10 March 2009

Al Fatihah - Pendita Anuar Wahab passes away

The Malaysian silat scene has suffered greatly these past few months and today, it is my sad duty to report another gem has been called to the hereafter.

Pendita guru utama Anuar Wahab, founder of Pertubuhan Seni Gayung Fatani Malaysia, has passed away today at 4.15pm at the Kajang Hospital. I have only personally met Pendita Anuar once in my lifetime, which was at the Kuala Lumpur Silat Tournament several years ago when he sat on the Dewan Pendekar.

My introduction to him was facilitated by Pak Guru Sani Zainol Abidin, guru utama of Silat Kuntau Tekpi, one of his admittedly best friends. I was privileged to listen to them chat and joke with one another. I was star struck.

The only other time I got to speak to him was a two-hour phone call when I was translating the Seni Gayung Fatani episode of GELANGGANG (a local martial arts documentary) into English. Not having studied Gayung Fatani, I found it difficult to catch several of the terms he used, much less understand what they meant.

Those two hours, when a true master of silat elucidated on the totality of silat to a total stranger (he barely remembered me from the tournament) was precious to say the least. In those 120 minutes, I understood more about silat than I had in the last four years of my sweating and bleeding on the grass. I only wish I had taken the opportunity to go further with him.

His contributions to the silat world will never be forgotten. When Malaysia needed a national silat body to represent it to the world, Seni Gayung Fatani under his then-young leadership (compared to the older masters he fraternised with) helped form the steering committee for the Malaysian National Silat Federation (PESAKA).

He also helped to induct Malaysia to the newly Indonesian-created sport, Silat Olahraga by studying their methods and finding ways to adapt Malaysian silat to the ring. When others sought to distance themselves from the sport, he found ways to incorporate silat around the strict rules that almost killed the art.

From this, he contributed two underappreciated tomes from his research: 'Silat Olahraga' published both in Bahasa Melayu and English and 'Teknik Dalam Seni Silat Melayu' (Techniques in Seni Silat Melayu) which sought to document the unique methods and techniques within silat.

His writings appeared throughout Malaysian martial arts magazines and he remained, to this day, one of the few silat masters with a Masters degree and had the ability to conduct academically qualified hoplological and anthroplogical research into silat. Because of these stark achievements, guru Azlan Ghanie of Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9, through SENI BELADIRI magazine, saw it fit to anoint him 'Pendita' (high scholar) of silat. And trust me when I say, guru Azlan does not shower such praise lightly.

Pendita Anuar also created a standardised silat syllabus which he planned to teach at schools across Malaysia under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, which he called Silat Malaysia. Unfortunately, dissenting voices from within PESAKA and elsewhere summarily put a stop to that, leaving his dream unrealised.

Through his students, he also recently set up the Pakar Silat Melayu Sebenar ('True Silat Melayu Expert' - not a boast, according to guru Azlan) website hosted at http://silatmelayu.com.mymelayu.com.my/ which distributes his ebooks and reading material. Unfortunately, man plans but Allah disposes. He was due to launch his latest book when he passed away. It is unknown if the book will continue to go on sale as scheduled.

I have no doubt, thousands, if not millions of Malaysians will weep if they ever knew what wisdosm Pendita Anuar brought to his grave. Al Fatihah.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

06 March 2009

Is Amok part of Silat?

Despite Malaysia being heavily promoted as a tolerant multicultural, multireligious country, there are obvious undertones of tension among the younger generation, mostly fuelled by the racial politics and current issues that plague our headlines daily. It's a boiling cauldron of emotion that's waiting to blow over.

As I trawled through the political and religious internet forums on the Malaysian scene, I notice a particular trend of young Melayu threatening their perceived enemies with going amuk. They talk about blood parties like it's 1969, warning of uncontrollable rage. More worrying, is the trend of these statements coming blogs that are silat-themed or where the blogger is known to be a silat exponent.

It creates the impression that amuk is part of silat culture, when it in fact is diametrically opposed to it. The original meaning of amuk for Melayu is the sudden and unexpected burst of emotion that bypasses all reason. The pengamuk (person who runs amuck) will lash out at family, friends and just about anyone they can get their hands on because of a perceived dishonour or injustice.

The earliest recorded incidence of amuk in Malaysia is the well-known scene where Hang Tuah kills a pengamuk with an axe, cementing the difference between the conception behind silat and amuk, control and sanity.

Every silat style I have studied has always stressed on the idea of always being in the driver's seat, of beringat, of having that presence of mind. Amuk is nothing more than surrendering your mind to a berserker rage where nothing, no one is sacred. It is not part of silat.

What then, is? Adab (manners) of war.

The most powerful learning learning a pendekar can gain is by rereading the manner in which the Holy Messenger Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his Companions (May Allah Be Pleased With Them) conducted their battles with the Quraish.

During a battle in the path of Allâh, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib ... found himself face to face with a kafir who attacked him violently. They were both brave and powerful men, but the kafir was no match for 'Ali, who soon was sitting astride his chest, ready to finish him off.

"I invite you to bear witness that there is no god except Allâh, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allâh," said Ali. "Accept Islam, and your life will be spared." "Never!" panted the kafir.

'Ali lifted his sword and was just about to plunge it into his enemy, when the kafir spat defiantly in his face. Much to the kafir's surprise, Ali immediately jumped away from his enemy and lowered his sword. "Go away!" said 'Ali, "I cannot kill you now."

"Why did you do that?" asked the kafir. "You could have killed me easily." "I was fighting you purely to seek the pleasure of Allâh," replied Ali, "but when you spat in my face, your insult made me angry and if I had killed you in anger, it would have taken me to the Hell Fire - so I had no choice but to let you go. To kill someone in anger or out of desire for revenge is not bravery, but the act of a coward."

This incident highlights that a pesilat has the responsibility to himself and his faith to be internally and externally consistent. The adab of war is outlined clearly in Islam and we should follow it as closely as possible.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab