There is a definite dearth of Silat and Silat-related books on the market, be it locally or internationally. Many people are surprised to learn that Malaysia, the 'Mecca of Martial Arts' (quote from sifu Nigel Sutton in his SENI BELADIRI column 'Under The Palm Trees'), has less than ten books on Silat on the market, most of them either out of print or simply forgotten.
Fortunately, silat has a media to call its own in SENI BELADIRI, Malaysia's premier martial arts magazine that began its run in August 1997 and has to this day more than 90 issues under its belt.
Owned, operated and published by Azlan Ghanie, the magazine is bilingual in content with most of its articles in the Malay language. Azlan, who is also the founder and Primary Trustee of Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 has interviewed several hundred masters in silat and non-silat styles, making him one of the most knowledgable martial artist in Malaysia when it comes to arts other than his own.
In 2001, a radical effort saw fruition when SILAT WARRIOR was published. The only all-English martial arts magazine in Malaysia, it was exported to the West but didn't take off. It ran for three issues.
In fact, this was not his first effort at publishing a martial arts magazine. In 1989, the first issue of PENDEKAR hit the stands with the final interview with the late, great Datuk Meor Rahman of Silat Seni Gayong fame to ever appear in the pages or any martial arts magazine.
Azlan conceived and edited the magazine before being taken ill a few years later. PENDEKAR ran until 1995 without Azlan at the helm.
During SENI BELADIRI's run, two other publishers tried to follow in its footsteps. Unfortunately, neither of them garnered the kind of popularity among the local martial arts com-munity the way SB did. The mystical martial art magazine TANGKAS saw print in 2002 but ran for a few issues before being put out of its misery.
Meantime, SENI SILAT WARISAN BANGSA (no relation to my website SILAT SENI WARISAN BANGSA hosting at http://silat.8m.com) put up a valiant fight, eventually making it past the ten issue mark, even though it was forced to publish bi-monthly instead of monthly.
There were also several attempts at one offs such as SILAT, MEGAT and TERAWIS, all by Megat Ainuddin Megat Mohd Nordin, the head of Silat Penjurit Kepetangan and GEMPITA, by Ustaz Azam Zulkifli of Silat Gayong Maarifat.
Bear in mind however, that the print run and circulations hardly touch anything Western World magazines such as BLACK BELT and COMBAT have achieved. With a reported 3.5 million pesilat within Malaysia, it is unfortunate that the circulations skim only about 0.1% and below of this potential. Therefore, where magazines barely dare to tread, would books survive extinction easily in Malaysia?
In my quest to build a library made up of silat-related books, it turns out that you just have to know where to look. My search took me to Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, the national vanguard of language and literature.
It seems that their main objective is to publish as many books in Bahasa Melayu as possible and leave them to rot with no marketing push behind them. Most silat books in Malaysia are published by this body.
From them I managed to glean gems like TEKNIK DALAM SENI SILAT MELAYU (Techniques In Malay Silat) by Anuar Wahab, SENI SILAT MELAYU DENGAN TUMPUAN KEPADA SENI SILAT SEKEBUN (Malay Silat With Special Attention Given To Seni Silat Sekebun) by Tuan Ismail Tuan Soh and SILAT OLAHRAGA (in Malay and English versions) by Anuar Wahab.
Out of print are SILAT TERLAK NATA by Hamzah Ahmad and KERIS DAN SENJATA-SENJATA PENDEK (The Keris and Other Short Bladed Weapons) by Shahrom Yub, the docu-novel PANGLIMA SALLEH SELEMPANG MERAH (Panglima Salleh Of The Red Sash) by Zaharah Nawawi and the period novelisation retelling of Hang Tuah's legendary childhood, SAKSILA LEKIR by Dr Mohd Nasir Zainal Abidin.
Happily though, most of the books I mentioned above will soon be available in their English versions online. One of them, Silat Olahraga is already offered online at http://silat.tv. Check it out for yourself.
Recently, Malaysians were blessed with the publication of the first real book on Silat exercises in SENAMAN SILAT JIWA SIHAT UNTUK SEMUA (Silat Exercises And Self Health For All) by Megat Ainuddin Megat Mohd Nordin and Assoc Prof Nor Anita Megat Mohd Nordin. It is an interesting addition to anyone's silat library.
Other than these, there are several books self published by respective Silat perguruan for internal consumption. Most of them go out of print almost immediately due to the specific audience targeting.
Although similar in that sense, many of them serve different purposes; com-memoration, official text book, promotion, etc. I have some of them, others, I have only had fleeting glimpses of.
Silat Cekak Malaysia has two books, a commemorative coffee table book, SENI SILAT CEKAK MALAYSIA DALAM SUKU ABAD (Quarter Century) and BUDAYA CEKAK, a collection of 21 seminar papers on the art.
Silat Cekak Hanafi has one self-titled official text book while Silat Kalam provided detailed explanation into its philosophy and thinking in WADAH KE ARAH WAJA DIRI SEJATI (The Means Towards True Self Empowerment). Kegayungan Acheh Helang Putih also self published two books on practical self-defence, one of them simply titled SILAT.
I also know of one combat training manual published by Silat Seni Pusaka Gayong and a book by Silat Seni Gayong Malaysia but have yet to acquire either of them.
The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society also collected 12 pieces on the Malay weapons and published it under the title THE KERIS AND OTHER MALAY WEAPONS (not to be confused with the Shahrom Yub publication).
The last locally published book is a thin full coloured almost brochure-like SENI DALAM SENJATA MELAYU (The Aesthetics of Malay Weaponry) by Malaysian Handicrafts.
From Malaysia, we step out slightly next door to Indonesia where all of the above books stand in awe of the masterpiece that left the keyboard of O'ong Maryono, which is PENCAK SILAT MERENTANG WAKTU (it has an English translation titled Pencak Silat In The Indonesian Archipelago), 414 pages of pure intimacy with Indonesian pencak silat.
Finally, we have THE KRIS: MYSTIC WEAPON OF THE MALAY WORLD by Edward Frey. The book was published as part of an Images of Asia series by Oxford University Press in Singapore. These are the books I have come in contact with of which I have most.