesia.

"It is not too late," says Syed Abu Bakar. "It is just sad that interest is coming mainly from the West. They were the ones who diminished this (knowledge of the keris) yet they are the ones who are showing interest now."

He refutes the idea that Islam frowns upon traditions linked to the keris and its mystical aspects. "Just look at Islamic history. First, who were the people who spread Islam in Jawa? They were Wali Songo (the nine saints). The downfall of Majapahit was because of them, because of the spread of Islam. And if you read the history of Wali Songo you will find that they all carried the keris."

He also sought to correct the misconception that Islam hinders creative expression, especially in the arts related to keris-making. Instead, the coming of Islam actually gave fresh impetus for the craftsmen involved in the making of the keris and its fittings.

Gesturing to a selection of ornate hilts from the island of Madura, Syed Abu Bakar explains how Islam's ban on the portrayal of human forms encouraged hilt carvers to incorporate abstract forms and motives.

In the pre-Islamic days, keris hilts were carved in the humanlike form of Hindu deities, which was replaced later with semi-abstract forms, such as the jawa demam.

"With the coming of Islam, the craftsmen had to adapt, though they retained certain forms. You can see that in some hilts, the humanlike shapes are not carved directly. This is replaced, for example, by flower motives. They became more creative and innovative to adapt to Islam," he says.

He also explains that the mysticism related to the keris, a major source of misunderstanding, is all very practical. It actually has less to do with fighting and more with commemorating important milestones in a person's life. In the past, people acquired a new keris every time an important event took place, such as puberty, marriage and the acquisition of property.

"When a person reached puberty, the father would approach an empu (master smith) to commission the first keris, giving details of the child's age and characteristics. The gift of the keris is not to encourage him to fight but to instil a sense of responsibility, as the keris is the first thing he will be responsible for," says Syed Abu Bakar.

Though the keris is no longer used as a weapon in close combat or as a talismanic heirloom, there is still hope for its future. In addition to his gallery in Singapore, Syed Abu Bakar has established an online storefront to market the keris. He is also in the process of establishing an online database on the keris and other Melayu weapons to share the knowledge with everyone - from connoiseurs to novices. The gallery also organises an annual keris cleansing ritual in the Muslim month of Muharram.

"The fear factor has to be erased," he says. "If people fear (the keris) for all the wrong reasons, how are they going to be interested?"

The two Syeds left to attend to another crowd of curious visitors, unsheathing an impressive Jawa keris featuring a pattern of two nagas, or mythical serpents, chased on its blade in gold leaf. As visitors step into the Shah Alam sunlight from the museum's cavernous halls, they will carry with them the mysterious scents of cendana oil and setanggi clinging to their garments.

By Fazli Ibrahim
Sourced from New Straits Times
Originally published 16 Sept 2002

28 January 2008

21 Strangest Search Terms on Silat Melayu: The Blog

I was browsing through my statistics monitor for this blog just to see the range of visitors I'm getting (yes, that means you!), and aside from those friends (you guys) who return to this blog once in awhile (some of you, every day! I get sms's and emails like this "Oi! Tak update ke?" and "Are you dead?") and those of you who find it for the first time through a search engine.
I was quite amused to see some of the search terms that brought our newbie friends here. Some were curious, others were downright silly. It tells me however, due to the specificity of the search terms, some of their questions are not answered in my blog.
So, what I'll do today is, I'm going to address some of these questions in my 21 Strangest Search Terms on Silat Melayu: The Blog list (it's the end of the month, and my salary hasn't cleared yet. So sue me). Take it away!
No. 21: "keris datuk bahaman"
The late Pahang freedom fighter Datuk Bahaman, originally from Negeri Sembilan owned many a keris in his lifetime. Along the way, before he passed on, he actually entrusted several of them to different people. Now, these keris are reappearing, claiming to the Keris of Datuk Bahaman, with some people denying each others' claims.
According to guru Mustapha Kamal of Silat Seni Gayong, all of their claims might actually be true, since he holds in his possession one of those keris, entrusted to his late grandmother, a former nursemaid of Datuk Bahaman.
No. 20: "lian padukan schools in ill"
I'm unsure if this means that there are some unwell LianPadukan schools or someone was looking for one in Illinois. From what I know, there are no LianPadukan schools outside of Malaysia other than the one run in the UK by cikgu Nigel Sutton.
No. 19: "how to make a hidden hand blade weapon"
Making a weapon, especially a bladed one is tricky when you have no smithing knowledge. I assumed that the searcher was already well-versed with smithing, and just wanted to see if he could make one anyway. Amongst Melayu weapons, three handhelds stand out as being quite hideable.
The first is the ever loveable Lawi Ayam, or Kerambit (and her variant sisters), the Kapak Kecil or Kapak Lidi as I like to call it and the miniature Badik. To make a Lawi Ayam, most smiths I know use excess steel or iron cut off from other weapons during their making, so most of the smithing has already been done (besides, it's difficult to smith something that small and not lose any more metal). It just has to be bent or filed into shape. This is also true of a Badik.
A Kapak Lidi, however, is mostly created from scratch and is popular in Kelantan as a streetfighting weapon. The handle is about one jengkal in length and usually made of Bertam wood (Poknik correct me if I'm mistaken).
No. 18: "books on lian padukan"
Not yet, I'm afraid, but I do know that one is in progress, to be written by Cikgu Yazid Abdul Rani.
No. 17: "persatuan seni silat gayong maarifat malaysia"
I was acquainted with the founder of this style, Ustaz Azam when I served with SENI BELADIRI several years ago. There's not much I can tell you about the style other than it's from Pahang and incorporates a lot of Minang style silat into its physical syllabus. To find out more about them, visit these sites:
No. 16: "human weapon history channel critics"
Well, if you google that, then you'll definitely get a lot of hits.
No. 15: "silat abjad videos"
There's no point looking for this, because there are none currently, especially since, in my opinion, 'Silat' Abjad can't be represented by a physical silat style, even though they have a physical syllabus (recent innovation). But originally, Silat Abjad was founded as an umbrella body to assist other perguruan (including non-silat) to realign their teachings to Islam.
No. 14: "silat batin gerak ilham"
'Gerak Ilham' is a term used both as a general term and a specific name for particular silat styles. Gerak Ilham Malaysia currently exists as an organisation in Malaysia while another Gerak Ilham exists in the UK and Sulawesi as an umbrella body to preserve traditional Bugis silat.
No. 13: "good riddance indonesian"
Hmmmm... wonder what this is about?
No. 12: "sabil sri indera sakti"
Silat Sabil Sri Indera Sakti is a silat style founded by Tok Guru Nurul Zaman A. Adam of Kuala Kangsar, Perak. Having previously studied other silat styles, guru Nurul Zaman felt incomplete. He performed salat hajat (prayer for specific needs) and implored that Allah give him a superior silat style.
This was inspired to him in the form of encapsulated 'petua' which can be applied in all forms of combat and styles. He has been teaching it since the 1970s. The most unique aspect of this style is that it takes only 3 hours to learn! For more information, visit http://www.geocities.com/silatsabilsis/
No. 11: "gayung ghaib"
For information on this style, visit http://www.geocities.com/silat_art81/newweb.htm
No. 10: "djinn idrus islam"
Oh for goodness sake! This isn't the blog for it!
http://youtube.com/watch?v=dvPBVwSPw68
No. 9: "tekpi perang"
The Tekpi Perang is what guru Jamaludin Shahadan terms the style of tekpi used by Bugis warriors in battle. From his description, the warrios employ double tekpi with one tekpi either possessing a sharp blade or a Mata Belimbing (Starfruit blade). The hand holding this weapon will also be sheathed in a leather gauntlet to protect the wearer.
No. 8: "human weapon arrogant"
Hey! That's not nice!
No. 7: "human weapon fight quest difference"
I'm still waiting for a download link to get the Fight Quest Pencak Silat episode before I can write that comparative review. Mr Hulk? Anything yet?
No. 6: "silat 21 hari"
I haven't come across any silat of thise description. Although you could probably study Silat Cekak one buah at a time for 21 days, I don't think this is what the searcher was looking for. Either that or a longer version of Pukulan 7 Hari.
No. 5: "describe the duel between hang tuah and hang jebat"
Read the blog post above this one.
No. 4: "silat lian yunan"
In Peninsula Malaysia there are generally three lineages that claim to come from Yunan: The Buah Pukul group (Buah Pukul Mersing, Buah Pukul Endau, Gayang Lima, LianPadukan, Silat Awang Daik, etc) in the South, Silat To' Perpat Panglima Hitam on the East Coast and Lian Yunan in Klang, Selangor.
The first group claims lineage through a trader named Abdul Rahman al-Yunani, while the second from a mysterious man named To' Perpat Panglima Hitam while the third claims lineage to the bodyguards of Puteri Hang Li Po who accompanied her from China.
No. 3: "guru besar jeff davidson"
Oh Jeff, you have a fan looking for you. Want to explain this?
No. 2: "orang minyak malaysia"
Yeah. Most of them work at PETRONAS.
and my No. 1 favourite: "how do we destroy orang minyak?"
Set them on fire!!!!
Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

27 January 2008

Fight Quest - Pencak Silat episode

Well, I did some searching and found the Fight Quest Pencak Silat episode on YouTube. This makes Human Weapon look like a Saturday morning cartoon. I'm still waiting for generous American friends to send me a copy of the episode.

I've arranged the YouTube clips in sequence of interest. Beware of the last one if you have no stomach for blood. Avoid it totally if your kids are watching!

Stomach conditioning (Ouch!)


Prepping for the fight


Tongue cutting (!) Not for kids and the weak of heart! You have been warned!

26 January 2008

Keris, Mystic Dagger of the Malay Archipelago


Today, I was privileged enough to be invited to attend a short talk by a good friend of mine, Fazli Ibrahim. Fazli is a passionate Keris collector and the Museums Volunteers Malaysia offered him a slot to train their members in some basic information about the Melayu weapon.

The Museums Volunteers Malaysia is a non-profit, non-governmental, non-policitical and non-religious group whose aims are to promote public and government awareness of museums, encourage and promote an appreciation and understanding of the cultures of Malaysia. It is hosted by Muzium Negara who supports and promotes the Museums Volunteers Malaysia projects and activities.

Fazli introduced the weapon to a group of volunteers made up of tour guides, professionals, retirees and housewives. He introduced them to the Keris, its origins, the various components and forging techniques.

He also elucidated on the form and functionality of the blade with a little demonstration. The cultural significance of the Keris was conveyed to the audience when Fazli donned a samping and tengkolok to show how the weapon is carried in formal dress.
Five keris from his personal collection were displayed to the audience, among them Melayu keris with the Pekakak and Tajung hulus.
Homage was also paid to Guru Sheikh Shamsuddin SM Salim of the United States Gayong Federation as his picture with Cikgu Joel Champ as chosen to represent the practical combative aspect of silat.

It's been awhile since I've been to the National Museum, but this visit was fun. Added to that is a discovery I made while surfing online today. I found this book on sale at the National Museums Department website, but was lacking information on its availability. It costs RM110 (softcover) and RM150 (hardcover). Definitely next on my list of must gets. Unless someone wants to buy it for me?

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

25 January 2008

Tipu Helah: The shameless trickery of Silat Melayu

Traditional Western civilization is governed by a sense of fairness and justice that astounds many Asians, especially since what they define as fair is often hardly so to a person of Melayu upbringing.

The idiom of the English challenge, the French duel and the American showdown clearly demonstrates the idea that a common usage of weapons or a lack of it determines the level of fairness in a particular fight. Therefore, the sheer audacity of a silat fighter who engages in trickery in a fight sickens many a Western fighter who deems such actions as signs of cowardice.

In fact, Silat Melayu was not the first to encounter such responses. Boxing, once the gentleman's art, influenced much of the fairplay ideas that were indoctrinated even at children's playgrounds; that kicking was 'fighting dirty'.

Imagine the shock then, when the Oriental kicking arts collided with this mentality. The fairplay bubble was burst. 'Fairplay' was revealed for what it really was; the stronger man's psychological cage for the smaller, shorter-reached kid in school.

Suddenly, everyone, even those bespectacled, massless weaklings could fight, because their legs could do more damage at a range that was controlled by the strong. What was worse, the former bullies had no idea how to defend against them. Decades rolled on and kicking was no longer considered fighting dirty but an elegant expression of the abilites of the human body. Then, Silat Melayu shows up and rocks their perceptions once again.

Not simply feints or fakes, the trickery of Silat Melayu goes beyond technique and delves into the realms of battle strategy, psychology and plain common sense. A man with a knife walks up to a potential victim, demanding money. The 'victim' begins shuddering and starts crying, telling his would-be assailant that he had just come to this country with nary a cent in his pocket and begs for pity.

For a split second, the assailant is overcome with confusion. He opens his mouth to speak. Suddenly, a 'seligi' appears from nowhere and cracks sickeningly against his adam's apple. The collision snaps his jaw shut, with his tongue between his teeth. Blood spurts everywhere and he goes down, out cold from the sheer shock of it all. Silently, the pesilat walks away. The reader's next response to the above will give him a good idea of where he stands on this issue.

A fairplay proponent (who has of course now accepted kicking as fair) would deem the 'victim's actions as unfair, but a trickery proponent would simply say that he had it coming to him. The fairplayer would say the assailant was about to let him go, but the trickster would remind him of the knife and his instigation of the incident. The fairplayer would ask if there was another way and the trickster would say, maybe, but that was probably the first to come to mind.

Since not all laws (including civil, Islamic, tribal, natural justice, etc) are similar and approach the topic differently, we shall leave legality out of this discussion.

Trickery in Silat Melayu is referred to as Tipu Helah (Tee-poo Hay-lah). Both words mean ruse or trick. However, their second meanings describe them better. Tipu also means deceive, fool, cheat or swindle[1]. It is a simplification of the phrase 'tindakan pusing' (turning around). Helah[2] also means excuse or pretext.

The tactics used in the concept of Tipu Helah vary from one style and one master to another. In fact, sometimes, it also varies in concept. Another word which is usually interchangeable with this is Muslihat, which means strategy or tactics.

This concept is not new, as many practitioners of traditional silat can attest. In fact, Draeger managed to breach the cultural wall and deliver a stunningly accurate description of the method (or mentality):

"Such a ruse is called a weak counterpart position and is on deceptive stances and movements. This weakness is always demonstrated openly and deliberately …. It is all decoy, a lure to bring in the enemy into a blind attack …. By such misjudgement … the attacker leaves holes in his defense and is subject to prompt and efficient counterattack".[3]

Although some masters frown upon deceiving the enemy, deeming it unethical; countless others practise it as a valid, if not defining part of Silat Melayu. The problem lies in three complications: What constitutes Tipu Helah? When can Tipu Helah be applied? and How far can you be allowed to use Tipu Helah?

In my opinion, the answer to the second and third questions, exist in the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him and His Household) that states: 'Narrated (Abu Huraira) radhi Allahu 'anhu, Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam named War: Deceit.[4]

As represented by the succint definition, trickery is permissible only once a state of war is declared between two factions. Therefore, only once war has been declared over, the danger is past and the threat is gone. So does the validity of Tipu Helah disappear. Outside of war, the Muslim is forbidden from such underhanded tactics. However, Silat Melayu takes it a step further.

Modern Malaysia is governed by enforced laws and is protected by police and armed forces with licences to kill. But the Melayu people of the past didn't have these immediate luxuries (and a telephone number to call them with).

What they did have was the immutable Islamic Law which gave permission for lethal methods to be used against invaders of security and privacy[5]. They lived in villages in standalone wooden houses with no immediate neighbours. Taking into account that one is obliged to defend oneself, one's family and one's religion, it only makes sense that any incursion into these areas would be considered personal acts of war.

However, there is another factor to be taken into account: the level playing field. In war, trickery is considered a battle tactic to deprive the enemy of their obvious superiority, be it their strength, their supplies, their morale, etc. To engage them without applying this tactic is to invite death.

When two unarmed men face off, the fairplayer will nod agreeably, but the trickster will note that although the one man is smaller in size, but he has trained in the combat arts for 20 years while the other, larger man has no fighting experience whatsoever. Or one is healthy while the other is running a fever. Or one has his back against the sun while the other is blinded and so on.

The truth is, there is no such thing as a level playing field and one man will always have the advantage. It is a life and death situation. There can't be rules. Therefore, trickery comes into play.

To answer the first question, Tipu Helah exists and can be executed on many different planes. A physical level, a tactical level, a strategic level or even a psychological level. There are definitely more but we shall limit the discussion to these few. For reasons of secrecy, the author shall only describe the tricks themselves without revealing the particular silat styles which employ them.

On a physical level, the methods of silat seem similar to the feints, fakes, ruses and baiting of other martial arts. However, these take very specialised forms and in actuality describe a mentality and not specific techniques.

A common method is called Jual Beli[6], literally Selling and Buying. Taken from the obvious reference to trade, the defender does the ‘selling’ while the attacker does the ‘buying’. These terms are also commonly used in the favourite Melayu pastime of dialogue rhyming called pantun.

Four stanza rhymes are used in everything from marriage proposals to trade to war introductions, akin to the Arab love of syair. The initiator ‘sells’ a rhyme and the responder has to create a rhyming and witty response in the shortest time possible[7].

In silat however, the ‘selling’ is done by creating the impression of weakness such as imbalance, open targets, misses, etc. The attacker sees his opportunity to ‘buy’ a win for a ‘cheap’ price. Unfortunately, often he ends up paying dearly for misjudging the auction. Some of these Jual Beli are obvious (in fact, to those in the know, are veritable red traffic lights), while others are not.

A particular high-stance Kedah style is said to dumbfound its Siamese counterpart for lack of a stance for them to climb and deliver their favourite head kicks; while another curiously awaits his enemy’s attack by looking away, which could either mean providence or problem for the attacker.

On a tactical level, there are many methods available, most of which could be cross-categorised as psychological. The most common method is Redirection, familiar in the West as the 'Look There, What's That' tactic.

Pesilat trained in this would usually use the Anchors described in methods such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). One master showed the author one particularly effective one that stops most people in their tracks (provided they're not expecting it).

When an opponent lunges to attack, the defender steps backward and with his best expression of fear on, lowers slightly and hunches his shoulders with his arms raised, palms facing forward at forehead level and cries sharply, "Wait!" (In Bahasa Melayu, this expression would be 'Opp!' Which can be used for anything from stopping a car from backing up to telling a bus driver to slow down because he left you behind).

For a split second, the attacker hesitates; and any good martial artist will tell you that that is all the time in the world. The bent elbows protect the ribs from any stray strikes while the attacking possibilities are endless. However, the most common follow through is a heel palm strike to the nose, followed by a rapid barrage of choice widow makers. Unfair? Definitely. But it wins the fight.

Strategy is differentiated from tactics as an overall battle plan that involves larger components over a longer period of time. One strategy was used by a famous Panglima in the past to capture a rogue from among his ranks. The Sultan had ordered the rebel apprehended, but the tasked Panglimas was unable to carry it out since they were too evenly matched.

The fight lasted for several days, with gentlemanly breaks in between for rest and refreshment. Sensing an unfavourable result, the Panglima plotted with the owner of the stall they ate at to pepper the rebel's food with opium. As expected, he performed badly in the next installment of their exchange and was duly captured and summarily executed.

Emotions are a large part of a fighter's baggage. It can be either a resource or a liability. The trickster pesilat turns his opponent's emotions against him. A few years ago, one silat founder demonstrated a particularly dastardly psychological method to me. When an opponent is intent on hurting the 'victim', using 'seni lidah' (art of speech), he confidently calms the opponent down, convincing him that he's mistaken in his assumptions. If he succeeds in converting the enemy to a friend, then it ends there.

But if the opponent begins to show signs of a hostile relapse, then the 'victim' attacks, savagely! What happened was, as the opponent's adrenaline rush dropped dramatically, the 'victim', no longer off guard, had time to prepare and like a coiled spring, awaited his opportunity.

The silat founder described it thus, "When he is committed to attack, we reduce his semangat (spirit) by 80%. Then, our 100% semangat can overpower the remaining 20%". His numbers were, of course, arbitrary, but descriptive.

There are many tricks up the pesilat’s sleeve which ensures that the playing field is leveled and that he returns to his family at the end of the day. Honour may be interpreted differently among these people, but whatever it takes to win a lopsided battle, they are sure to use it.

So the next time you see a silat practitioner dance for you, look for clues to his repertoire of trickery: a crouch to touch the ground, a cheeky smile, a worried look, a deliberate fall, be careful. Sand in your eyes might not be the worst of your problems once the shameless silat man is done with you.

_________________________________
[1] Daud Baharum, An Illustrated Malay-English Dictionary, Agensi
Penerbitan Nusantara, Kuala Lumpur, 1989.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Donn F. Draeger, Weapons and Fighting Arts of the Indonesian
Archipelago, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc, Tokyo, 1972, p170.
[4] M. M. Khan (tr.), Summarized Sahih Bukhari, Maktba-Dar-Us-Salam,
Riyadh, 1994, Hadith No. 1298, p615.
[5] Ibid, Hadith No. 2060, p968
[6] Azlan Ghanie, "Untungnya Menjual", Seni Beladiri (Oct 2002), pp40-
41. [The article title translates as the Profit of Selling].
[7] Mohd Yusof Md. Nor, A.R. Kaeh, Puisi Melayu Tradisi, Penerbit Fajar
Bakti Sdn Bhd, Kuala Lumpur, 1993, p.xvii


Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

23 January 2008

Good riddance Human Weapon, hello Fight Quest

Watching great martial arts action in the movies can be a thrilling and inspiring experience yet there remains a disconnect between what looks good on screen and what the human body can really dish out and receive in real life.

Bridging that gap is FIGHT QUEST, the latest reality martial arts series to hit cable, where two willing participants travel the world to experience the pain of real martial arts training and sparring for our pleasure.

FIGHT QUEST is similar to another martial arts reality series called HUMAN WEAPON. Both have two hosts learning new moves from various martial arts disciplines to be used competitively in the ring.

The difference is that in FIGHT QUEST hosts Doug Anderson and Jimmy Smith take it a step further by being fully immersed in the culture and fighting style they are focused on. Each man training with a different master, they take that brief experience and attempt to apply what they have learned by competing with a different local opponent.

The fighting arts explored are varied and intensive. The first few episodes, which began airing on The Discovery Channel in December, include wushu and sanda in China, Kali knife and stick fighting in the Philippines and Kyokushin karate in Japan.

Although Doug and Jimmy have their own backgrounds in martial arts, they are challenged to apply themselves exclusively to these specific fighting arts and so far it doesn’t look like their instructors are holding back much if at all. Clips available on the official web site show them getting choked out, knocked practically unconscious, pummeled mercilessly, and pushed to their physical limits of endurance and pain tolerance.

One of the biggest challenges that stunt actors like Wu Jing face is trying to control their attacks so that their onscreen opponents are not hurt or even hit at all. There is no such quarter given for real martial arts training in preparation for full-contact sparring. Without the fortitude and endurance to take a beating, all those fancy moves go to waste.

This is where the FIGHT QUEST hosts almost seem like masochists because there is no time to master a fighting art but plenty of time to get bruised and bloodied while being schooled on the rudiments of a combat system that’s new to them.

Doug Anderson is a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran with experience in Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Western boxing. Jimmy is a veteran of professional mixed martial arts with five wins under his belt. He also has a background in Jiu-Jitsu. These guys are obviously no creampuffs and yet the show constantly puts them in compromising situations that leaves them winded, stunned or wincing in pain.

For viewers, FIGHT QUEST provides a great opportunity to preview different martial arts styles from practice to application. There is a limit to how much can be shown, either by lack of time or because of the severity of the traditions associated with a martial art.

In a scene that couldn’t be shown on TV, Doug uneasily witnesses black magic traditions associated with Pencat Silat in a rural village of Bandung, Indonesia. A practitioner begins slicing his tongue with a sword as a show of pain tolerance. While that’s taking martial arts way beyond practical application, the hosts still allow themselves to be subjected to some less extreme exhibitions such as having bricks stacked on Jimmy’s chest and smashed with a sledgehammer.

Beyond the entertainment value, FIGHT QUEST, like martial arts movies, provides yet another accessible window into different cultures around the world and how each culture has adapted universal methods of fighting into unique and sometimes spiritual martial arts.

In a TV landscape filled with reality programs about dating, makeovers and 15-minute celebrities, it’s a welcome sight to see martial arts from around the world given an opportunity to be exposed to viewers in all its rugged and pain-induced glory.

FIGHT QUEST currently airs weekly on The Discovery Channel. Hopefully, those of us without cable or satellite service will be able to eventually download episodes from iTunes or similar online services.

Sourced from http://www.kungfucinema.com/?p=1202

Fight Quest official website http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/fight-quest/fight-quest.html

Fight Quest Pencak Silat Episode details:
PENCAK SILAT
Location: Bandung, Indonesia
Masters: Rita Suwanda/Dadang Gunawan
Features: Hands, feet, throws, weapons
Premiere: Jan. 25, 2008 (Hey! That's 2 days away! Somebody watch it for me and give me a review! Jeff? You got cable?)

21 January 2008

'To Do Silat' or not 'To Do Silat'?

When the eminent hoplologist, sensei Donn F. Draeger became interested in the martial arts of the Malay Archipelago, he began a trend that would snowball faster and faster past the turn of the century.

From being a virtual unknown, now the South East Asian combat arts have become a quirky member of Western martial arts circles, often spoken of in awe (from Draeger's claim that Silat is the world's deadliest martial art), derision and confusion.

Even among silat stylists, there often happen disagreements as to particular natures of silat. This is largely due to many of them taking their masters' words as gospel.

It is unfortunate that some adherents of silat misunderstand or misconceive what their teachers actually said and because of cultural filtering and noise, often misrepresent a particular art.

This is not aimed at any one group in particular, but to illustrate that it is not an isolated occurence. Even amongst Malaysian born pesilat, there exists gross miscommunication between master and student; student and public, even when they meet almost every day.

This article then, is an attempt to clarify and hopefully correct, with evidence and support, many of the misconceptions non-Malay or non-Asians have of Silat Melayu. Meaning, I can only purport to speak about the Malaysian aspects of these cultural concepts.

Firstly, of course, is the all time favourite, Bersilat. There is no such noun. It is a verb. Is this enough to convince the thousands of people out there? Maybe not.

Malaysia may seem homogenous to the outsider, but it is not as apparent to Malaysians. 'Melayu culture' in Malaysia may mean Northern (Perlis, Kedah, Pulau Pinang), Minang (Negeri Sembilan), Bugis (Johor, Selangor), Sunda (Johor, Selangor), East Coast (Kelantan, Terengganu), etc, etc.

There is no one definitive Melayu culture, although they have similar characteristics. The Bugis and the Sunda are decidedly more confrontational whereas the Minang are considered the more diplomatic between the two.

Interestingly, these blanket descriptions also show up in their rituals, choice of weapons, fighting styles and social expressions. The Bugis are well known for brutal, hard and fast combat styles which persist in the forms of Silat Seni Gayong and Seni Silat Sendeng.

This is in contrast to the aesthetically pleasing Sumatran-sourced arts of Seni Gayung Fatani, Silat Pulut, Silat Jawi and others (disclaimer: definitely not a comparison between their efficacy!).

The word ‘silat’ is generally accepted to be in wide usage in the northern region of the Melayu Archipelago which includes Acheh, Kedah and Patani while the East Coast of Malaysia utilise the term ‘gayung’ whereas other areas where the Sunda eventually settled, the word ‘pencak’ came into popular usage. In Johor, the term Buah Pukul is used to describe the Johorean strain of a Yunanese (Chinese) art called Lian.

It is unclear to me when the catch all term ‘silat’ began to be used to describe the Malaysian Malay Martial Arts (M3A). However, it seems that this gained momentum in the late 1950s and 1960s when most of our political leaders hailed from the North who often referred to Silat Melayu in their vernacular.

Add this to the fact that all four of the founding members of the Malaysian National Silat Federation (PESAKA) hail primarily from the northern states of Pulau Pinang, Kedah and Perak and you’re left with little choice regarding what to call your style in public.

(Silat Cekak – Kedah, Silat Seni Gayong – Perak, Silat Lincah – Pulau Pinang, Seni Gayung Fatani – Kedah)

Not all masters accepted this change totally and adopted the term only for identification purposes. For instance, Seni Gayung Fatani is often mistakenly called Silat Gayung Fatani and Silat Seni Gayong called Silat Gayong. To do so would create redundancy (silat silat fatani). This is like the English phrase ‘Rice Paddy Field’ when ‘padi’ in Malay already means rice.

In the same manner, Kegayungan Acheh Helang Putih is often simply referred to as Silat Helang Putih. No one really bats an eyelid anymore about this distinction, especially among the unknowing youth.

Thus we come to the misnomer Bersilat itself. The prefix ‘ber-‘ in Bahasa Melayu creates verbs from nouns. However, it is unique in that it refers to a state of being rather than an action.

When someone asks, ‘Where did he go?’ and the answer is ‘Dia pergi bersilat’ it means he went to practice silat, doing silat. In English, it is often translated as ‘to do silat’. The form that most people in the West think of is the gerund ‘Silating’, or ‘Menyilatkan’ (with accompanying prefix and suffix) which doesn’t exist in popular usage because then the next phrase would have to describe who is being ‘Silated’ by the ‘Silater’. It’s just not done that way.

In any case, from Kedah to Sabah, to Sulawesi, it has now become a well-known term and is an accepted description of the Melayu martial arts.

Although sensei Draeger’s texts are deemed authoritative (to the extent O’ong Maryono had to apologise when we brought up the fact that he included the ‘bersilat’ mistake in his book when referencing Draeger), but I hope that this brief explanation will put an end to any more repetition of this matter.

So the next time a Melayu man walks up to you and asks what martial art you practice, now you can avoid telling him that you do ‘to do silat’.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

16 January 2008

"Thou shalt not study another style"

Have you ever studied a silat style, or any martial art for that matter that has either a silent or stated injunction of this sort: "Thou shalt not study any other style"?

Interesting for me to note is that, I have experienced this at least twice in my studies, and neither of them were good. The perguruan come up with some reasons, which although valid to them, seem to make little sense to modern practitioners who want to cross train (re: the cross training articles posted here once upon a time).

Just as a general survey amongst blog readers:

  • What reasons did your perguruan give for such an injuction
  • Do you agree with them? Why?

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

14 January 2008

Keris bathing: A ritual steeped in tradition


For keris owners, the cleansing of the weapon, which symbolises pride and courage of the Malays, is an important ritual.

Usually held during Awal Muharram, the first day of the Muslim calendar, the cleansing ceremony sees people from near and far bringing their keris to cleansing centres for the experts to work on them. It is also an opportunity for owners to view an assortment of keris brought in for cleansing.

In Johor, the most established centre for the cleansing ceremony is Balai Seni Nusantara along Lido Beach in Johor Baru.

This year, over 100 people brought along their prized collections for the ceremony.

The ceremony usually starts with a silat performance, followed by the centre’s person-in-charge Syed Hussain Haroon blessing the experts with a keris.

The ceremony covers three stages.

First, dirt and oil is removed from the blade with a concoction of lime, mengkudu (a plant that has been extensively used in traditional medicine for centuries) and pineapple juice.

This is followed by dipping the keris into a pail of water filled with chopped pandan leaves. It is then dried with a hairdryer. Oil and perfume are finally applied to the keris, marking the end of the ceremony.

Keris collector, Zaid Zain, 42, said he goes to the centre regularly after taking up the hobby more than 10 years ago.

He now has 30 keris in his collection, some bought in Indonesia.“In the past, the keris was used as a talisman against pests in farms. It was usually buried.

“Today, it is displayed more as a collection. I like to collect keris, especially the old ones,” he said.One of Zaid’s favourite is a 500-year-old Indonesian keris bought five years ago for RM1,500.

He said the original owner of the keris was an Indonesian woman known as Sombro, who used it for protection during birth.

It is said that the value of a keris depends on its workmanship, the metal used, age, motif of the melted metal and the background of the maker.

A famous heirloom for Javanese people, in ancient times the keris represented manhood — a man was not considered a real man until he had a keris. The weapon is highly valued, treated and respected.

The keris is divided into two parts, the blade or wilah, and the scabbard or warangka, to protect the blade. In olden days, making the blade of a keris would take up to a year to complete. Only respectable Empu, or keris-makers, can make high-quality keris.

To prepare a keris, the Empu has to perform spiritual deeds like fasting, remaining awake for several days and nights, and meditation, among others. This is because the weapon is believed to contain a spiritual mission, which is dependent on the user of the keris. For instance, the weapon could be filled with spiritual beings to protect or help the keris owner.

12 January 2008

Objectives of learning silat

It has been acknowledged that among the common objectives of learning silat (my typical common objectives) are:

a) To defend - oneself, immediate family members, belongings, those in need and the nation in general.

b) Recreational/Sports & Self-Development (Physical and Mental)

c) perhaps - to delve into the mysteries and the unknowns whether they are of religious-related domains (i.e. Spiritual/Metaphysical) or simply crave for 'inner powers'.

In this century, internet has played an unquestionable role in promoting silat. Those who possesses keen interest in Silat can simply find abundance of information about them by one click in the search engines.

The good part about the internet in the context of silat promotion is that, the apprentice knows in advance what to be expected out of him/her such as the protocol between the master and the student and some form of brief explanation of what Silat is all about. (Example - is this article that Nadzrin speaks about giving some good tips or insight or overview of Silat)

Back to the common objectives of learning silat – factors (a) and (b) would always be the standard core reasons but factor (c) is usually initiated by certain strong influence that is related to the following:

a) Having watching movies or some stories or perhaps documentaries on television that are of silat and spiritual related aspects,

b) Knowing some friends or close relatives who somehow have demonstrated the 'spiritual forces/powers' that relates to silat.

c) Hearing stories about the 'mystical parts' of silat e.g. By God's Willing, you would be 'invulnerable' during the 'boiling oil bath' session.

d) Even, surprisingly, due to the urge to be 'recognized' in certain community in order not to be called some sort of 'weakling',

e) and the aspiration to become a 'new person' – usually from a 'bad guy' to a 'good guy'.

f) encouragement from close friends, relatives and even from parents who are silat practitioners themselves.

Whatever the reasons, I have discovered an interesting phenomenon, that for those who love challenges for the sake of both spiritual and physical strengths would always be the frontline in Silat. Nothing beats the awesome feeling of 'graduation'. It is when the practitioner feeling mixed excitement and nervousness at the same time.

“Can I pass or can't I?”

Of course, the 'level by level achievements' would really depends on the kind of silat that the practitioner is involved in. Most of the silats nowadays would produce their own modules to benchmark the performance and achievement but usually in the end, some masters would tell them that 'there is no ending in the journey of learning silat'.

In a way, it's like the conventional alma-mater graduation – the good lecturers would tell you 'to move on with life and be more matured or learning never ends.

Thanks Poknik for allowing me to post this as an article in my blog. I liked this article because it contrasted nicely with my rant in 'Monolog for a friend'.

11 January 2008

Monolog for a friend

The following article is lightly edited from a monolog I had with a friend online. He related to me a story about a student who disrespected his master and hurt his feelings. Because the person he hurt is also a personal friend of mine, we began talking about martial arts and society.

I eventually became passionate enough to just talk, not realising that all he was doing was listening. Since my words came out straight from my heart (meaning, spur of the moment), it is important for me to know that I am not mistaken in any of what I said. I share here my comments to him with all of you. Feel free to share your own opinions, or discuss my own.

A martial art is born out of necessity – survival – but later evolves into a social creature, and being a social creature, community comes first. The many over the individual. But the community has a responsibility to protect the individual.

So, in essence, both exist at the same time, protecting each other. This is what Allah’s Messenger Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) meant when he said that a community is like a ship. When you find that one of you is boring a hole into the hull – and it's obviously self desctructive – the community has to stop him.

But this isn't one way. It’s a two-way street. He also said that when one of the community makes a promise (for good) it is incumbent upon the whole community to help fulfill that promise. The community is as an organism. If you pinch the left thigh, the right thigh will feel it.

When you hurt someone, you are only hurting yourself.

Anyone who says that martial arts exists in a social vacuum needs a wake up call. When martial arts graduated from personal survival to a social activity it became the tools used to protect that community.

Thus, the power of martial arts is not in not getting struck by the enemy. It is in the knowledge that we substitute ourselves to be struck to protect those weaker than us. We sacrifice ourselves as Muslims, believers, soldiers, fathers and sons to ensure that whatever violence we commit, we did not inspire, but we reacted to defend against.

Let us be the objects of violence, rather than our wives and children. Thus, a protected community is a prosperous one. Without this in the mind of every Muslim, how can we safely and confidently worship Allah? When we are tried severely with being afraid of Allah's own creations?

No, martial arts don’t build communities but it helps protect those communities that build itself. In essence, it disciplines, dictates and drives our thoughts and actions to become those in service of the greater good. Not everyone on earth is cut out to be a martial artist, either in name, in body or in spirit. It is only those who have been given the power of protection or those who take in on themselves that deserve to.

Ours is not a community of war. It is a community of peace. But we are the skin that protects the organism that the Prophet calls the Ummah. You (and hopefully me) and everyone who has decided to learn this knowledge have a responsibility not to simply practise and get better in our own gyms and run seminars and such. But to become beacons to pass on this light to those who are weak to strengthen themselves, to protect themselves when we can’t against those who would influence our thoughts, our actions and our beliefs.

If someone ever puts down 'martial art' as a 'hobby' or 'pastime', I would say, there goes their whole studies down the drain. Do you call your wife a 'playmate'? You degrade her that way. Do you call your sword a toy?

If you deem your art a hobby, it will not be there to help you when you need it the most, because the knowledge will deem you a pastime of itself.

If you're serious about studying the martial arts, then you have to be serious about passing it on and serious about protecting the community from itself.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

10 January 2008

Buah, Born or Barakah: The Nurture, Nature and Gnosis of Silat

It is a standard scene. The student has come here to study silat. He harbours a personal goal in wanting to be able to defend himself. It may be for revenge, for protection, for self-development or simply for recreation.

He sees the other students milling about, talking about things other than martial arts until one of them becomes aware of the teacher approaching. He is the first to stand at attention followed by the others.

The teacher says a few words and indicates the beginning of the class. The students salute the teacher, their friends and begin training. Here, the commonality of this scene fractures into three separate realities.

In one reality, the teacher asks one of his students to strike him in the chest. One obligingly does and is met with an evasion and a parry, a strike to the vitals, usually just indicated, followed up with a lock or takedown.

The teacher then repeats it a few more times, ensuring they remember what they see. Once he is satisfied, he tells them to copy his exact movements and apply them on their partners. End of scene one.

In a second reality, the teacher has prepared his student for months in the field. The work he does on the farm has given him proficiency in his physique.

When he executes the wardance, it is something neither master nor student has seen before. It comes naturally to him, and yet, each blossoming of the hands and prancing of the feet are calculated, as if reacting to an unseen enemy.

Every angle is in his control, every imbalance correctable, every muscle in its proper place, every beat of the accompanying rhythm matched note for note. His movements are both pleasing to the eye and intoxicating to the self. End of scene two.

In a third reality, the teacher sits in front of his student and clasps his right hand, or recites some verses into a glass of water, which he drinks, or pats the small of his back, or, or, or... Almost immediately, the student feels empowered, as if his sinews have been charged by a battery. He is pit against a senior student and they fight.

He defends successfully against all his senior's attacks and manages to beat him back and wins the round. He has never studied a martial art before. End of scene three.

Three foreign students who come to Malaysia with the specific intention of studying Silat Melayu may get a shock of their lives when they meet each other at the airport to compare notes on their way home.

Each of them has trained in a different system with different methods and has been indoctrinated with a different idea of what silat is. None of them can comprehend what the other is rambling about because the methods they studied make no sense. Is this a familiar problem?

Impression, Expression, Activation
The truth is that all three methods are considered standard practise by many Melayu martial artists in Malaysia. Ironically, because of the often exclusiveness of major Silat Melayu styles in Malaysia, not many pesilat are aware of alternative training methods. That is, alternative to their own.

Impression Method
The Impression Method (IM), which is technique or buah-based, relies heavily on the impression of the syllabus upon the mind and physique of the student.

This involves the creation of standardised blocks of movement with a set beginning and an end. The student begins with nothing and is taught to mimic and act out the blocks and eventually string them together.

The key characteristics of this system is the initial rigidity of the process, the stressing of reflex as against analytical thought and the belief that a particular block of movements (often termed technique) are a result of strenuous research and is the best possible answer to a particular incursion.

Although the term ‘buah’ is also used to describe any strikeform that makes contact with the opponent, even if it isn’t a reflex action but a result of strategic analysis, most modern Malaysian Silat styles subscribe to this impression method to achieve immediate results.

The advantages are numerous. It keeps the student’s attention focused upon the apparent physical goals of silat: that is learning how to fight. It creates a realistic setting in which the student learns: reacting off a partner who is simulating violence.

It also allows for minimal supervision of a large group: several instructors could monitor a group of hundreds. It allows for training of large numbers of students in a short span and it also produces immediate results: The student usually apply the technique drilled into him almost immediately.

Disadvantages of IM
Unfortunately, there are two sides to every coin. A fighting-focused student usually shies away from the more esoteric aspects of the art such as ethics, responsibility, philosophy, religion, etc. Only a small percentage actually do find themselves interested in such topics and even less finally adopt it as an integral part of their worldview.

Secondly, a realistic setting doesn’t necessarily mean real. A reflex-conditioned fighter may find himself dealing with situations that were not inherent in his training. Since his analytical mind has already been trained to take a back seat to his reflexes, he may survive by sheer effort, but will rarely escape unscathed.

Thirdly, large group training creates minor mistakes and bad habits that unless attended to personally by a trained instructor (and not mass-produced carbon copy yes-men), could result in the ineffectiveness of the technique when applied combatively, or worse, muscular and ligament injury that will lead to permanent damage.

Fourthly, strict IM style training often mentally cages a student and teaches him to think within the box and rarely outside of it. This cuts off important avenues of creative and lateral thinking in problem solving. In combat, life or death hangs in the balance.

IM arts have been very popular in Malaysia because of their apparent systematic pedagogical style and are quite well represented among the major silat styles. Silat Seni Gayong[1], Silat Cekak and Silat Lincah are some of the better examples. Each of them has encountered the setbacks of the Impression Method and have compensated for them in their own ways.

For example, in Silat Cekak, after the initial memorisation and drilling of the standardised buah to completion, students are taken through a Skill Set. Unusual and sneaky attack styles are introduced, of which no standard answer was provided for in the syllabus. Students are guided to analyse the tools provided in the memorised buah and apply them in their unique fashion to counter these new threats[2].

Expression Method
Next is the Expression Method (EM). Counter to IM, the Expression Method seeks to draw personal ability out of the student and makes his thinking a large part of the development process.

Instead of forcing him to accept indoctrination, he is guided through several stages of empowerment, namely physical (re)education, attitude orientation, affinity identification, skill development and practical application.

Because of the unpredictability and delicate psychological processes involved, it can sometimes take years or a matter of months before any noticeable change can be observed. This training method can also be described as experience-guided learning. It is the hallmark of many traditional martial arts and to be fair, traditional education.

A fictional scene reflects this training orientation. A student who had come to study from a silat master was told he had to perform physical duties around his master’s home. The reason is often and justifiably so, that if the master was to devote time to training him, his energies couldn’t be put to sustaining his livelihood.

However, tending to the garden or performing menial tasks served a double purpose. It was meant to educate the student in physical efficiency. Not only would he be taught to swing a hoe properly – using minimal strength and maximum leverage – to reduce long term physical damage and increase work efficiency, he would obviously receive superb physical conditioning.

Going to the gym always ends up with no productivity and glistening muscles, but farmwork got you that and potatoes as well.

Doing work would eventually bore the young student and once in a while, for displaying patience, kindness, diligence – and other good qualities that the master would have deliberately inculcated within him – he would be rewarded with a lesson of empowerment.

The master then identifies the student’s strength in a particular area and develops him towards mastering that end. If his coordination leans toward high fighting, his skills would be developed in that direction.

If he seems comfortable on the ground, then ground fighting and so on. However, the student wouldn’t be forced into any direction, simply given the opportunity to develop.

Finally, the student is given the opportunity to see for himself what he has achieved. He is tested not for what he has learned from his master, but for what he has discovered about himself.

Thus, confidence-breakers such as wrestling with wild animals, engaging full-fledged masters of rival schools, jumping into pits full of sharpened bamboo or being buried alive ensure that the student brings not his master with him to his tests, but that he has all the tools already at hand. He just had to discover them with a little help.

Silat & Karate Kid?
Two very interesting examples of this traditional method come to mind. The first was told to the author. A student who wished to study silat was given farmwork to carry out[3].

However, the master didn’t teach him anything but used to hit him in the back of the head. When asked why, he replied that it was his own fault for not being wary.

Soon after, the student was sensitive enough to his surroundings to sense his master’s approach. After several sad attempts, he finally discovered the most effective and least painful way to parry his blows.

When the master was satisfied, he began throwing stones, requiring the student to master evasions. And so on, and so on.

Eventually, he developed his own martial art, not from being taught, but from guided self-discovery. As they say, necessity IS the mother of creation.

Another example is, ironically, a scene from the first Karate Kid movie when Miyagi sensei (played by the late Pat Morita) had tasked his impatient student Daniel with waxing his cars and painting his fence.

Not realizing what Miyagi sensei was doing, Daniel did what he was told, but in order to make the process smoother, naturalised the tasks with as little muscle inhibition as possible.

He interacted with the curves on the cars and the grains on the fence, until the movements became second nature to him. Yet, they were not combat moves. That is, until Miyagi sensei decoded them for him.

That sudden discovery led to others and the method of trying without trying was made clear to him, as to many other students of the traditional martial arts.

Natural University
Naturally, the advantages include a complete education that shapes and coordinates both aspects of the mind and body. A deepened understanding of the physical and psychological self rids one of muscular and mental inhibition, which could prove disastrous in combat situations.

It makes the adherent a master of himself and a student of none and frees his mind from mental barriers. He thinks in three dimensions and automatically chooses the path of least resistance and most profit.

Most of the students who study this way have an affinity for the esoteric and live their lives by the philosophy that they have been taught/ discovered.

Because of the understanding of his abilities, he is not tied down to one style of fighting, but adapts to the threat, irrespective of whether it comes from man or beast. In silat, this was eventually coded into the form of tari, bunga or kembangan. These flowing forms which have been compared to kata in effect educate the player about himself.

The degree is in Self-Discovery. His core courses are physics, biology, chemistry, biomechanics, balance and percussion while his elective courses are attitude adjustment, psychology, neurolinguistic programming and so on. When he graduates, it is with the ability to control himself. And self-control facilitates the control of others.

EM in Senaman
Today, this method is rarely used in the major silat styles but exist primarily in small, rural silat groups and one on one sessions. However, a modern method is currently practiced in Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 as founded by guru Azlan Ghanie.

The method, popularly known as Senaman Tua redefines silat tari and kembangan into static calisthenic exercises that seek to reeducate the physical culture of the human being[4].

Disadvantages of EM
Sadly, what was good for IM is not for EM. Training in this method could never produce a ready army on hand, nor can it create cohesion for lack of a solid common identity among students.

A student who is unaware of the process may even become bored, disenchanted and eventually leave his master for other 'greener' pastures. Because of the due attention a master has to provide, this also means groups larger than ten would be difficult to control or monitor.

Activation Method
The third method is the Activation Method (AM). Depending on who you speak to, this can be spiritual, supernatural or psychological in nature. However you want to label it, AM deals with the direct activation of hidden potential within the human being and can be carried out in a number of ways.

It begins with the assumption that every human being is imbued with innate potential for movement. They say, everyone is born with it.

Some call it Gerak (motion), Ibu Gerak (source of motion), Ibu Gayong (source of divine motion), al-Aql al-Awwal (the first mind), Barakah (divine gift), The First Principle, etc.

Whereas IM sought to mold the student to accept the art and EM sought to have the art developed by the student, AM simply bypasses the body and mind and goes straight to the soul and activates the ‘art’ from there.

Scientifically, there is no explanation. Some may try to wave it away as hypnosis, hoaxes or even plain delusion. Since this method is, at best, incredible, I shall proceed to only discuss those examples which have been documented.

In one instance, Ustaz Azam, the Khalifah Perang (War Caliph) of Persatuan Seni Silat Gayong Maarifat Malaysia claimed in an advertisement[5] that "By participating in this Gerak Laksamana course … the caliph/ caliph’s representative will open the door of your body’s ‘batin’ energy … in a short period you will be able to explore any form of silat … perform silat movements and master complex combat techniques".

The advert goes on to explain "It should be mentioned that this energy door is present in all human beings and all masters or practitioners of ilmu batin who are experts are able to open these batin doors within the human body".

"By mastering the knowledge of true internal energy which lies within the human being there is no need for requesting of assistance from jin[6] or other superstitious aspects".

Is the statement an oxymoron? Apparently, it isn’t for many Malaysians who took the advert in stride.

Another explanation is given by guru Abdul Karim Mat Shah[7] of Silat Semula Jadi (Natural Silat). According to him, silat (self-defence) is inherent knowledge in the self. It is present even in a baby who blinks when one attempts to touch his eyes.

The difference here lies is his attestation that training is a must. He stressed that without physical training, ‘natural’ motion cannot translate into movement. He describes the ‘natural’ motion akin to an electric shock.

"It’s like a flowing current… we can sense the enemy’s pulse (intent). We instinctively know his movement and can move anywhere (he goes)"."Silat Semula Jadi will only come to those who really want it to. It will seep into the body if it is really wanted. Within a month, it can be done, if it is really wanted," he repeats.

Islamic Activation?
However, these attempts at clarification often fog the issue and leave the devout Muslim scratching his head (not to mention the pronounced skeptics).

Ustaz Zainuddin Othman[8] of Silat Sendeng Nusantara, a religious teacher of sufistic background gives it a more Islamic spin.

In his explanation, he calls it Ibu Gayong."… in reality, Ibu Gayong is a secret of the soul that emanates from every human being, conferred by Allah to us, which is called reflective movement. In the sufi’s language, it is Al-‘Aql Al-Awwal, or the pure soul".

He gave the example of the Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH who wrestled two Arab wrestling champions, Al Aswad and Rukanah, and won.

"How did he win, when he wasn’t even an expert in wrestling? Clearly, he had stepped forward to prove that subscription to Allah’s strength is far more powerful than depending on one’s own … therefore, defensive reflective motion arose from his submission to Allah".

A more graphic and practical display was described by Ustaz Wan Kamarulzaman Wan Abdul Aziz[9], founder of Persilatan Gerak Suci Mangkubumi. When he first made known his intention of studying a silat style named Silat Gerakan Suci, the master guru Wan Asri initiated him with some H2O.

"He gave me a glass of water and immediately, I could extrapolate movements. But my movements were too fast, they were uncontrollable. It came quickly, just as when we first learn to drive a car, just as uncontrollable. After you get your licence, then you’ve mastered it," he quipped.

According to Ustaz Wan, this ‘motion’ exists in all human beings. It only has to be ‘activated’ so that it may be used consciously. He gives the example of reflexive movements that occur during sleep.

"Motion in this silat is a result of our supplications (to Allah) and our spiritual practices … in other silat, the physical is taught first, such as buah, kuncian and such, but in Gerakan Suci, the ‘gerak’ method is given priority".

"Initially, when I began teaching, I also favoured the ‘gerak’ method … but I noticed it wasn’t appropriate. The emanated movements depend on the practitioner. If he has studied silat before, his movements are beautiful".

"But, for those with no silat basics … pandemonium. Some just start rolling around. The silat movements are just rubbish. No artistry whatsoever … that is why … I began teaching the physical aspect first".

It may surprise many to know even though the three methods (IM, EM and AM) seem different, but many perguruan of the former two also subscribe to the AM concept, albeit later, much later in the training.

Sometimes, this is because of the situation that Ustaz Wan faced early on in his teaching career, others because it is considered the highest secret of their perguruan.

Personally, I have only experienced examples of IM and EM but have yet to sample AM. It would make an interesting article should it ever happen. In any case, all three methods, and more besides, exist in all Silat Melayu to a certain degree or other.

To be able to determine the extent of subscription, surveys have to be done on a case by case basis, and because of the secrecy surrounding most of these practices/ beliefs, it mostly has to be done by participative observation.

Whatever method you chose to train in, you’ll almost always have an interesting tale to tell your mates back home, of pain, ecstasy or pandemonium.
_________________________________
[1] Sheikh Shamsuddin S. M. Salim, The Malay Art of Self Defence: Silat Seni Gayong, North Atlantic Books, 2005.
[2] PSSCUHM, Silat Cekak Hanafi: Peneraju Warisan Mutlak, Kuala Lumpur.
[3] Mohd Zainudin Ismail, 2001.
[4] Senaman Tua VCD Vol 1, 2003.
[5] SENI BELADIRI April 2000, p59.
[6] Jin or Djinn, an Arab word used to classify all non-corporeal creatures which are not from the Angelic Hierarchy in Islamic theology.
[7] SENI BELADIRI February 2001, p8.
[8] SENI BELADIRI September 2002, pp7 and 17.
[9] SENI BELADIRI August 2002, pp7, 28 and 29.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

09 January 2008

Silat painting


Anyone interested in a Silat themed painting? I was strolling through IKANO Power Centre in Mutiara Damansara, PJ recently and found this on sale at Talens Frames. It costs RM680 and was painted by its resident artist.

08 January 2008

New Senaman Tua blog

In response to numerous emails and personal requests from fans and friends of Silat Melayu The Blog (SMTB), I have today established the Senaman Tua: Khazanah Kecergasan Melayu (STKKM) blog.

The blog will seek to do for Senaman Tua what SMTB and SMC has been trying to do for Silat Melayu. It will document the various aspects of Senaman Tua, its methods, cultural connections, history and tips related to Senaman Tua.

Unlike SMTB, STKKM will be written mostly in Bahasa Melayu with some English articles thrown in for good measure. For fans of SMTB, worry not, I have prepared several weeks' worth of articles for this blog which will be posted every day or every alternate day as normal.

For fans of Senaman Tua, please bookmark this site http://www.senamantua.org/ and watch closely for developments. I shall be updating articles and content from time to time. All questions relating to Senaman Tua can still be sent to nadzrin@senamantua.org

Thank you for all your support.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

07 January 2008

Friends or Fracture? The reality behind silat splits in Malaysia

An American martial artist once had the opportunity to sample a silat style from Malaysia. Unfortunately, his 'instructor' was not qualified to share with him the more 'secret' aspects of the art, including completing his training.

He vowed that one day; he would travel to Malaysia and look it up. Many years later, when he was finally posted there by his firm, he sought out the very art he was looking for.

To his surprise, things had changed somewhat since his acquaintance had been there. Instead of one silat style, there were now TWO groups sporting similar names, and he didn't know which one to train with. Sound familiar?

Westerners who are well acquainted with Karate and Kung Fu know the difference between Hayashiha and Shito-Ryu, or Wing Chun and Ving Chun or even Bruce Lee, Bruce Le, Bruce Li... However, being newly introduced to Silat Melayu, they just can't get over how many arts bear similar names or worse, similar uniforms in their activities. Hopefully, this primer will assist those in the dark.

How it all began
Traditionally, training in silat would involve knowing who the master was and what he was teaching. The ‘name’ of the art itself was rarely important. In fact, a majority of traditional silat styles had no distinctive names.

However, as more and more silat became organized and legally registered, problems cropped up regarding identification. They needed unique names and unique identities. But when two masters study from one source, how much different could they make their art from one another?

Another matter that compounded the problem was organisational politics. Because of individual preference, fractures sometimes occur within a particular organisation. Dissafected members often just the leave the group and martial arts altogether, migrate to another one or establish similar organisations.

The third type happens rarely in Malaysia, but it happens. We will not go into the reasons these fractures happen. Instead, we shall run through some of the more famous organisations with similar monikers.

Before the 1950s, silat styles in Malaysia were mostly taught in small village groups to a select few and were rarely known outside of one particular village. As such, they sometimes sported such catch-all names as Silat, Silat Melayu, Gayong, etc.

Sometimes, when two or more silat were being taught in close proximity, the arts would be differentiated by adding a descriptive suffix, usually the name of the master, the origin of the art or the clan it comes from. Thus were born 'styles' such as Silat Pendekar Ahmad, Silat Terlak or Silat Minang.

However, when the late Datuk Meor Abdul Rahman, mahaguru of Silat Seni Gayong arrived on the scene, he paved a path that was soon to be walked by other silat styles. Organisation.

Silat Seni Gayong
Following the advice of the nationalist Datuk Onn Jaafar, Datuk Meor Rahman founded the first legal silat association in Malaysia, Pertubuhan Silat Seni Gayong Malaysia (Reg No: 361), originally based in Johor. It was such a novelty that many thought he was establishing a political party, especially with his usage of the word Pertubuhan (organisation) in its name.

Unfortunately, Gayong itself is a common word denoting silat in Malaysia and this caused problems to many other silat masters on the East Coast who also called their art thus, but had no links whatsoever to Datuk Meor Rahman. This began the trend towards identification. When the process of standardisation and spelling codification of Bahasa Malaysia was concluded in 19722, 'Ayer' (water) became 'Air', 'Kuching' (cat) became 'Kucing' and 'Gayong' became 'Gayung '.

This provided an opportunity to other masters to create a separate identity, thus Gayung Fatani was understood to be different from the Gayong of Datuk Meor Rahman. Other 'Gayongs' that have no stylistic relation to the former Silat Sendi Harimau (now Silat Seni Gayong) include Seni Silat Gayong Maarifat, Seni Silat Gayong Ghaib, Seni Silat Gayong Harimau and more.

Aside from the commonness of the word itself, the original organisation saw offshoots established by eminent students of the late Datuk Meor Rahman that used variations of the same name. Thus was born Pertubuhan Silat Seni Pusaka Gayong Malaysia, Pertubuhan Silat Seni Gayong Warisan Serantau Malaysia and Pertubuhan Silat Seni Gayong Pasak (the Malaysian import from Singapura).

The first of these to be established was Pertubuhan Silat Seni Pusaka Gayong Malaysia. To differentiate between this and the original organisation, it became informally known as Gayong Pusaka while the latter became Gayong Malaysia and the latest offshoot, Gayong Warisan.

Seni Silat Cekak
This happened again when a leadership crisis rocked the Kedah-born Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Malaysia in 1993 which saw the founding of Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Ustaz Hanafi Malaysia. The art, simply known as Silat Cekak was now polarised into Silat Cekak Malaysia and Silat Cekak Hanafi.

This was also an answer to the many other extant styles who employed the word 'Cekak' in their names, especially those of Minang origin such as Silat Cekak Minang, Silat Cekak Harimau, Silat Cekak Sabil Sri Indera Sakti, Silat Cekak Monyet, Silat Cakak (Brunei), etc.

Coming back to Gayung Fatani, although an organisation was founded by guru Anuar Wahab as Pertubuhan Seni Gayung Fatani Malaysia, there are still many old masters who teach the art under that name, without having connections to PSGFM, as it is known. Since very few of these have established associations, the confusion is minimal.

Cimande, Sendeng and Rajawali
However, things took a funnier turn in Selangor where the Sunda people have made their home for many generations. Their signature art of Cimande went the way of Wing Chun and many local variations such as Chimande, Chimandey, Cimandee and Ci Mandi cropped up.

Things probably got too surreal and several masters eventually added suffixes, making their arts Cimande Sendeng, Cimande Lincah, etc. In fact, there are so many Cimande variations within Selangor alone that a majority of those masters banded together to form the Persatuan Cimande (Cimande Association). The prerequisite for membership is obvious.

Beside the Sunda, the Bugis are by far the most widely-travelled clan of the Melayu stock, settling in Acheh, Selangor, Melaka and Johor among others, bringing with them the art of Silat Sendeng. This is why we see so many variations of the same art emanating from these settlements.

The one man who popularised the name itself was the late guru Haji Abdul Hamid Hamzah who blended his family art of Kuntau and Sendeng into what was colloquially known as Silat Sendeng Muar. When the style was formally organised, it took the name of Persatuan Seni Silat Sendeng Malaysia, thus becoming the standard reference for all other Sendeng styles such as Sendeng Kuntau Jawa or Sendeng Merepat.

Another interesting find is the Rajawali group. Originally founded by the late guru Mohd Idrus Yon, Seni Silat Burung Rajawali was inherited by his eminent students, the seven 'blood brothers', who each established a different administrative body for their arts based on their specialties.

Thus were born Persatuan Seni Silat Rajawali Putih, Persatuan Seni Silat Rajawali Sunan Putih, Persatuan Seni Silat Rajawali Anjung Sari and so on. Admirably, their mandates were given simultaneously by their guru Idrus and no enmity exists between these organisations as their masters often cross-teach upon invitation.

As more new silat organisations continue to appear in Malaysia, choosing what to call an individual style becomes exceedingly difficult, especially since all the good names have been taken. More often than not, the names are similar if not the same, or meaningless except to its founder.

If multiple-monikers continue to be the norm in Malaysia, maybe silat introduction brochures will start popping up on racks in travel agencies around the world. It would surely be appreciated. Culture shock is an ugly colour on a martial artist’s face.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab