I watched the National Geographic Television HD Show- Fight Masters: Silat today. Below is my totally biased review on the show. I am biased, I am an American student of Silat Seni Gayong for 8 years under Cikgu Sam and traveled with him and Joel Champ to Malaysia for the filming of this show. I was fortunate to see the process and things that got left on the cutting room floor and how hard everyone worked to bring this show to light. That having been said below is my review as a Gayong practitioner, American, and witness to the process of the making of the show:
The show starts out with a great shot of Cikgu Jazwan. His movements illustrate the precision of Gayong striking. The empty hand techniques, Sanga Maut (a locking technique) and Seligi (nerve striking) illustrate the varied movements in Gayong. The techniques are varied and encompass different things for different outcomes. The locking is for breaking bones, while the Seligi moves are for nerve damage and "softer" tissue damage. The selection of these two varied techniques gives the viewer a good glimpse at the variety in Silat.
Next they moved on to weapons. Though many were filmed, the ones that made the cut were kerambit, keris, and cindai. The kerambit showed more of the "sneaky" aspect of Gayong. This weapon is hidden and deadly. It shows that you should never underestimate your opponent, because you never know. The keris is great to see! It is the weapon of Malaysia. It has a rich heritage steeped in Malay tradition. This segment in particular showed that a "common" weapon of great heritage has a deadly purpose. It is used to inflict maximum damage. The cindai is a flexible weapon, here shown using a sarong. These techniques illustrate how Gayong grew from using everyday items that people had near then, into a Martial Art used for protection. The cindai is again, a sneaky weapon that makes you re-think the people and items around you.
The Mandi Minyak ceremony was truly inspiring! All the teachers that were able to be there and participate, even those not on film made the experience unforgettable. This program shows the boiling oil, it gets you close enough to hear the boiling oil bubble break the liquid's surface. The sound, the heat, the smells are all part of your test of faith. Can you really do this? Can you take perfectly good and useful hands and really dip them into this angry looking liquid? Fight Masters takes you on the journey with Joel, you feel his nerves kick in at the moment of truth.
The final part was showing Silat Olahraga. One thing I wish had been explained better was the fact that Silat Olahraga is a totally separate art. It is not part of Silat Seni Gayong. Olahraga is a sport version of Silat. Like Tae Kwan Do and Karate, Silat as a whole has moved into sport fighting with rules and boundaries. In this new and different art Joel had to fight a SEA Games Champion. Joel trained for a few hours over the course of a couple days and then was put in the ring. Joel took a beating and held his own. This is where the story becomes full circle about Joel's journey. Joel's heart, his determination is what pulls him through this fight. Even though Joel loses this particular battle overall he wins the war. He is successful and at the end is awarded his third degree black belt.
Cikgu Sam's and Joel's own words at the end of the program show you how much Silat Seni Gayong means.
Gayong becomes part of you, it isn't just a "hobby" to either man.
This show overall made me very proud. I don't use the word "proud" lightly or in a condescending manner. I say it made me proud because everyone involved, the Gayong teachers, students, crew etc. all worked hard to bring you an authentic look as possible into the world of Silat Seni Gayong. Silat Seni Gayong can be a devastating art. It takes years of training and proving yourself to attain the rank of black belt. It usually takes between 8-10 years of consistent training to reach that level. For a Western brain thinking of "Karte Kid," typically when a Gayong person attains a Red belt level they will start teaching and this level is fairly equivalent to a black belt in most other arts. That having been said, Joel's training to receive his third degree black belt did not all get accomplished over the course of shooting this show. His training to get to third degree had been ongoing for years prior, this show was the catalyst for his getting additional rank. Those that know Gayong, know that this rank is not given out on a whim, it is earned through blood, sweat and tears. Joel has paid his dues over the years and earned his rank the old-fashioned way, it just so happened that this final aspect of his promotion was captured on High Def with a camera in his face shooting a show.
At the end, I sat there, overwhelmed. Silat Seni Gayong was shown in great light by a true artist, the cameraman, Lamb. This show is great! There are other opinions out there, but I hope the general consensus is that this is a positive thing for Gayong. I feel that it is.