Acquisition of knowledge in diverse Silat styles can be used as a tool in improving oneself, by focusing intently on the knowledge acquired. This can be done by finding the key components in every Silat style learned, and trying to gain a deeper understanding of it. Through extensive practice and under proper guidance, one will find the best way to deepen their understanding of Silat. True understanding only comes when proper knowledge and guidance is involved.
During my first few years of training in Rumpun Seni Silat Syeikh Ali, I was instructed by my masters in a variety of very strict methods of physical, mental and spiritual training that were exceptionally difficult, but also required both a deep understanding and great determination to perform to their satisfaction. This began in 1987. I subsequently received permission to teach (known as Ijazah) the first level of Rumpun Seni Silat Syeikh Ali in 1989, almost 3 full years after I completed the first level of Silat in Rumpun Seni Silat Syeikh Ali, which is the Seni Silat Bongsu style.
During those 3 long years, I committed myself to learn, master and feel my newly acquired knowledge. This is the key to embracing the pure essence of Silat; learn, master and feel. I was asked by one of my masters, Cikgu Muhammad Khairuddin of Hulu Langat, Selangor, Malaysia, currently the Guru Besar Utama of Seni Silat Bongsu, to make Seni Silat Bongsu literally as if it were the very clothes on my back (“sebagai pakaian”) whilst in practice. In other words, it must become second nature whenever utilizing Silat.
Whilst under the tutelage of my late grandfather, Allahyarham Tuan Haji Ibrahim, the Guru Kaka and Guru Besar of Seni Silat Peninjauan, he forbade me from practicing any physical aspects or techniques of Silat. This was always the case throughout my early years of life and whenever I occasionally trained with him right up until he passed away 3 years ago at the age of 90 years old. But at the same time, I had to master my Silat, both physically and spiritually. Throughout his 60s and 70s he would always ask me to spar with him, but would never allow me to train myself in the physical techniques of Silat.
During my study-years at “sekolah pondok” (a type of traditional malay college for Islamic studies), I had the opportunity to learn more about Silat, both physically and spiritually. I met a master that was well known for his expertise and skill, named Ustaz Abang Solihin of Guar Cempedak, Kedah, Malaysia.
Even though he was a much respected Silat master and Islamic scholar, his character was remarkable for his utmost humility and simplicity, both spiritually and physically, words and actions. I had the good fortune to study his exceptional and very rare “Ilmu Jurus 17” that was famous of the deadly results achieved from its techniques and feared by many. He taught me for one week and said I had already completed the course. It is so simple but it yet took me many years after that to understand it fully and be appointed as a master of.
There were many other Silat related episodes in my life that shaped the way I look at Silat. All are unique and very precious to me. I was forced to view many different and similar things in very different ways with each following master I studied under. Many of their ways were at that time unacceptable to me, largely due to youth and, of course, ignorance. Their ways often seemed strange or startling, but were also very rewarding experiences and proved so effective in achieving the goal that I was supposed to achieve. These were among the stories of my simple and humble journey through Silat that contributed to my personal Silat evolution.
Evolution and progression (of one’s skill) in Silat can only occur when one truly focuses and reflects upon those lessons learned through the course of their Silat studies. This evolution must always be guided by true masters, both physically and mentally. Evolving in Silat is actually a personal journey for each individual. It will develop in a very unique way, and solely for that individual.
The proper traditional Silat Melayu adab (or manners) has always been not to create new styles but to teach the traditional styles, whilst only sharing the core of one’s own evolution with others. Guiding others in their own development is the traditional way that Silat Melayu has been passed down since time immemorial. Not by creating another different style.
By creating another style, one only dilutes the original Silat knowledge which always guided others towards their own unique journey of Silat anyway. This transformation, which occurs jointly by attaining proper knowledge and understanding of authentic Silat, is a wonder that has been in practice since times of yore in the Silat world. Silat is a survival art that may have a beginning but seems there is no end, with regards personal development. By creating another style, we are in fact contributing to the destruction of each individual’s chance of personal evolution in the ancient and time tested systems.
There is nothing that is not combative in Silat. From the basics (ie, tapak, kelok, buah, langkah, bunga, etc.) until the more advance techniques (e.g. rasa, rapat, sobok, gompo, tinjau and many others) everything is versatile and very effective as a combat technique. The only weakness will be in one’s own understanding and explanation of the deeper secret of Silat, physically and spiritually.
If one has the key of understanding in any martial art, there are no ineffective or useless techniques. The blink of an eye, the sound of breathing or the slightest movement will always have seen and unseen effects. Even not moving at all can be considered as an effective technique.In our Silat School style, we use the techniques of “tepat sipi, sipi lepas” when facing opponent as the fundamental of defense. “Tepat” literally means accurate, which mean assuming the accuracy of opponent strike. “Sipi” means inaccurate, which mean we will make the opponent’s strike inaccurately or missed with techniques. After doing the “sipi” we will do the “lepas” which means escape safely from any kind of current and future threat from the opponent.
In offensive mode, we will adapt the techniques of “umpan, pecah, Silat”. “Umpan” means luring the enemy in static, movements or striking but with such effectiveness that it can even end the fight if it accurately land on the opponent.
“Pecah” means breaking (while bridging) the enemy’s defense or plan mentally or if really necessary, physically. This breaking can result from “umpan” or can be done using another techniques followed after “umpan”, which is in “pecah”. “Silat” will be the final result meaning the closing in ending the fight with wisdom.
Result doesn’t necessarily come from kicking, punching or locking. It can also come from just a simple movements or not moving at all but result with severe physical or mental or spiritual effect to the opponent. “Silat” can also mean not fighting at all, just an act of wisdom in gaining victory. In fact the word “pendekar” which mean “pandai akal” literally means intelligent (“pandai”) mind (“akal”) signify a higher level of “pesilat”. The absolute truth is Silat is always about knowledge and wisdom.
Experience doesn’t necessarily mean what we want it to be. It can be just the understanding of knowledge itself, and not its applications. Development can only occur where there is a proper source of knowledge, constant practice whether in reality or training and understanding (that is the fruit of the whole process). Guidance must always be at the core of any kind of journey towards knowledge, guidance that comes from a true master, a true scholar, guidance that is in harmony with the teaching of Islam that is accepted with humility and sincerity by students.
Written by Ustaz Saiful Muhammad, President, Pertubuhan Seni Silat Telapak Nusantara Malaysia