12 October 2004

Dancing with silat

Seni Silat. It's amazing how human ingenuity can give birth to such a breathtaking art form.

Meet the lanky Radin Samsudin Reduan, 48.

Soft-spoken and articulate in manner, but be ready for a good thrashing if you mess with him.

He's your modern day Hang Tuah - a black belt in karate-do and taekwando, hand-to-hand combat instructor at the Ulu Kinta police academy, tok guru of the Seni Silat Gerak Kilat order and a highly decorated assistant superintendent of police.

Baddies scurry away like startled lizards at the sight of him.

Despite his prowess, the man preaches peace. "The ultimate goal of seni silat is to acquire character that depicts good moral and ethics." Pretty deep, huh? Maybe the most difficult part is deciding which style to go for; bearing in mind more than 70 to choose from.

Silat has evolved into a wondrous variety such as Cekak, Gayong Fatani, Kuntau Kepayang and even one called Siamang Laut.

Training academies combine various traditional techniques and create hybrids like Seni Silat Polis, Pencak Silat Tentera and Seni Tangkas Penjara.

"Wish there's a gelanggang silat in every big town, like the ryokan hall in Japan," said Zainal Abidin Jamaludin, director of Jabatan Muzium and Antikuiti Wilayah Tengah.

It's a swell idea considering silat groups are mostly found in kampungs and you'll only catch their gig at elaborate Malay weddings.

Silat has a heritage merit and tourists would surely be delighted to catch a glimpse of the myriad martial art form.

And perhaps take home some "moves" for self-defense.

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