31 October 2011

Pencak silat medal hopes fade

HA NOI — Changes to the pencak silat event at this year's SEA Games in November could seriously reduce Viet Nam's medal-winning hopes.

Viet Nam are the world champions.

At the Singapore Asian Pencak Silat Championship in April, Viet Nam managed to win 11 gold medals, despite half the team coming down with chronic diarrhoea, while Indonesia grabbed just five.

Indonesia has deleted five weight categories – the men's 80kg, 85kg and 95kg and women's 50kg and 75kg – in which Viet Nam are unrivalled. Indonesia's decision to reduce the number of weight categories is designed to favour the host nation, who have set themselves the target of winning up to 10 golds, which would give them the top podium.

In Jakarta, Viet Nam will compete in all six seni (performance) and 12 in tanding (combat) events. Viet Nam's three main gold medal hopes are Tran Van Toan in the men's 60kg, Nguyen Ba Trinh in the men's 65kg and Tran Thuy Luyen in women's 70kg.

Two years ago in Laos, Viet Nam won six SEA Games golds.

Coach Huynh Ngoc Minh Tien said the team would find it hard to secure this year's target of just three golds.

Viet Nam are also facing the likelihood that a number of their more experienced athletes may retire, while others might have to miss the tournament through injury.

World and SEA Games champions Huynh Thi Thu Hong, Nguyen Thi Phuong Thuy and Le Thi Hong Ngoan said they wished to spend more time with their families, while Nguyen Thanh Quyen said she wanted to concentrate on her studies.

Meanwhile, Le Ngoc Tan and Vu Thi Thao are unlikely to recover from serious injuries in time for the tournament.

As a result, 15 new members have been called to the national team.

"They are strong rivals with great technique but they lack international competition experience," said Tien, after the team returned from a short training course in Indonesia.

Viet Nam finished the Southeast Asian Pencak Silat Championships in Malaysia in August in second place with seven gold medals.

The pencak silat event will run from November 10-17.

Sourced from http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Sports/217088/Pencak-silat-medal-hopes-fade.html

24 October 2011

Senior citizen pwns a robber with silat

JERTIH: A senior citizen had to use his silat skills for 20 minutes before successfully chasing off bandits armed with machetes who broke into his house in the incident in Kampung Gong Nangka, Apal,here, yesterday.

In the incident at 11 pm, Abdul Ghani Jusoh, 65, was asleep with his 68-year-old wife when he was awakened by the sound of falling objects in the kitchen. He left his bedroom to investigate.

According to him, he at first thought the sound was caused by his pet cats chasing mice when he surprised a man armed with a knife in his kitchen.

"The man was holding a knife and tried to grab me and but we struggled for 20 minutes which resulted in several injuries to my chest and right shoulder.

"Although I am old but I'm still able to use my experience in silat, a martial art I was very active in during my teenage years," he said when met at police headquarters Loka (IPD) Loka in Kampung Raja, here, yesterday.

According to him, the man ran away while he was himself rushed to Hospital Besut by Loka residents before referred to Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM), Kubang Kerian. He was released home around 10 am yesterday.

Abdul Ghani, who was wounded in the chest and shoulders as a result of the struggle received 10 stitches.

"My wife is paralysed and we never thought thieves would break into our house because we do not have valuables," he said.

Meanwhile, the Loka police chief, Superintendent Kamaruddin Zakaria said police acted swiftly after being informed of the incident. They managed to detain the suspect with the help of residents and the Kampung Bukit Kenak Security Unit here at 8 am today.

"He was found in the bushes in Kampung Bukit Kenak, about two miles from the scene, along with two parang believed taken from the house broke into the victim in the house," he said.

Translated from http://www.hmetro.com.my/myMetro/articles/Bersilat20minithalaupenyamun/Article

22 October 2011

Rosmah Learning Silat Beneficial To Women

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 (Bernama) -- While women may be synonymous with being gentle, they could also show firmness by learning the martial art of silat, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor said today.

The prime minister's wife said silat was beneficial in developing an active mind and body, apart from fostering inner confidence in women.

She said, although women were able to take care of themselves, there were people who took advantage of their trusting and caring nature.

"While silat can prepare one to be ready for unexpected threats in life, its beautiful moves help a woman achieve physical strength, without compromising her decency and grace," added Rosmah.

She said this when launching the Women's Silat Lincah Movement at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here.

Rosmah noted that learning the silat could be more difficult for women than men as it demanded more physically.

"However, it teaches us to get up, even when we are down. It also teaches us to be patient as anything we learn needs patience and perseverance to achieve perfection," she said.

At the ceremony, Rosmah was honoured with the first Selendang Tun Fatimah Award from the Malaysian Silat Lincah Association, as a symbol of upholding today's women.

Sourced from http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=621873

14 October 2011

Creating cultures for the pocket

The pitch was heartfelt, and the message clear: “I want to make Malaysians aware of their heritage, and I’m doing it for free”.

Peter hopes to educate
fellow Malaysians.
There sat Peter Ho, his heart out on the table as he picked through his spaghetti. He was telling me about his new life’s work, which included writing a cultural booklet on the Keris.

Passed on by one of my silat teachers, Peter called me to get my input on his efforts. A 3-minute phone call was all I needed to dispel whatever notions I had of the selflessness of his intentions.

A 90-minute meeting totally blew me away.

A well-built man, who himself could have been a martial artist (although throughout our conversation, he never volunteered that information), Peter is a man of vision with objectives that spanned the breadth of every Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage policy I’ve ever heard of.

“Although I’m ethnically Chinese, but I consider myself Malaysian first and Chinese second,” he said, answering my unasked question when he first proposed to do the Keris booklet.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the little things in our culture that people take for granted such as the betel nut, the Keris, fireflies, cincalok, Malaysian ants and more. People might have heard of them, but can any Malaysian honestly tell me what they’re about?”

“For example, just the other day, I sat under a tree while eating some rojak and I was surprised that the tree shaded me coolly from the heat. I asked the mamak about the tree, and he said it’s a cherry tree. I remember this tree from my youth, because a lot of stalls would set up under or near one. We see it every day, but how much do we know about it?” he asked with sheer incredulity.

Peter smiled and passed me some samples of the booklet he wants to produce. I asked him if he was doing this full time, to which he replied that he was a one-man graphics designing company and supported himself with various jobs. However, this project was now his life.

The sets were beautifully designed and a slipcase contained two booklets (“subjects” he calls them), effectively making it a full colour, glossy, culture in your pocket shorthand. The Keris subject was paired with Sirih Pinang, while the Kelip-Kelip with the Geragau (strange combination, but being curious about it was a great effect) and the Semut Temenggung with the Periuk Kera.

The Culture, Tradition & Heritage series.
You can't buy it, but you'll have to find it when it's out.
He has produced working mock ups of these three series so far and is actively seeking sponsors to print them and distribute to schools, higher learning institutions, tourist spots and point of sale customers for free. Allow me to repeat that. For free.

“I normally get curious glances from the representatives of the companies I approach. They ask me if I’m asking for a donation,” Peter laughed. “It seems no one can believe that someone like me would do this for the sake of doing it”.

“However, I find that I identify with the little people, and they are the ones who, even without money, go out of the way to help me achieve this goal. I’ve had friendly secretaries who listen to my pitch and tell me the best way to approach their boss. I’ve had security guards guide me on how to send in a proposal to their administration. I don’t feel frustrated in my task, because I get to meet so many beautiful people, the real people of Malaysia.

I asked him, what his future plans are and how many more series he would be doing.

“I believe that we have a rich heritage to explore and be proud of. Every time I think of a subject to write about, I do deep research and I surprise myself with how much I didn’t know about my own country. There will always be something new to uncover. For me, it’s a journey for myself. It will never end”.

If you would like to contact Peter regarding connecting him with potential sponsors, please call him at 012-302 8138.

This writer has also committed to writing a booklet on Silat Melayu and needs a volunteer writer to match with enough material for a Wushu booklet. Please email me at nadzrin@silatmelayu.org if you're interested.

Original Article by Mohd Nadzrin Wahab

13 October 2011

Fauzi not comfortable with favourite tag in SEA Games

KUALA LUMPUR: Jakarta has been a good hunting ground for silat exponent Mohd Fauzi Khalid.

Last year, the Penangite defied the odds to beat an Indonesian exponent in the final to win the men’s below 75kg category in the World Championships in Jakarta.

The 24-year-old Fauzi will surely start as the favourite when he features in his third SEA Games, based on his achievements this year.

He won gold in all the three competitions he featured in this year – the Asian meet in Singapore (March), Belgium Open (April) and South East Asian meet in Kuala Lumpur (July).

Gold act: Silat exponent Mohd Fauzi Khalid will start as the favourite when he features in his third SEA Games. — S.S.KANESAN/ The Star
Fauzi, however, is not comfortable with the fact that the Malaysian Silat Federation are banking on him to deliver one of the two gold medals targeted for the SEA Games.

“Although Jakarta is a good hunting ground for me, I am already feeling the pressure of having to retain the gold medal in the Games,” said Fauzi, who won a silver in the world meet in Jakarta in 2007.

“I am afraid that I might not live up to expectations as I am not too pleased with my techniques in the combat sport.

“I am in good physical shape but I need to improve on my techniques.

“I also expect strong challenges from exponents from Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.”

At the last SEA Games in Laos two years ago, Malaysia returned with four golds – out of the 12 at stake – and six bronzes.

Although the number of gold medals have been increased to 18 for the Indonesian SEA Games, the MSF have only set a modest target of two golds.

Faizal Abdullah, who won the gold medal in the below 80kg in the Laos Games, will not defend his title because of a knee injury.

The MSF have named 24 exponents – 13 men and 11 women – for the SEA Games. The silat competition is divided into two categories – sparring and demonstration.

The Malaysian squad
Men: Mohd Hafiz Mahari, Mohd Taufek Abdul Latif, Mohd Helmi Abdul Aziz, Ahmad Shahril Zailuddin, Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari, Mohd Fauzi Khalid, Azrul Abdullah, Mohd Firdaus Sabaruddin, Mohd Faiz Abdul Malek, Mohd Taqiuddin Hamid, Ahmad Tajul Zaman Tajuddin, Hanif Ismail, Mohd Hafiz Mohd Arif.

Women: Noor Farahana Ismail, Emy Latip, Siti Rahmah Moh Nasir, Siti Khadijah Hassan, Matsura Sapuan, Maslinda Zakaria, Kamilah Sulong, Siti Arfiyah Abdul Jalil, Nurnaema Nayan, Nor Afizah Ariffin, Nurul Hidayah Sobri.

Sourced from http://thestar.com.my/sports/story.asp?file=/2011/10/13/sports/9686584&sec=sports

03 October 2011

Response to Sandalwood in The Huffington Post

Daliah Merzaban recently interviewed me for the The Huffington Post article Martial Arts & The Journey To Islam. One of the commenters, Sandalwood commented on the original article in The Huffington Post with this:

"... Silat, a martial art practised in Malaysia and Indonesia, rooted in Islam."

Silat is derived from Indian and Chinese roots, as this article states... http://en.­wikipedia.­org/wiki/S­ilat

Its interestin­g that now in Malaysia, Silat is considered to be "rooted in Islam", as this stance parallels what has been happening to school history textbooks, where Malaysia's pre-Islami­c history is barely mentioned, in favour of turning the curriculum into a biased one, as this article indicates.­.. http://www­.malaysian­mirror.com­/media-buz­z-detail/4­1-opinion/­51319-soft­ening-up-s­tudents-to­-islam-wit­h-history-­syllabus

Lastly, if bowing to each other is supposed to be rooted out of this practise, so as to make it more Islamic, please be aware also that the dozens of hand movements in this and other Martial Arts throughout Asia are Mudras derived from Hindu and Buddhist influences from the pre-Islami­c era, as the wiki article states.


Due to the length limit of the comments section, I was forced to cut my reponse short. I reproduce here the full response to his comment:

Salam hormat Sandalwood,

Silat Melayu in Malaysia is one of the youngest martial arts on Earth, and despite some teachers' assertions, there is no evidence that it spontaneously came into being as a complete art. Each style was developed independent of each other due to historical inter-state rivalry and family rivalry.

As such, silat continues to grow and adapt just as the Melayu culture adapts to new forces. The Melayu culture today bears very little resemblance to the Melayu from 200 years ago. Even silat has been open to influences from Indian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese fighting styles. However, the foundations of silat remains the same.

According to Prof Phil Davies, a Pencak Silat Kuntao Matjan master in Canada, one of the most difficult foundations to master in silat by non-Melayu peoples (Even "Chinese" and 'Indians") is the power generating "gelek" which is unique to their cultural physiology.

Merdeka and nationalisation has crystallised that 'silat' belongs to the Melayu and in a backward step, has caused a lot of silat styles to be freeze framed into space, claiming to have reached their evolutionary pinnacle. Meanwhile, other fighting styles around the world continue to evolve. (However, there are forward thinking traditional silat masters who have taken this head on).

This was the whole issue Bruce Lee had with the Chinese styles. He managed to prove that they had become ineffective shadows of themselves because they wanted to maintain the Chinese-ness of their arts. He effectively called them out on their racism and ethnocentrism. Neither the Chinese nor the Melayu are the centers of the world (although the current economy might suggest otherwise for the former).

The Wikipedia article you quoted doesn't say that silat was derived from Indian and Chinese roots, but it says it was "influenced by". It goes on to provide such evidence as "Many of the region's medicinal practices and weapons originated in either India or China, and silat's thigh-slapping actions are reminiscent of Hindu wrestling"

First off, a cursory glance to the traditional medicine of the Melayu sees more in common with the Orang Asli (most Melayu herbalists agree that their culture's foundation in medicine come from the aborigines). Many of the rainforest remedies the Melayu aren't even available in India and China.

Secondly, another cursory glance at the Keris, Rencong, Tumbuk Lada, Kerambit (a localised Jembiah), sees no comparison with "Indian" or "Chinese" weapons. Read "The Keris & Other Malay Weapons", a collection of articles by the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society where the origins of Melayu weapons are discussed.

Thirdly, the only reference to "thigh slapping in Hindu wrestling" is from this one line in Donn F. Draeger's "Weapons and Fighting Arts of Indonesia" : "Hindu culture gave pentjak-silat a vast heritage of combative ideas. Many of the grappling tactics used stem from Indian origins; the thigh slapping antics of various pentjak-silat styles smack of Hindu wrestling rituals in Hindu culture."

As any up to date martial artist can attest, Draeger sensei's research in those early years when silat was closed off to outsiders should be taken with a bag of salt, as his error in even naming silat as "bersilat" has propagated onto the internet, despite thousands of attempts to correct it. Be careful of believing everything you read on the internet (including my reply :). I don't think "smack" is an academic term.

That being said, any martial art that doesn't incorporate superior methods from other cultures or adapt to new threats will become Latin or Sanskrit, nice to look at, but effectively dead.

You said "Its interesting that now in Malaysia, Silat is considered to be 'rooted in Islam'" and provided a link to the current trend of Melayu-Islamisation by the government. Do not confuse the government’s initiative to further deny true history with Silat Melayu’s intrinsic link with Islam. Just because it’s not on Wikipedia or no one has bothered to do deep research into it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

When Islam arrived in the Peninsula, the process of Islamisation (not Arabisation, as is currently rife) was done through the route of tariqat. Missionaries’ primary goal was to realign Melayu thought and spirit toward Allah and Islam. The Melayu being a very spiritual and natural people found it easier to reconcile Allah with Sang Hyang Tunggal (the one God), their current diety than with anything they found in Hinduism and Buddhism.

And since fiqh was adapted to the local culture along the lines of the principles of Fiqh ‘Urf, a local flavor of shariah came into being. It was this set of laws that radiated outwards into all facets of Melayu life in the states where Islam took hold. One of those that was affected was silat, which back then was just termed “gawang” (avoidance), “Ilmu bertikam” (stabbing knowledge) or “ilmu penjuritan” (warrior knowledge). Most of the change happened internally, as unIslamic spiritual practices and thought processes were realigned to ad-Din.

Finally, bowing to each other as a mark of respect is alright, but not to the point of sujud in salat. I might also mention that the example of Aikido given by myself to Daliah is of Jun Yamada sensei, a Japanese Aikido master who reverted to Islam after teaching in Malaysia. He follows the lineage of O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, an adherent of Omoto-kyo. Any modifications he made to his own teaching was his choice. You might want to take this up with him.

Again, thank you for reading the academically accurate Wikipedia article with a sharp eye. This is what was actually written: “The vast majority of silat exponents use the Hindu-Buddhist namaste in which the palms are pressed together at chest level. This represents the balance of two opposing forces such as light and dark or hard and soft.”

It’s a form of greeting, nothing more. Nowhere does it mention mudras, and I have not encountered any Silat Melayu that employs mudras in their styles. If there were, they might have already fallen victim to the trend that you allude to.

Salam persilatan,

02 October 2011

Martial Arts And The Journey To Islam

A close friend introduced me to the idea that practicing martial arts has the potential to assist a Muslim in achieving a higher spiritual connection with God. Since I had always associated martial arts with Asian culture and Eastern religions such as Zen Buddhism, the connection with Islam did not immediately occur to me.
But after sitting in on one of my friend Imran's aikido and karate classes at a dojo in the United Arab Emirates last month, the correlations began to unfold before my eyes. The mood was set when, just before starting two hours of rigorous and meticulous training, a number of students and the sensei assembled to pray Islam's sunset prayer, known asmaghrib.
Each technique they practised during the sessions that followed was precise, demanding mastery of the subtle movements of leg, arm, hand and back. Students of various backgrounds and faiths exhibited tremendous patience as they repeated these motions, striving to take any tiny step closer to precision of combat technique.
Aikido, which originated in Japan, is typically done in pairs and practitioners learn to defend themselves while protecting their attackers from injury. Karate emphasises hard training and precise movement using a series of punches, kicks, and knee and elbow strikes.

While learning defensive fighting skills is the core purpose of training, interactions between students were remarkably cordial. A deep sense of equality filled the room; no matter how advanced in skill an apprentice, young or old, happened to be, s/he made an effort to enrich the experience of peers. Whether the belts they wore around their waists were black, brown, purple or white, everyone appeared to derive some value from the session.
This was inspiring for me because of the commonalities I saw with Islam. Muslims at varying stages along the spiritual path share a common ambition: to forge an intimate bond with the one Almighty God. Islam embodies an undeviating path to peace of mind, attained by aligning one's physical, mental, financial, family and community affairs to this primary goal, which we should help each other work toward.
For a martial artist, the journey of perfecting technique doesn't end with a black belt, it demands continual dedication and training. Imran told me later than evening, "Karate is like a pot of boiling water, and constant training is the fire that keeps the water boiling," citing wisdom from a prominent karate instructor that can underlie both martial arts and Islamic devotion.
The comment brought to mind the concept of Al Insan Al Kamil in Islamic theology, describing the perfect being who has achieved unity with God in mind, body and soul. Attaining this level of consciousness demands a series of traits, such as steadfastness (istiqamah), self-inventory (muhasabah), improvement (tahsin) and humility -- each honed to perfection.
Such traits are at the heart of martial arts as well, although a practitioner need not be driven, as Imran is, by a desire to please God. There are, furthermore, a few martial arts practices that go against sharia which, for instance, discourages blows to the face and bowing to other human beings.
To bridge gaps inherent in some martial art forms and supplement his training, Imran added an exercise technique known as Senaman Tua, native to his homeland Malaysia, to his martial arts regimen. Most-easily understood as an Islamic form of yoga, Senaman Tua requires that in addition to physical development, students take a journey toward self-realization.
One who trains in Senaman Tua will eventually have all the core skills to learn and master Silat, amartial art practised in Malaysia and Indonesia, rooted in Islam. The goal of each Silat practitioner is to improve their art for the sake of God, explained Mohd Nadzrin bin Abdul Wahab, Imran'sSenaman Tua instructor, who has offered Silat training in Malaysia since 2003.
"The basic idea behind silat is softness is strength," said Nadzrin, 34. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Nadzrin was drawn into Silat after seeing how Islam was woven into each lesson of his first guru, Muhammad Radzi Haji Hanafi. "Every other word" he uttered was an Islamic principle, related Nadzrin.
Silat teaches practitioners that they should dedicate their whole self, mind, body and soul to the intention of performing the art for the sake of God in order for the goal to be worthwhile. Apprentices should strive to be truthful, keep promises and act with strong conviction without disrespecting their parents and teachers.
"Every martial technique depends on a preset, pre-thought movement of the human body," explained Nadzrin, who has written extensively on Silat on a series of blogs. "A possible stumbling block to spiritual development is the practitioner's ascribing of his development or prowess to himself... Thus, we are taught in Silat that all gerak (movement) belongs to Allah, The Mover, in every sense of the word."
While certain varieties of Silat became controversial because they deviated from Islam, most Silatstyles in Malaysia are sharia-compliant, he said. Some schools, meanwhile, have modified techniques used in other martial arts like aikido and taekwondo to ensure they comply with Islam by, for instance, including bows that do not reach the level of sujud, prostration in Islamic prayer.Silat and Senaman Tua styles are now offered in many countries, including the United States, Europe, South Africa, Canada and Singapore.
Yet Silat on its own is no replacement for a Muslim's intellectual training in religion. It is rare to find instructors who are also qualified religious scholars, which had been commonplace between the 11th-19th centuries, Nadzrin said.
"I have discovered that the only way to learn Islam is to learn Islam directly, not going through the goggles of a martial art. Some martial arts teachers aren't qualified to teach or misrepresent it. However, in martial arts, you get to see the practice of Islam in muamalat (interactions)," he said.
Islam, Arabic for 'submission to God', embodies an entire lifestyle whereby followers integrate acts of worship into everything they do, such that expressions of gratitude to God become the goal of each activity, even beyond the five daily prayers.
In the area of fitness, we are encouraged to live in a healthy, beneficial way, consistently keeping our egos and impulses in check. In one Hadith, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, advised Muslims: "Teach your children swimming, archery and horse-riding".
Martial arts help people attain these goals, according to Nadzrin, because with proper training they encourage alignment and coordination between mind and body. He said participants gain many benefits, including equilibrium, muscular strength, stamina, cardiovascular maintenance, hormonal balance, improved kinesthesis and their senses become more receptive.
When a Muslim's body is healthy and fit, s/he is better equipped to, for instance, apply greater focus in prayer. In this context, one's pursuit of fitness is not driven by a desire to feed one's vanity and ego by attaining a toned figure or buff muscles, but rather to strengthen one's body to be better able to practise faith.
Reflecting back to Imran's training, I am impressed at how the mastery of combat techniques actually moves martial artists away from negative energies like anger and closer to the serenity inherent to the Islamic state of mind.
"Martial arts teach us awareness," said Imran. "The more we train, the more aware we become. The more aware we become, the less likely we would get involved in a situation of conflict. So ironically, the more we train, the less use we will have for our violent techniques. We attain peace."
Special thank you to Asma Faizal for providing photographs for this article.