14 September 2008

Cikgu Sani: The man behind P Ramlee’s Tekpi

In the movie 6 Jahanam, Allahyarham Tan Sri P Ramlee showcased his silat skills with a pair of weapons. As was tradition in Melayu films back then, the weapon most identified with pendekars of yore was the keris. However, in this film, P Ramlee introduced a different weapon, the tekpi.

In 6 Jahanam, P Ramlee played the role of Tantari, a businessman who seeks revenge upon the death of his wife, Masmera (Nor Azizah) who was brutally raped and murdered by the criminal gang known as the Enam Jahanam.The targets of his wrath: Mumbala (Shariff Baboo), Karambit (Ahmad Dadida), Jagindas (Ibrahim Sabtu), Katipang (Kamal Idris), Paragas (Osman Md.Amin) and Sujamang (Yusof Ali).

To mete justice to these criminals, Tantari carries with im a pair of tekpi. The three-pronged iron truncheon is also known as the ‘king of weapons’ due to its ability in countering all manner of bladed weapons. Amidst P Ramlee’s furious display of the tekpi in the film, not many realise that the Supreme Artisan (a post-mortem title given by the Malaysiam government to acknowledge his cultural contributions) actually drew his inspiration to introduce the tekpi on film from Sani Zainol Abidin.

A tiger with sheathed claws. Surely an apt description for former military intelligence officer Sani Zainol Abidin, better known among his students as Cikgu Sani or Pak Guru.

Apt indeed, in a time when other silat styles race each other to increase their popularity, Cikgu Sani feels more comfortable being a humble man, without exploiting the media for his own interests. What years he has left is now being spent in his hometown of Kampung Kampung Siput, Jalan Weng, Baling, Kedah.

While visiting him in his home three days before the beginning of Ramadhan, Cikgu Sani admits to me that not many people know that the tekpi display by P Ramlee in the film 6 Jahanam owed its performance to him.

“I am in P Ramlee’s debt for his willingness to introduce the tekpi on film. Many people criticised him at the time, to the extent of claiming that he would lose himself in the film.

“However, not many realise that through 6 Jahanam P Ramlee revealed to the Melayu that they had another ethnic heritage that they could be proud of , one feared its enemies, the dreaded tekpi,” he said.

The tekpi is the primary weapon of Silat Kuntau Tekpi, a silat style that existed during the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Shah, the Kedah Sultan of the 19th century.

It was founded by a Panglima (military general) of the royal household named Panglima Taib bin Wan Hussin. This style was taught only to the cadre of panglima, palace guards and warriors to fend of Siamese incursions and other enemies of the era. Panglima Taib bequeathed his knowledge to his daughter Siti Aminah who was known as ‘Srikandi Kedah’ (Warrioress of Kedah). This style was then inherited by her son Zainol Abidin Endut and in turn by his son, Cikgu Sani himself.

Cikgu Sani’s friendship with P Ramlee began in Singapura when he was only 25 years old. Cikgu Sani was posted there at Fort Canning for a year to undergo training in a Military Intelligence Course.

“During my off days, I’d take the opportunity to walk around at the Jalan Ampas Studio. This is where I befriended P Ramlee and he got to know of my background with the tekpi.“Allah fated that we meet again when P Ramlee moved to Kuala Lumpur to work at the Merdeka Studio in Hulu Klang and I was posted at the Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Defence. We often met in Setapak.

“It was during one of those casual conversations that P Ramlee mentions that in Melayu films, the pendekar would often brandish a keris, a sword or a machete, and that it crossed his mind to make a film with a tekpi as a weapon. “He asked if I would teach him the tekpi if he were to film it. I felt honoured and said, why not,” he said.

According to Cikgu Sani, P Ramlee’s sincerity in his studies made teaching him easier. It took Cikgu Sani a month to train P Ramlee in parrying using the tekpi.

“I remember him telling me, ‘Sani, just show me how to parry with the tekpi. Camera tricks will handle the rest,” he said.

Although only one Melayu film showcased the tekpi, Cikgu Sani is grateful that the style was given such an opportunity by the Seniman Agung (a title given by the government to P Ramlee meaning Supreme Artisan). This is unlike Allahyarham A Rahim, who although did not immortalise his art on film, managed to formally study with Cikgu Sani.

“After P Ramlee passed away, the late A Rahim began studying from me in Ampang Jaya. He achieved his red belt which ranked him as an instructor. In fact, in the March 1991 issue of the PENDEKAR magazine, A Rahim was reported as a veteran instructor of Silat Kuntau Tekpi,” he said.


As Supreme Chairman of Pertubuhan Seni Silat Kuntau Tekpi Malaysia (PSSKTM), Cikgu Sani has now handed over the day to day running of the organisation to three of his children who are active in promoting the style, Khairunizar A Rani (39) as Chief Instructor, Kharirul Fazli, 37, (Senior Instructor) and Amirul Mukminin, 20.

Other than those three children by his late wife Latiffah Che Ya, Cikgu Sani also sired Nooranifah (42), former national pesilat to the SEA Games, Norziefahani (34), Khairul Azwadi (31), Noorazlita (28) and Amira Natasha (14).

For Cikgu Sani, even thought Silat Kuntau Tekpi is bereft of publicity, but it lacks no prestige with the presence of the President of Pekima (Malaysian Muslim Welfare Organisation), Hassan Adam at a special event in Baling, Kedah. The event also saw Najua (Nadia) Nasir, P Ramlee’s own granddaughter attend with her cousin, Nasreen Ngasri (Darling), producer at Nasreen Pictures Sdn Bhd.

By Adam Salleh
Translated and edited from Harian Metro

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