03 January 2008

Silat & Physical Development: An Introduction

Senaman Jurus Lincah

The sudden resurgence of interest in traditional Melayu exercise forms in Malaysia has astounded even its founders. Leading the way in this race is Senaman Tua, inherited, researched and systematised by guru Azlan Ghanie, also the founder of Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9.

Other exercise styles such as Senaman Jabat Angin by guru Mokhtaruddin of Silat Pancang 12, Setua Senaman by ajar-ajar Megat Ainudin Megat Mokmin of Penjurit Kepetangan, Senaman Wak Baka by guru Azmarul Saadi and Senaman Jurus Lincah under the auspices of Silat Lincah Malaysia point to one very clear fact: most of them found their origins in silat.

Which begs the question: If they are so good, and silat has gained in popularity since Merdeka, where have these exercises been all this while? Read on and find out.

When Jigoro Kano founded Judo, he intended it to become part of the physical education system of modern Japan and fought tooth and nail to have it implemented, but died before he could see it become an Olympic sport.

Senaman Jabat Angin

Later, when the Japanese conscripted their citizens to serve in WWII, they found that the Okinawan youth were in far better shape than their own and discovered that this was due to Te (or Kara Te), a physical and personal combat development system which they practiced. This, and several other reasons saw karate being absorbed into the national physical education system for their youth.

Malaysia, on the other hand, post-Merdeka has suffered from an inferiority complex and generational gap that has effectively split its thinking of physical education into two: traditional and modern.

Silat was never part of the physical syllabus of modern Malaysia, chiefly because those policy makers were elites who never had deep exposure into Silat and Melayu physical culture and secondly because the masters themselves held it back from the public.

Silat exists on two points on the physical developmental spectrum: pre-adolescence and adolescence.

Before Merdeka, parents would send their pre-teenaged children (from as soon as they are able to) to study two very important skills, religious studies (including Quranic recitation) and Silat, more often than not, with the same master.

At such a young age, their motor skills will have been negligible at best, thus they were given calisthenic exercises that would refine their movements, build strength, speed, reflexes and general overall health without creating an overly muscular build.

Since silat is all about keeping continuous motion ('gerak hidup'), the logical choice was the Tari, a basic dance form which sought to strengthen ligament strength, create flexibility and maintain their ranges of motion (as adults, we lose most of the ranges we had as a child due to underuse of those related ligaments and tendons).

This ensures that the physical body in later life can accept strong technical movements easier.

Silat which are taught at adolescence have, in my opinion mostly come about post-Merdeka and largely comprise the more modern or resystematised styles. Styles such as Seni Gayong, Seni Gayung Fatani, Cekak and Lincah, although do have younger students, tend to have more teenaged and adult students.

This is due to the bulk of physical development being taken over by the national physical education system, which relies heavily on international sport science research. It is because of this, the modern Melayu student finds it hard to adapt to more traditional styles, whose movements occur in deeper ranges of motion.

They find it difficult to effect a counterlock, a gymnastic technique, an awkward low stance, etc because the development has been somewhat simplified. Thus, we hear such statements as: "Training was hard back then", or "The kids nowadays can't stand it" or "The time for that has passed".

In my opinion nothing has changed, only our perception has made it difficult for us to see the truth. Exercises now categorised as dangerous by researchers were practiced in our schoolyards no more than 15 years ago, and every day, another exercise becomes extinct in the sports science journals.

Imagine my surprise then, that in traditional silat, none of these exercises exist, and any danger is perfectly managed. In fact, several masters I've met complain vehemently against the national physical education system, simply for being 'wrong'.

Some might disagree with the above, but I have personally experienced both types of training and I find the traditional method to far superior in terms of development, rehabilitation and overall health.

The happy news? It seems that Malaysians are waking up and are far more eager to return to a simpler time, when training was hard and the gains are manifold. So, we no longer have an excuse.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab


djambu puadovich said...

does dis mean dat it actually CAN be implemented as a SCHOOL SYLLABUS in years to come?

Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Salam hormat,

When I served as guru Azlan's assistant instructor in Senaman Tua, I had a personal goal to see it inducted into the school system.

Unfortunately, going directly was always a problem. So now, ST is slowly endearing itself to government departments. I don't know how effective this will be, but at least some medical and sport science practitioners have been taking notice.

Salam persilatan,

djambu puadovich said...

well, steady as she goes...good for ST...better if we can be like d koreans, after finishd skool, enter 'PLKN' learn handling weapons, and some Silat practices...