Bill Duff (in blue) and Jason Chambers (left) a few silat techniques.
Human Weapon, an expedition-type documentary which charts journeys to foreign continents in search of martial arts, comes to Malaysia for its premiere episode. By SHEELA CHANDRAN
People all over the world have always had a fascination for martial arts. Even at the movies, it is frequently used as a subject matter. From Seven Samurai to Enter The Dragon, Blood Sport and Karate Kid, martial arts movies can draw in the crowds. Hong Kong stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li as well as Hollywood celebrities like Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal, Chuck Norris and Cynthia Rothrock have all made names for themselves as martial arts exponents, and not just movie stars.
What exactly are martial arts? They are defined as codified practices and traditions of training for combat. Although the art forms have been studied or passed down through many generations, everyone who learns the art shares a common goal – to defeat a person physically or to defend oneself from physical threat. Martial arts can be divided into three categories – striking (boxing, shaolin kung fu and capoeira), grappling (judo, sambo, aikido and wrestling) and weaponry (fencing, silambam and jukendo).
With so many martial arts techniques around, it's no surprise The History Channel has embarked on a journey across the globe to reveal the history behind one of humankind's most ancient skills – the art of hand-to-hand combat.
Titled Human Weapon, the 16-parter programme will see hosts – martial artist and professional fighter Jason Chambers and former professional football player and wrestler Bill Duff exploring the history and practice of various time-honoured combat forms from around the world.
Throughout history, martial arts have had a significant impact on world events; cultures and civilisations have emerged and perished as a result of military prowess, especially when it came to hand-to-hand combat. It was not only seen as an art of self-defence but also served as a platform of preparation for young men to move into adulthood. Through this training, a child learnt important values such as self-respect and self-dependence.
Each episode on Human Weapon charts an expedition through various parts of the world to unveil distinct forms of combat where viewers will see some of the gruelling training the hosts undergo.
The series premieres tonight with the ancient art form of silat, which is an umbrella term used to describe Melayu martial arts form.
Silat is a combative art of fighting and survival and it has evolved in Indonesia and Malaysia civilisations for centuries, and has seeped into social culture and tradition. In ancient times, silat served as a self-defence tool as well as a platform of preparation for young men to move into adulthood.
The first episode sees the hosts travelling to Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Melaka where silat is practiced. Part of their training requires them to undergo rigorous silat techniques – Silat Seni Gayong Malaysia, Lian Padukan and Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 Malaysia, while learning the culture behind this heritage. At the end of the journey, one of the hosts will face the ultimate test – trying to survive a fight with six silat masters.
“Silat is one of the world's and diverse martial arts form. One of the key characteristics of silat movements or aliran demonstrates the gracefulness of how exponents fence and defend themselves,” said silat master Azlan Ghanie who practises Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9.
Azlan added that the documentary was recorded over a span of 10 days last September. He explained that prior to the filming, the hosts had never heard of silat and had no expectations of the martial art form.
“They assumed it was a 'gentle' form of martial arts. They only realised how tough it was after receiving a few hard kicks, which left them close to tears. After undergoing training, they now say silat is an indescribable and tough experience.”
In the following weeks, the hosts learn about different art forms from around the world. Stick with them to find out more about Thailand's Muay Thai (Thai Boxing or “Science of Eight Limbs”), Philippines' Eskrima (involving stick and sword fighting techniques), Japan's famed Judo and Karate, France's Savate or French foot-fighting, Greece's Pankration (a combination of boxing and wrestling) and Israel's Krav Maga (a form of hand-to-hand combat).