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.