28 May 2009

Fighting in the name of friendship

Strange as it may seem, friendships can be forged by throwing lightning-fast punches and kicks. This was the case among silat exponents of Johor, Riau and Singapore at the recent sixth Sijori Silat Championship at IOI Mall, Kulaijaya.

State Youth and Sports Committee chairman Md Jais Sarday (right) greeting the participants.

For hundreds of years, the martial art has been used by armies in the Malay Archipelago to fight against each other and even against invading colonial forces.

But instead of spilling blood, the participants won applause from the audience with the fine display of their skills.

The tournament was first held in 2002 in Riau, Indonesia. It was started to foster cooperation for the idea of a growth triangle between Singapore, Johor and Riau in the 1980s and 1990s, hence the name Sijori.

About 300 exponents from various branches of the martial art graced the event with fluid and artistic moves.

The prize is the coveted Bupati Cup. The rules are similar with other silat championships except for one. No objections are allowed against a referee's decision.

"The aim of the tournament is to foster friendship, thus it would defeat the purpose if teams ended up disputing marks.

"All teams have agreed to this rule and there has never been a dispute on a decision since we started," said Ismail Ahmad, chief coordinator of the tournament.

With 10 weight categories for men and five for women and hundreds of participants each year, it is certainly commendable that the rule has not been broken for six tournaments.

It seemed that the spirit of friendship had overcome the fierce competitiveness of the exponents.

Another unique aspect of the tournament was the uniform fee regardless of where the tournament is being held.

"The teams have to bear the cost of participating and a flat fee of RM2,000 is charged.

"If it's in Singapore or Indonesia, the fee would still be equivalent to RM2,000," he said.

Ismail said the uniform entry fee enabled teams to plan their budget ahead of the championship.

The silat championship had also increased interest in the sport within the region.

Chief referee, Raja Nazarudin from Riau, said the sport received wider acceptance after the first tournament.

"We had to use makeshift padding for the first championship. But the regional exposure had brought increased government assistance for silat in Riau, and we now use modern equipment," he said.

Raja Nazarudin said the tournament had grown so popular that Indonesian teams outside Riau had applied to take part.

"We had to decline because as the name suggests, only teams from Riau in Indonesia, Johor in Malaysia and Singapore can take part. However, we are glad that silat has become popular beyond Riau," he said.

The winner of this year's tournament is Singapore. The team took home the Bupati Cup and Sijori tournament flag. They will also get to host next year's tournament.

The Sijori Silat Championship was a success in every way.

Next year, the teams will meet again to kick, punch -- and become even closer friends with one another.

Sourced from http://www1.nst.com.my/Current_News/JohorBuzz/Friday/Stories/2568251/Article/

25 May 2009

10 Reasons Why You Should Learn To Breathe

Throughout my life in silat, I have only found three silat styles that teach very specific breathing methods: Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9, Silat Sendeng Haji Hamid and recently, Silat Bongsu. It was Lok 9’s multipurpose Nafas Melayu that originally got me interested to do a little more research into why breathing is considered one of the cornerstones of traditional silat.

Among my sources include sports science, tariqat, chi gung and yoga. Hours of discussion, reading, thinking and learning also come together with the world views of each of these sources. It’s interesting to compare and contrast how people from different backgrounds think about breathing.

Some speak scientifically and refer to the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide as mystical enough, while others speak of using deliberate breathing to ‘cleanse’ the body of negative energy, toxins and the such. In short, I have experienced breathing being spoken of from the scientific, practical, philosophical, mystical, magical and religious standpoints.

In Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9, Nafas Melayu is considered the basic method from which all breathing variants are derived. It develops calmness, stamina, strength and explosive power. Thus far, it has served me well in managing stressful situations.

The LEAN (Latih Erat Anggota Nafas – Developing Breathing Apparatus) of Silat Sendeng Haji Hamid on the other hand is the exact opposite and develops muscular strength and explosive power.

The breathing of Silat Bongsu however, is the first time I have experienced the pairing of breath and salawat. This is supposed to work on the physiological and spiritual level, to create calmness in both, which will help the practitioner deal with a confrontation.

Ustaz Saiful Muhammad, guru utama of Silat Telapak Nusantara (of which Silat Bongsu is one iteration) recommends that we breath naturally, inhaling deeply through our nose and exhaling through the mouth. Although it seems simple, but this process is not simplistic.As we find in many sources, breath is considered the stuff of life. Unfortunately, modern man has lost much of his natural breathing pattern. People in the past toiled and lived in harmony with the land, breathing pure air. Their hard labour allowed their bodies to process oxygen better than we ever could.

Now, we live in polluted air and work in air conditioned offices, thinking more and exercising less. Ironically, brainwork requires far more oxygen than present conditions provide. As a result of this situation, we who live in the cities develop a shortness of breath. We no longer inhale deeply, because it hurts to do so.

People who still live close to nature can tell the difference in the quality of the air when they come to Kuala Lumpur. When I visited the hillside Janda Baik forest in Pahang several years ago, the air was sickeningly sweet. I felt faint, some say due to the excess oxygen.Returning to the city, I could clearly compare the evil in the air which pollutes our lungs daily. For many years, this is how I lived. Fortunately, I now live in an area which is still close to forest and undeveloped, relatively unspoiled and I'm getting used to the change (for the better).

There are thousands of very good reasons why we need to learn to breathe properly. However, below, I state the 10 most important ones for me:

10. The brain is the body's CPU, and like a computer, is prone to overheating. When you inhale through the nose, air passes through the nasal cavity and flows by blood capillaries close to the brain. A heat exchange happens and the air is heated up, while the brain cools down.

9. The heated air then enters the lungs, keeping the lungs warm, which prevents dozens of diseases. People who have breathing problems, including snoring and sleep with their mouths open, are often more susceptible to sickness. They lose moisture faster through the mouth. Inversely, inhaled air is moistened in the nasal cavity, which helps control the body’s moisture level.

8. The nasal cavity contains nerve endings that connect directly to the brain. When air flows by these nerve endings, it stimulates the brain directly and gives the brain activity, thus exercising the brain. People who breathe through their mouths on a regular basis are missing out on the chance to keep their brain active.

7. The body has a mechanism that responds to perceived threats, called Fight-or-Flight. It prepares your body for action. Unfortunately, the mechanism prioritises resources and redirects oxygen and energy AWAY from the brain and into the torso and limbs. It also secrets the hormone cortisol which dampens brain signals. This is why people who are angry, panicking, stressed out, surprised or even students entering an exam hall, temporarily ‘lose’ their ability to think. The key to this is keeping the heart rate down, which is primarily controllable via breathing.

6. The second problem with Fight-or-Flight is that when it kicks in, your heart rate goes up. At this level, the body retains only gross motor skills, but loses fine and complex motor skills. For a pesilat, this is death, because if you can't launch an accurate punch, execute a perfect lock or apply a complex throw, your training is pretty much useless. Again, your heart rate is only controllable through breathing.

5. Pesilat in the past often sought to increase their lung capacity by holding their breath statically (with no movement) and dynamically (while doing movement like a tari or jurus). This allows the pesilat to take in more air during normal breathing and provides more oxygen to the brain and body.

4. Since there is a physical limit to lung capacity (there's only so big your lungs can grow), they also used to train their deep breathing methods in high altitude. At such heights, oxygen levels are lower and trains the lungs to increases its absorption and oxygen processing rate.

3. The torso contains the most vital organs of the human body. Every organ is packed in close to one another. When we breathe deeply, especially with dynamic pressure, these organs are squeezed, pressed together and moved around. The lungs and abdominal muscles gently massage and exercise these organs, which allow blood to flow more efficiently through them.

2. There is research by Masaru Emoto that suggests that good intentions and good speech can program water to have healing effects. This is consistent with the belief held by Sufis that Zikir, reading al Quran and Selawat provide good blessings to water, often used to spiritually and physically cleanse. Since our body is made up of more than 60% water, it means that we can be similarly programmed. When we breathe and perform Zikir, it ‘programs’ the breath, which cleanses our systems and releases negative energy through exhalation.

1. Breathing reminds us of how weak, how destitute and how dependent we are upon Allah's Rahmah. We inhale and exhale only by His permission, His grace. Every time we breathe in, we undoubtedly realise that at any moment, we will stop breathing, and we will return to Him, breathless, useless, worthless.

This is some of what I have found to be true in my life so far. I welcome corrections and discussion on the above. In truth, only Allah Knows what is true and false.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

24 May 2009

Pencak silat to hit the big screen

An action movie featuring the choreography of the near-extinct traditional Indonesian martial art pencak silat harimau will hit the big screen on Aug 6.

British director Gareth Huw Evans, who directed the film Merantau, said his wish was to make the martial art, whose movements were inspired by tigers, popular.

The tiger-inspired martial art, which originates from Agam regency in West Sumatra, is practiced around West Sumatra, including in Ujuang Bukit Pungasan, Pesisir Bandar Sepuluh, Muaro Sijinnuang Solok and Pasaman.

Evans said he was first enchanted by the exoticism of pencak silat after watching a martial arts exhibition in London in 2004, where the form was publicly performed.

The director, who has been fascinated with martial arts since he was a child, said silat harimau had its own distinctive character, compared with other more popular and well-known martial arts such karate from Japan and kung fu from China.

A silat harimau fighter uses an open palm instead of a fist and confronts the opponent keeping close to ground level. In the tiger form, fighters directly target their opponent's head, neck, genitals and other vital organs - which is why is cannot be included in martial arts tournaments.

According to the master of silat harimau, Edwel Yusri Datuk Rajo Gampo Alam, who choreographed the fight scenes in Merantau, the near-extinct silat harimau used to be learned only by soldiers in the Minang kingdom.

Only an exclusive few people can learn the craft, which involves rigorous training, because of an old restriction that allows only blood relatives to inherit the skills.

"I learned the craft from my grandfather," said Edwel.

"However, I have decided to teach this craft to others as I wish to preserve it."

Edwel also did the choreography for the 1991 film Sengsara Membawa Nikmat, adapted from a novel written by West Sumatran writer Tulis Sutan Sati.

Since 2003, Edwel has been teaching silat harimau to about 20 students from a wide range of nationalities, including Indonesian, German, French Austrian and British.

"Silat is never about the punches and the kicks," said Evans, who studied the moves before deciding the make the film. "It is all about character building first, as it incorporates Islamic teachings to build character and responsibility in the people who learn it. Thus the master won't teach anything physical to his students until the philosophy is passed to his student."

Evans' first independent drama-thriller movie Footsteps won the award for best film in the Swansea Bay Film Festival in Swansea, England, in 2006.

He is currently working with one of Indonesia's leading actresses, Christine Hakim, who is producing a documentary about the country's many forms of pencak silat around West Sumatra, West Java and Jakarta.

Evans plans to make another commercial movie that depicts other forms of pencak silat from the Jakarta (Betawi) area.

The producers hope that the documentary titled Land of the Moving Shadows: Pencak Silat, which has been in production since 2007, will be released as a trailer to the action movie Merantau, which has been promoted across the world, including in Hong Kong, Germany, France and Korea.

"We wish to invite young Indonesian people to love their own national heritage," said Christine, who appears in Merantau in a supporting role, as the mother of the main character Yuda, played by Iko Uwais.

As well as featuring pencak silat in its choreography, the 70-minute Merantau is also a film about the tradition among the Minang people of moving from their homeland to the big city in search of a better life.

"We also want to change the ongoing perception that learning pencak silat is less trendy than learning other martial arts," she added.

Lead actor Iko has been learning pencak silat Betawi for nine years in his uncle's pencak silat academy Tiga Berantai in Kayumanis, East Jakarta.

Iko, who was the champion in the 2005 National Jamboree in Jakarta, studied silat harimau for about six months before shooting of the film began. Some of the moves in the movie are a mix of silat harimau and the pencak silat Betawi.

Sourced from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/05/23/pencak-silat-hit-big-screen.html

13 May 2009

Asian Martial Arts Games postponed again

The inaugural Asian Martial Arts Games (AMAG) have been postponed yet again due to the precarious political situation in host country Thailand.

Having previously been rescheduled to June 6 to 14 from the initial April 25 to May 3, the event has now been pushed back to Aug. 1 to 9.

"The delay is a psychological burden on the athletes, and will also be costly as we have to provide additional funds for a longer training period," national martial arts training camp head Madju Dharyanto Hutapea told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

A tryout competition, the Martial Arts Friendship Games in East Kalimantan from May 17 to 19, will likely be scrapped because the host Indonesian Sports Council (KONI) lacks funds. The competition was initiated to fill the time before the first postponement of the Bangkok event.
Late last month, the government turned down KONI's request for Rp 120 billion (US$10.9 million) in funding for 2009.

Pencak silat coach Indro Catur Haryono expressed concern that the new schedule, if stuck to, would overlap with that for the national selection for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Laos in December.

"I hope KONI will hold discussions with its sports associations to find the fairest solution possible for the sake of the athletes," he said.

He added the AMAG delay would likely not affect the athletes.

"We recently held tryouts between national and regional athletes from Central Java and Yogyakarta. The results were great, and I saw much progress in their agility, endurance and technique," Indro said.

Sourced from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/05/13/games-postponed-2nd-time.html

06 May 2009

Back for a little bit

It's been awhile since I last contributed something original on this blog, and there's a very good reason for it.

When the idea for this blog started, it spun out of the desire to accurately represent Silat in Malaysia to the world. At the time, there was a lack of information on Malaysian Silat online and whatever websites or blogs there were, were sadly lacking in content, or presentation.

But now, there are many more alternative sources of information, mostly direct from the source or from secondary scribes, detailing their silat style in English and Bahasa Melayu. As mentioned in a previous post several months ago, this has caused SilatMelayu.Com to morph from a content site, to a community site, leaving that task to Silat Melayu: The Blog.

Although some contest my qualifications for such a task, it was never my intention to be Silat Melayu's sole representative. For that reason, I often source articles from other websites, newsites, blogs, forums, etc. More often than not, I have reproduced articles from my teacher and colleague, Ustaz Saiful Muhammad, an eminently capable writer regarding Islam and silat. I recommend his writings highly.

SilatMelayu.Com & SMC Innovations
On another note, the last several months has seen interesting developments at SilatMelayu.Com. We've moved the whole site to Ning.Com (inspired by Silat.TV's move), which afford us amazing features that we wanted to provide our members anyway. We've also established a new company, SMC Innovations that will handle the business aspect of SilatMelayu.Com, and then some.

We've introduced the first of SMC's product line, a T-Shirt with a Keris motif (in reality a reprint we did several years ago which sold very well) which will begin it's sale in a week's time. We're also planning on rereleasing the VCD set of the GELANGGANG documentary series which saw its run at RTM several years ago and there are already several ebooks planned for release.

All of this is happening now, despite the various setbacks that we've encountered ever since SMC was founded.

TekpiWorks & Silat Yahya Said
SMC also organised its first event (hopefully first of many), the TekpiWorks Seminar 2009, taught by guru utama Jaafar Md Isa of Silat Harimau Bentara Garang. Granted, it had its hiccups, but it was a proud day for all of us.

Being the organiser, we also had the opportunity to have private discussions with him. His reappearance on the silat scene after a long while coincides with the recent Silat Cekak leadership crisis. Many will sigh by now, seeing as the words 'Cekak' and 'leadership crisis' seem to go hand in hand, or that the word crisis deserves its plural form.

Coincidental, because Pak Jaafar is the nephew of the late Mahaguru Yahya Said, the man who gave birth to both Silat Cekak and Silat Kalimah (depending on who you talk to, of course).

In my conversations with Pak Jaafar, he reveals that Yahya Said possessed three different arts, supposedly known as Cekak Menanti, Cekak Merantau and Cekak Sabil. Cekak Menanti is what eventually became known as Silat Cekak and Silat Kalimah, while Cekak Merantau contains complex footwork and Cekak Sabil teaches Lading play.

Efforts to discover what original Cekak looks like were disappointing as he claims he never studied Cekak Menanti from Pak Yahya, but only inherited the other two. Research and talks are ongoing, but the old man is mostly tight lipped about such things. His other claims are even more controversial, which jar totally with accepted history in Cekak and Kalimah.

Other updates
During the last National General Elections, when cikgu Mohd Fairus Khairuddin of Silat Seni Pusaka Gayong was appointed Deputy Chief Minister 1 of Pulau Pinang, it was a pleasant surprise, since I knew him when we studied together in university and again in a martial arts setting when I served at SENI BELADIRI magazine.

I always wondered where the fire I felt in him would take him. Politics, I eventually discovered. An unpleasant surprise came several weeks ago when he was forced to vacate his position in the Pulau Pinang government and his Penanti seat on accusations of graft. Although he has since been cleared of those claims, it might take a while for him to get back to his prime political condition. That's just the way it is, I suppose. We wish him the best of health and peace of mind.

On a happier note, cikgu Hasrul Halid of Silat Lincah, who runs the Lincah Taiping blog and his own political blog Surat Dalam Botol, recently appeared on Blog@1 a talk show on RTM1 that interviews local bloggers about their causes. His only regret, he tells me, is that he didn't appear on his silat ticket, which would have made interesting for pesilat everywhere in Malaysia.

As for me, having a young family and an increasingly hectic working life has kept me busy. Whenever I intend to write something new for the blog, I discover that someone has already written about it. In other cases, there just isn't enough material to put in an article, or worse, not enough factual material, just hearsay, which could get me into trouble.

I however, do intend to continue my blognovel series The Azure Keris soon. For those who have pestered me to keep writing, thank you, but I'm still unsure if there will be a following for that kind of documenting. As my teacher keeps telling me ,"Buat je" (which translates to 'Just Do It').

For the rest of my readers, thank you for keeping up with the blog, and thank you Hasrul for saying that it's the only silat blog you follow. It's a big boost to the ego, but clearly not big enough to keep me writing on a daily basis again :) See you all soon.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab