21 November 2008

Passion alone is not enough

What drove Sheik Alau'ddin to two World Silat Championships gold medals in 1990 and 1994 was passion - plain and simple.

Now the Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi) chief executive director, he said: 'If you ask Jasmine (Yeong-Nathan) if money motivated her to the World Cup title, she will definitely tell you no.

"When you go into sports, it cannot be because of money."

But there are some things which have to change, according to Sheik.

If an athlete makes it to the top, but misses out on the monetary incentives because the competition is not listed in the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), then the relevant parties have to take it upon themselves to see that the athlete is fairly rewarded.

Said Sheik, who did not receive any monetary incentives when he twice became world champion: "The point I'm trying to make is that an athlete cannot go into a sport expecting financial rewards.

"But when they make it, we have to ensure that he or she gets the deserving reward.

"Hopefully, the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) can come in. If not, the national sports associations (NSAs) should look into it.

Sheik feels that the best solution is for the SSC and NSAs to sit down and discuss the issue at length.

He added: "It's about time we come up with a blueprint and list out the other competitions that deserve to be included in MAP.

"But we have to be careful about the world champion tag.

"How many countries take part in it, what is the standard of competition, and is there prize money involved?

"The monetary reward has to be on a case-by-case basis, not a common figure across the board. Then, it will be fair."

Sourced from http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/sports/story/0,4136,184266,00.html

15 November 2008

Silat: Getting a kick out of exercise

Heru, 54, an Indonesian national champion of Silat and two other instructors, Bambang and Indra Kusuma are based in Abu Dhabi where they offer lessons in martial arts.

Silat is an umbrella term used to describe the martial art forms practiced throughout the Malay Archipelago. Internationally it is now called Pencak Silat. Silat is a combative art of fighting and survival and it has been evolved in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam civilisations for centuries into social culture and tradition.

"Silat originated in seventh century, based on the principle 'knowledge and bare hand' (in Indonesian language, ITK - Ilmu Tangan Kosong)," explains Kusuma.

"It is a combination of art and sport which gives you physical power. It has three kinds of basic breathing exercises that keep a person's inner body clean," he added.

Many Indonesian families Gulf News interviewed were all praise for Silat, saying that the weekly classes that are offered at their embassy in Abu Dhabi are helping keep them physically fit and happy.

Ita Sarosa, 49, a housewife and her daughter Naadiya, 12, said their interaction in the family and society has been happier, because of practicing Silat.

"I feel fit and young," said Sarosa, who has been practicing it for the past year. "It's good for self defence and at the same time it keeps one fit," she said. Her daughter was able to reduce her weight after regular practice. "It has made me more confident," said Naadiya.

Revin, an 11-year-old boy said the techniques learnt help him deal with a bullies at school.
While going through the moves, at least one of the hands has to be free, which makes the movements attractive, he added. "It shows the importance of art in Silat. The basic movements called 'kata' are also artistic," he says.

Each stage of learning gets you different belts, starting from white. Next stages are yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black, black with red stripes and red belts, said Kusuma.
Twenty six-year-old Diana Correa Sanchez from Peru who married an Indonesian, said Silat was an introduction to her husband's tradition and culture. "Practicing Silat means energy to me," she said.

"We got married while my husband was working in Peru and I did not know much about Indonesian culture. After coming to Abu Dhabi, the weekly Silat classes gave me a chance to meet more Indonesian families who became my friends," she said.

Oki Loekito, 38, a housewife and her daughter, Yasmin, 9, and son, Daffa, 7 are taking classes for fun and entertainment also.

"It is nice to attend it with children because it has become a family affair," said Loekito. "You feel you are powerful, not only physically, but mentally also," said Yasmin.

The eldest student in the class, Lalan Purnama, 50, says he has been enjoying a stress free life since he started it six months ago with his children. "It involves sport, self defence, art and culture," he said.

Written by Binsal Abdul Kader
Sourced from http://www.gulfnews.com/nation/Leisure/10259732.html

11 November 2008

Raja Muda Selangor Installation

A Bersilat display during the Raja Muda Selangor, installation ceremony; 13.5.1950

Description: Installation ceremony of Raja Muda Selangor. A display of "Bersilat" to entertain the guests. G.396 (N.118/85)

Picture courtesy of Malaysian National Archives http://www.arkib.gov.my/

08 November 2008

Al-Bahr is now mine

If you notice, the Keris For Sale box is missing on the sidebar. There's a very good reason for this. The keris now belongs to me.

The keris, named Al-Bahr was presented to me by Ustaz Saiful Muhammad of Silat Telapak Nusantara Malaysia as a gift. I say gift because the dowry which took its place in his hands is too measly a sum to compare.

We don't know much about the keris except that the hulu and sarung are made of buffalo bone and bears a striking resemblance to ivory. I intend to have it inspected by several keris experts to determine its type and age.

In the meantime, I invite anyone reading this blog to contribute their knowledge of the design and if they have ever seen it before, to provide some historical background to the weapon. It's exciting for me, because, although some people might never believe it, it is actually my first keris. I've never owned one before this.

So, welcome Al-Bahr, to our humble home.

Update 5 Feb 2009
I spoke to the previous owner, Ustaz Saiful and he told me that the keris is approximately 30 years old and was made by an empu in Johor of Bugis descent. The name Al-Bahr was given by Ustaz Saiful to commemorate the keris's elegant make.

I sent a photo fo Al-Bahr to a keris collector friend, Fazli Ibrahim. He gave his first impressions that the keris isn't very old and the blade has been blackened by warangan (In fact, ustaz has been using his own homemade keris oil on it). As with Pok Nik's assertion, Fazli determined that it was a keris Melayu with heavy Madura influences.

Listening to these opinions has made me realise uniqueness of the blade and the sheath, of which I (nor anyone else I have met) have never seen before. This makes this keris one of a kind.

I recently introduced the keris to the public in Melaka when I performed a Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 wardance for PETRONAS staff attending a team building program. As luck would have it, one of them immediately recognised the form as Lok 9.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

05 November 2008

Suhartono: Taking pencak silat overseas


Indonesia suffered a setback when pencak silat champion Diyan Kristianto was injured while fighting Brunei Darussalam's Amirul Ahati during the recent Bali Asian Beach Games. Ironically, the man who brought the Bruneian competitor to the point where he could vanquish a master of Indonesia`s home grown sport is himself Indonesian.

Suhartono, a former Indonesian pencak silat champion himself, began his journey to international prominence in 1995, when Vietnam asked the Indonesian Pencak Silat Federation (IPSI) to help them find a coach for their pencak silat team. Suhartono, who at the time was helping Jakarta's team prepare for the 1996 National Games as head coach, said he initially refused the offer.

"I asked them to look for another coach, because I was preparing the team for the national games. I said I would only go if they didn't find anyone else. It turned out they couldn't, so I had to go, because I had promised," Suhartono said.

The father of two took coaching the Vietnamese athletes very seriously. "The Vietnamese are a spirited people. They took learning silat maneuvers seriously. Their country's dedication to the sport helps silat's development," he said.

Suhartono helped Vietnam reach the top of international competition. Vietnam first demonstrated their new-found abilities at the 1999 Southeast Asian Games in Bandar Seri Begawan, where they earned three gold medals, three silver and two bronze.

Indonesia, however, dominated the games with five gold medals. At the 2001 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, the Vietnamese got revenge, defeating Indonesia. Suhartono's athletes brought home seven gold medals, three silver and two bronze. Indonesia won five golds, followed by Malaysia with three.

The achievement was repeated when Vietnam hosted the 2003 SEA Games. The hosts swept the games with seven golds, while Indonesia only brought home five. In 1999 Suhartono's success in coaching the Vietnamese athletes bought him the prestigious honorable star medallion class III, an award bestowed on him by Vietnam's then president Tran Duc Luong.

Suhartono also received the Huan Chuong VI Su Nghiep The Duc The Thao award from Vietnam's National Olympics Committee. After his success in coaching Vietnam's silat team, the Philippines' government asked him to train its athletes - he accepted the challenge.

When coaching the Philippines team, Suhartono had an uncomfortable experience, caught between his team members and Philippines' intelligence agents. Three months before the 2005 SEA Games, at the French Open, the Philippines team won six gold medals and became the general champion, but six out of the 10 athletes refused to return to their home country.

Suhartono had to ask for help from the president of the International Pencak Silat Association (Persilat), Edi Nalapraya, to stop his interrogation. Suhartono persevered, and prepared the four remaining team members for the 2005 SEA Games; they won one gold and two silver medals.

But, his former team, Vietnam emerged as general champion, with seven gold medals. Indonesia followed with five gold medals. After handling the Filipino athletes, Suhartono returned to Vietnam for a year to train the country's junior athletes before being asked by Thailand's Olympics Committee to train their team.

Seven months of training with Suhartono led the Thais to victory in the 2007 SEA Games with four gold, one silver and five bronze medals. Indonesia won five gold medals, while Vietnam won three. In April 2007, Brunei's Olympics committee asked the master to handle their athletes until 2010.

Suhartono said he might stay in Brunei for the next five years. "It's a process. Within the first two years of my time in Vietnam for example, we could only win two gold medals in a world championship," Suhartono said. In all his time coaching overseas teams, he faced a dilemma, knowing that he was sharing the knowledge and skill of his home land with its rivals. But, standing on a base of professionalism, his strong will to develop the sport kept him focused.

"Many questions were raised concerning my nationalism, but I have to say that my goal is to develop silat around the world, so that Indonesian's traditional sport can be known everywhere.

"My calling is to prove my professionalism. It's not a question of nationalism. I will be ready at any time if Indonesia needs me," said the man, who returned to Indonesia to train the Bali team for the July National Games.

Suhartono says the key to his coaching success is research. "A coach is not merely responsible for coaching but should become a researcher too. He should be up to date on the various techniques and know what to expect from a rival team," he said.

"Through this method a coach can combine techniques or even develop new ones," said Suhartono. Suhartono is currently preparing a book on the development of pencak silat techniques throughout history, as well as a video on the fighting techniques.

The man, who began learning pencak silat when he was just 10 years-old, said he explored other martial arts, such as boxing and karate, to combine their techniques with traditional Melayu martial art techniques. To explore pencak silat techniques further he had to learn how to use computer visualization programs.

Before leaving for Vietnam, Suhartono modeled for an illustrated book on fighting techniques, prepared by IPSI's research and development division, in collaboration with the ministry of education. However, the book was never published.

"After the head of IPSI's research and development division died, nobody paid the project any attention and I was already abroad. What I taught abroad is actually the content of the book," said Suhartono.

English may also be one of the 51-year-old coach's keys to success. Before forging his path as a professional pencak silat coach, Suhartono worked as a salesman of nuclear laboratory equipment, which gave him the opportunity to learn English. "One of my advantages as a coach is my language skills, many coaches have problems communicating with foreign athletes," he said.

Suhartono said that the many perguruan (schools of pencak silat), each with its own stances, hampers the sport's development. With more than 800 perguruans, he said it would be hard to combine techniques and tricks - especially if each perguruan was unwilling to cooperate.

"The problem with Indonesia is we have many systems but no willingness to sit together and evaluate the techniques and tricks or come up with new techniques to win fights". He also cited the bad relationship between IPSI's leaders as an impediment to pencak silats development in the country.

"There is an unharmonious relationship among the leaders. Everybody should be at peace with each other to make good decisions for the development of pencak silat".

He urged them to come up with up to date techniques and work hard on research and development in order to win.

"A coach is not only a physical trainer but a technical and tricks trainer. Someone may be big and have great power, but without the right techniques and tricks he will lose easily".

03 November 2008

Kebatinan: Spirituality & Inner Strength

Most people know about spiritual or inner strength, but not many accept the fact of its existence. In the Melayu world, it is almost impossible to separate the spiritual aspect from their life practice.

The existence and practice of this unique knowledge has been influenced by diverse beliefs that have been practiced by the Melayu, before and after the advent of Islam. This element always is the core in many practices like in traditional healing methods, certain special practices, and martial arts in general, and Silat, and even in daily mundane activities.

In 'Silat', this element seems almost impossible to be separated from it. Sometimes it can be the core, even though the Silat may be perceived as just a physical form of martial art. The exponent will feel emptiness when they are without this unseen - yet powerful - element. Due to scepticism, some ignore the importance of this element by denying it completely.

Some just simply accept it without proper knowledge, and ignore the terms and conditions in learning it for the sake of getting a temporary superiority that leads to destruction. Because of their ignorance they are against human nature, and the teachings of Islam, with or without realizing it.

It is undeniable that the spiritual element contributes so much to the continuity of Silat legacy in the Melayu world. There are so many Silat styles in Malaysia, some are practicing purely spiritual Silat, and others are using the spiritual by merging it into the physical aspect. The development and spread of the spiritual world looks rapid in the world of modern and high technology nowadays. This is really an unexpected development.

There are a few basic ways or methods in practicing or training of this spiritual element. Among them are:

1. Recitation of certain special and unique words

2. Practicing a unique practice like fasting, isolating oneself or certain unique way of bathing

3. A form or just a movement known as ‘Gerak’ or ‘Jurus’.

Most experts and the Islamic scholars agree that the recitation of special words with clear meanings and the purpose of it are in accordance to Islam are allowed, even if it is in the form of a foreign dialect or language. For recitation of the zikr or verses from The Holy Quran, the source of it must be pure, and can only be taught by a well qualified person.

In most cases, the recitation of words that are not a zikr or verses from The Holy Quran, the meaning of it is often confusing. Some even mention or call to something that isn’t pure; this kind of practice must be avoided.

Many of the so-called masters of spiritual Silat don’t even have the basic qualification in teaching Zikr and verses of The Holy Quran. The pronunciations of it are being amended, or are simply not accordance in accordance to the original. The real meaning and purpose of it are far from the original, most of the time they don’t even know the source of it. Many didn’t even attain the proper qualifications from a qualified Islamic scholar. Even though all it is wrongly learn and practice it still can produce results which are impure and evil.

Practicing pure isolation can lead to leaving important daily routine and responsibilities including compulsory Islam practice. This isolation practice normally will be done in places like graveyard, caves, mountains or places that can challenge the bravery of the practitioner. It is done to cultivate the spirit of bravery, to gain special ability or to find something for certain special purpose.

Many Islamic scholars agree that practicing isolation with strict Syariat or Islam manners is permissible as long as it is for the sake of focusing on remembering Allah (swt) but not doing it for other reasons that are against Islamic teaching.

Some isolation practice fasting or special practice of starvation. During the period of fasting or starvation, the practitioner can only eat according to a specific time and can only eat special kind of selected food. There are also a special practice of bathing using flowers, limes of various kinds, special type of water and a few other remedy. There is quite a number of the said practice influenced by other belief systems that is not in accordance with Islam. Some of them are practiced separately and can also be combined with a few levels of practice.

Internal energy, spiritual strength or "kebatinan" can also be attained by practicing specific movements with special techniques or flowery movements accompanied by some other special spiritual or semi spiritual practice. There are techniques that use a minimum of movements or seemingly no movement at all. The movement can be attained by practicing the aforementioned practices or be taught by masters directly to be practiced to get the special spiritual ability.

There are many names used to name these movements. Among them are "gerak keputusan" or result movement, "jurus kebatinan" or spiritual form, "ibu jurus" or mother of spiritual form, "gerak batin" or spiritual movement and many other different names depending on the style.

The results coming out from practicing those movements can be so powerful and far beyond the effort in doing it. Many styles claim they get the result from a pure source or claim they are practicing it in accordance with Islam. It is shocking because the consequences from practicing and using very simple effortless movements can result in a very powerful outcome that is beyond logic.

There are also specific semi spiritual techniques:

1. Breathing

2. Eating

3. Special or weird practice

Breathing is among the most common practice. Scientifically, it give many benefits because it surely supplies enough and consistent oxygen to the whole body. Specific breathing systems will give more additional benefit. While doing the breathing, the spiritual ability seekers will sometimes have to focus on material or immaterial things.

Unique unimaginable eating rules like consuming specific parts of animals or plant also exist. There are practitioners that are willing to eat weird or even filthy things just to gain special spiritual ability or strength. Some of them are even willing to practice weird or unacceptable actions; that are far beyond the natural human behaviour.

For practice that is obviously wrong is easy to rectify and avoid, that is if one judge it with wisdom. To make sure the purity of thoughts and faith, delicate matters like spirituality or inner strength must always be guided by knowledgeable people especially true Islamic scholars.

Spiritual matters concern very deep and complicated knowledge and practice in the Silat world that require deeper understanding with high levels of concentration to learn and master. In choosing the best way of attaining spiritual strength and ability, the purest and safest way will always be the best. Let Islamic knowledge be the only guidance.

Recitation of zikr or verses of Quran used must have clear source and pure meaning and purpose. So are the other recitations or mantra if any. Try avoiding using mantras or other recitations that is not known as zikr or verses of Quran. There are so many recitations that come from The Companions (ra.hum) of our Prophet Muhammad (saw) and also come from The Prophet (saw) himself.

There are also recitations proven by our previous pious Islamic scholars. All these recitations are proven to be pure and effective in their own unique way. Fasting is also very good for health physically and will also improve one's spiritual state thus will develop inner strength. Fasting in accordance with the way of our Prophet Muhammad (saw) has more obvious pure physical and spiritual effects compared to any other way.

Let’s make sure that our practice is in accordance with Sunnah so that it will not be useless practise. Practicing Sunnah with knowledge and guidance surely will prevent oneself from being influenced by bad things.

We must continue focusing on such beneficial practises. Not practice that will only give super abilities for wrong purpose. Any ability attained will purely from the blessing of Allah (swt). Let the practice and ability be for the purpose in elevating oneself in becoming a better Muslim not for gaining any kind of mortal strength.

The proper function of spiritual practice or movements will be to synchronize the focus of one’s physical and spiritual self. These delicate and detailed techniques will show us how hard is it to be totally focused when doing any action. When physically and mentally aligned, the results will surprise us.

Let this be the function for spiritual Silat knowledge and practice. Due to this synchronization, the merging of all senses will result in the maximum ability of any human being. To attain this level, one must master one’s own unique movements until the movements will always be accurate no matter how spontaneous it will be. The ability to control the mind so that it can control oneself emotionally will be the next level.

The next level from merging both physical and mental is the ability in controlling the environment or situation. One must always elevate both physical and mental capacity. From here, the effectiveness of form and formlessness of action will be obvious.

If during that journey, there is any result that is beyond logic, it can never be the goal and must always make sure the effect and purity of it. No matter what will be our effort, the result will not always be there. Allah (swt) is The Almighty, The Strongest and He (swt) solely has the right to give or take anything on His (swt) creations. Let’s judge everything with clear fact that came from Quran and Hadith as core, mind to support it with guidance from pious Islamic scholars.

Don't even begin the journey of spiritual elevation in any kind without purifying our faith with proper Islam knowledge and guidance. Physical health must also be perfected, not only clinical health but healthy attitude towards The Creator (swt), creations and self. After that we can begin to start the spiritual Silat journey with physical side of it.

When the proper way is practiced, the effectiveness of just the physical knowledge will amaze oneself and others.Due to the proper manners of practice in this journey of knowledge, one will gain spiritual strength and abilities without even really starting to learn it formally. The physical aspects of Silat are very important in fulfilling the protocol of tawakkal or surrendering to Allah (swt) in defending ourselves. In realizing the way of surrendering to Allah (swt), one must not easily choose any way which is beyond logic without judging it first with knowledge and wisdom of Islam.

During the time of Prophets (as), Prophet Muhammad (saw), The Companion (ra.hum) and their successive followers, things that are beyond logic happened to them. It also happened to other pious people during their time. Let us learn the teaching from this precious history knowledge. They never want special ability or things beyond logic will not be their goal in their practice. They don't want to be occupied by it in any way.

They practice everything and live their life to please Allah (swt).Talking about things that are beyond logic, the knowledge and practice of Islam is also beyond logic with such truth, love and compassion. Some practice can't be clarified with logic. But practicing Islam to the fullest is truly a blessing and any results will always be beautiful and rewarding.

Let us focus on this special kind of spiritual knowledge and practice rather than other so called spiritual knowledge and practice that lead to uncertainty, deceit and most of the time will lead to destruction.

Written by Ustaz Saiful Muhammad
Sourced from http://www.silat.tv/profiles/blogs/2043066:BlogPost:21645

02 November 2008

Of dreams and seminars

The TekpiWorks 2008 Seminar has seen a lot of response with interested participants contacting me from all over Malaysia, and even one from Singapura thus far.
The whole thing took an interesting twist a couple of days ago when a would-be participant called me (you're probably reading this blog right now) and told me of a strange coincidence.
The night before he called me, he claimed to have dreamt of the late founder of the silat style he's currently affiliated to. This style was one of the variants that stemmed from Allahyarham Mahaguru Yahya Said's (Pak Yah) teachings.
In the dream, the founder advised him to study the tekpi in order to complete his education in the style. To do that, the founder told him to track down Yahya Said's heir.
Imagine his shock the very next day, when he reads of the TekpiWorks Seminar being conducted by guru Pak Jaafar, Pak Yah's own nephew, who coincidentally claims to have inherited his knowledge from the old man himself.
That phone call wasn't just eerie for the caller, but for me as well. I told him how hesitant I was to even post the article but Allah works in ways we can never understand. After the call ended, I was left dumbfounded. The coincidence of the dream and the blog post was uncanny.
Sometimes, a small decision can make a big impact to another person's life. But, as much as we would like to think that we only do what we want, it was then I realised how little power we have in our lives, and how much Allah truly owns us.
Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab