20 June 2013

Passing on a legacy

Once known as a hamlet of warriors in colonial times, Jampang village is now striving to pass on that legacy to its younger generation. 

The sun shone brightly one Sunday in the village in Parung, Bogor. Dozens of children wearing black-and-white uniforms swarmed onto a field to learn and to practice the traditional Indonesian martial art known as pencak silat. Teachers soon led the pack and showed the students a few moves, followed by the students’ echoing shouts under the scorching sun.

The practice sessions are part of weekly activities in Kampoeng Silat Jampang, a training center of traditional martial arts in Indonesia.

The country, with its diverse cultures and ethnic groups, is home to what has been estimated to be 150 variations in style. Different provinces even have their own self defense traditions. The Minang kabau in West Sumatra have silek harimau, the Sundanese have their cimande style and Bali has bakti negara. Some of those fighting methods have even gained reputations on the global stage, with their popularity reaching Australia, the US, Europe and Japan.

The self-defense technique got another boost from the success of the action movie The Raid, which features Indonesian actors performing pencak silat.

But despite the global fame, it is still a challenge to maintain the pencak silat tradition in the midst of modern society.

This has occurred in Jampang, where the heirs of the Betawi folk hero of the same name are believed to reside and are struggling to preserve the art.

According to local legend, Jampang was a warrior from Sukabumi, West Java. He was a good fighter and used his skills in pencak silat to battle against Dutch colonialism. On his way to Batavia (now Jakarta) to confront the enemy, the man was believed to have sojourned in what is now called Jampang, where he taught local people fighting skills.

A few hundred years later, Jampang’s legacy is now under threat, according to Saptadji, 47, who was one of the teachers at Sunday’s training session and the head of Kampoeng Silat Jampang. He said that youth in the area these days seem to have lost interest in pencak silat.

“They prefer to watch television or play video games,” said the man.

The current situation is much in contrast to the past, Saptadji explained. In the old days, pencak silat was more than a self-defense technique but a way of life, as almost all the people in the village, both young and old, knew how to fight.

This strong cultural influence can still be traced through family histories, with almost all locals interviewed for this article explaining that their ancestors — either fathers, uncles or grandfathers — were pencak silat fighters.

Saptadji himself is the nephew of Sukarna, who is believed to be a sixth generation descendant of Jampang.

In attempts to pass on the legacy of his predecessors, Saptadji with the support of private foundation Dompet Dhuafa, initiated Kampoeng Silat Jampang in 2009 to revive the fighting tradition in his village.

One of the programs is free pencak silat training for everyone.

Saptadji said more than 1,000 people, mostly under 18 years of age, had joined.

“Most of them are residents of Jampang,” Madroi explained.

In order to expand, fighting lessons are not only given on Sunday at Kampoeng Silat Jampang’s headquarters at Rumah Sehat Terpadu Hospital for the poor founded by Dompet Dhuafa in Parung. Trainings are also offered at schools in the form of extracurricular activities.

Dompet Dhuafa representative Moh. Noor Awaluddin said the program had so far entered 17 schools in Jampang subdistrict.

Apart from regular exercises, Kampoeng Silat Jampang also holds an annual festival. The latest Kampoeng Silat Jampang festival was held at the beginning of November, which coincided with the program’s fourth anniversary.

The event is a major gathering for traditional Indonesian martial arts groups. Saptadji said different self defense clubs attended the last festival to show off their unique skills and styles.

In the long run, Awaluddin hopes that Kampoeng Silat Jampang will become a new center for the development of the ancient self defense method in the country, standing side by side with the existing martial arts hub at Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, or perhaps replacing it.

“I hope in the future Kampoeng Silat Jampang will become the destination for people interested in finding out about traditional Indonesian martial arts,” the man said.

Currently, Kampoeng Silat Jampang is the training ground for four different martial arts groups (Satria Muda Indonesia, Pancer Bumi Cikalong, Perisai Diri and Beksi Traditional Haji Hisbullah) and targeting two more (Tapak Suci and Merpati Putih), he said.

Joining Sunday’s training session was the Satria Muda Indonesia group under the leadership of Saptadji, and Perisai Diri, believed to be the most popular Indonesian fighting group, with memberships extending to Europe, Japan and the US.

One of the Perisai Diri members is 16-year-old Bella Oktaviani. The senior in high school may be the perfect example of a Jampang village youth who helps to preserve pencak silat. The long-haired girl said she started with Perisai Diri one-and-a-half years ago through an extra curricular activity at her school.

“I wanted to learn about self-protection and through this program I have so many new friends,” said the girl who participated in the Pencak Silat World Championship in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, this year.

The program’s good influence on the young seems to have encouraged many parents to enroll their children in the Kampoeng Silat Kampang training program, including 35-year-old Lilis Kartika, who enlisted her 7-year-old, Muhamad Arravi, in Satria Muda.

“The main thing is so we don’t lose what we had,” said the woman, who is a native of Jampang.

The mother of two explained that her father and grandfather were pencak silat masters in the village and she said she was eager to see her son follow in the steps of his predecessors.

However, it turns out the program has strayed from its original mission of preserving the tradition. But in a good way.

Self defense skills, international recognition and soon financial benefits are on the list of good things coming from the efforts to save pencak silat in Jampang.

During an interview with The Jakarta Post, Awaluddin revealed Dompet Dhuafa’s plan to develop a local home industry to produce martial arts weapons and accessories.

“We want to support locals in the production of daggers or silat costumes,” he said.

This kind of support, Awaluddin added, is expected to improve people’s living standards in the region and give residents strong reasons to continue preserving the tradition.

And good things lead to other good things. That is the lesson from Kampoeng Silat Jampang with its effort to preserve the pencak silat tradition, which in the end brings wider benefits to the whole village.

Sourced from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/12/05/passing-a-legacy.html

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Hisham Nazir said...
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