15 October 2006
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12 October 2006
bukan bermusuh sebagai tujuan,
untuk mendaulatkan seni kebangsaan,
mensesuaikan dengan makna kemerdekaan"
"For awareness was Cekak thus born,
not enmity, nor trangression, nor scorn,
to uphold the heritage we claim,
towards true freedom we aim"
11 October 2006
Adat dan adab are both Arabic words, loosely translated, meaning Norm and Manner. Most of the time, they have been misrepresented to mean Culture/ Custom and Protocol/ Manners. In reality, Adat in Bahasa Melayu is used to mean Islam, specifically the Shariah, Islamic Law. Therefore, all Adat is based on the Fiqh, or understanding of the Islamic Law. That is why this word crops up so often in Melayu literature or expressions such as Silat.
However, modern usage has confused and relegated it to Istiadat (rites/custom) status where only the observable action of the culture is taken into account. It is because Adat is equated with Islamic observance that many pesilat tend to place importance on it when in reality, it is at best, a permissible act in religion.
Adab, which is usually equated with ethics or manners is in Melayu culture quite comprehensively crystallised, ranging from the different types of hand clasping (salam) devoted to parents, teachers, superiors, friends and strangers to the usage of different fingers for different reasons (e.g. pointing with the thumb, etc.) However, it is the core of adab that is most important and not its expressions.
Adab is essentially the regulation of relationship. In Islam and Melayu culture, there are four types of relationships: with Allah, amongst human beings, with the environment and with oneself. As a Muslim, it is lawfully not wrong to conduct salat with only a cloth covering your navel to knees but it is definitely Adab-less, since no one would even consider dressing in such a way to meet an earthly king, let alone the King of Kings. This is Adab.
Amongst human beings, respect is noted in various ways and differs from culture to culture, where intention is codified and decoded by members of the same culture. I shall not touch on that. Since there is no emotional nor cultural aspect in our relationship to the environment, there are no limits to what we can do.
For example, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) treated his camels and herds with care, gave names to his swords and mirror and made them personal. Likewise, a graphic artist's first taught lesson is to respect the cutting blade or it will take off a good chunk of your index finger one day.
Finally, respect (Adab) towards oneself. This includes performing prayer and eating healthily, exercising and such. I once saw a resting motorcyclist sit on his helmet. He no doubt put it back on his head. Those who are sensitive to this will understand what I mean. Applying powder to one's armpits by using the back of the hand and not the palm shows good character, especially when shaking hands with others. This is Adab.
If I were to put it into one word, it would be mindfulness. Mindfulness of the needs of the relationships we conduct with ourselves, our environment, our fellow human beings and Allah. A question, then, comes to mind. Should a non-Melayu foreigner (or non-Nusantarian) be forced to practise adat and adab Melayu when studying silat, thus transforming his or her value system to conform to that of the art they study?
The following is my answer: It has been said by some silat masters that they teach silat to foreigners in the hope that they will become good Muslims. What this means, in reality, is not so much the conversion itself but the personality change that occurs during martial education.
There is a sort of cocooning of the confused non-Asian, surrounded by the rich culture, language and people that inevitably, he will himself be pressured to change and like it, or reject the change and be branded an outsider.
However, attitude is a nasty thing here in the many-times colonialised Southeast Asia, so much so that most of the time, the silat practising white man becomes nothing more than a white man practising silat and most communities still see it as a novelty and not an induction into their culture. They'd sooner accept a Chinese, Indian or Arab, since the hostile history is not apparent or nonexistent.
Because of this, many foreigners (especially Westerners) who study silat here are apologetic of their colonial past, or their resemblance to those masters of yore and usually submit themselves to the machinations (the connotation here education, not manipulation) of the silat master. So, the question of should he practise adab usually depends on the strength or focus of his master's education.
Fortunately, the world being the global village that it is today, many cultures are vying for a top spot in the hearts of its citizens. One of my American lecturers said once that everyone in Kuala Lumpur dresses like they were something out of a fashion magazine. We seem to have become more American than the Americans themselves.
The Dutch are fairly surprised to know that we have McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Long John Silver's, Coffee Bean, Starbuck's, Pizza Hut, Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood, Hiltons and who knows what else littering KL, while they only have a few McDonald's. So, I guess, this "shouldness" is part of that cultural war.
Interestingly, my answer to the earlier question is, though it may seem biased, I would have to say, yes. A foreigner who studies silat and is keen on understanding the roots of the philosophies and attitudes within silat, has to experience the adab of relationships within its cultural context, or risk second-guessing and/ or misinterpreting the silat lessons itself, which as many pesilat understands, is not limited to jurus-jurus, buah, sapuan and others like it.
However, everyone has a right to practise their own culture. So I suppose, treat silat like a university where all of the university by-laws are your laws, until you leave it to forge your own path in life. Then, if you have permission by your master, integrate your lessons into your cultural contexts and teach them to your local students, all the while understanding the original intention behind them.
Reminds me of our local McDonald's and Pizza Hut serving congee and satay dishes a la carte.
10 October 2006
The same way that 'karate' serves as a blanket term for a multitude of Okinawan-Japanese styles, so too does SILAT (Malaysia) denote an endless variety of fighting methods, many of which bear a striking resemblance to arts from foreign countries.
Reports of karate-like, judo-like, aikido-like, savate-like, wing chun-like, boxing-like and God-knows-what-else-like arts are mostly not exaggerated for Silat Melayu is highly adaptive and has, in my mind, accepted more diverse foreign influences than any other martial art in the world.
In Malaysia, the late Mahaguru Datuk Meor Abdul Rahman Uda Hashim's was known for his openness (see http://hulubalang-lagenda.tripod.com/draeger.html) of the reception of karate and judo-like techiques into his Silat Gayong system without losing the entire Melayuness of the art. It was essentially a progressive philosophy, something nobody before Bruce Lee even considered saying loudly in the West. That was a Melayu art with Japanese influences.
In Malaysia, the art is administrated by a few organisations including Pertubuhan Silat Seni Gayong Malaysia (PSSGM), Pertubuhan Silat Seni Pusaka Gayong Malaysia, Pertubuhan Seni Silat Gayong Warisan and PASAK in Singapore. It currently has a few offshoots and no surviving counterparts.
Another interesting example is Silat Lian Padukan (see http://www.lianpadukan.com) which is interestingly, a Yunnanese art with Melayu and Siamese influences. Unlike many kuntau masters who maintain that their art is Melayu all the while ignoring the origin of the name itself, Lian Padukan prides itself as being a Chinese adaptation of an Arab fist art with Melayu innovations.
Tracing its origins beyond Yunnan to the Middle East, it also claims to predate Wing Chun, whose origins it claims to have spawned. The modern Lian Padukan (before simply labeled Lian Yunan or Buah Pukul Mersing) which was founded by Mohammad bin Chik (Pak Mat Kedidi) incorporates into its Lian core many concepts and techniques (using the term loosely) from Tomoi (Muay Thai) and Silat.
It is adminstrated by Persatuan Seni Silat Lian Padukan and the Lian Padukan Martial Arts Academy. It has two offshoots, Lian Harimau Kumbang (defunct), Lian Golok (unofficial) and Lian Ilham. Currently, it has many contemporaries under different names and guises such as Buah Pukul Mersing, Gayang Lima, Buah Pukul Endau, Silat Awang Daik and an organisation called Persatuan Gerak Lian Malaysia.
Local (Malaysian) university students have no doubt heard of Silat Cekak (see http://silatcekak.org/ or http://www.cekakhanafi.com/, http://silatcekakhanafi.org) which claims to be an authentics Melayu art of the peninsula, which not many can dare to do. Within its syllabus lies the 'Buah Keputusan' or Conclusive Techniques (CT), said to belong to the masters of many different arts, successfully integrated into a whole by a straight-backed style.
Amongst its many claimed component arts are Gayung Fatani, Sendeng, Harimau, Terlak, Kuntau, Lintau, Kemanga and once upon a time, Spelet. These CTs are said to be able to counter all techniques that originate from these styles. Under the guidance of the late Ustaz Hanafi, these CTs have given birth to new techniques for countering other-styled attacks and agressions. It is currently administrated by two different organisations Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Malaysia and Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Ustaz Hanafi Malaysia and has no surviving offshoots.
Its current contemporaries are Silat Kuntau Tekpi (http://tekpi.org) (contemporary from a rumoured shared lineage from 1879) and Silat Kalimah. The forme is adminstrated by Pertubuhan Seni Silat Kuntau Tekpi Malaysia while the latter is administrated by several organisations, including Persatuan Kalimah, Persatuan Seni Silat Kalimah Yahya Said, Persatuan Seni Silat Kalimah Amin, Pertubuhan Ikatan Kalam Utama Malaysia and Persatuan Seni Silat Kalimah Panglima Tangkas.
Malaysian Silat is not as backward as many people see. The authentic versus modern debate that, ironically, still rages on in Malaysia and the rest of the MA world was essentially a moot point in the past, even the recent past. Allahyarham Datuk Meor Rahman's insistence on progressiveness was even though a thorn in the hides of many a silat teacher before, has since become accepted as the norm.
However, Datuk Meor was simply the physical vanguard of this concept, whereas more forward thinking Melayu were already doing this long before him. I understand why Datuk Meor had little resistance for in the days of yore Melayu (and still today) were a very royally-loyal race, coming under the influence of Islam immediately through the conversion of the local ruler.
Even on a smaller scale, royal vestiges in commoners with the prefix Tengku, Daeng, Megat, Teuku, Syed (the Prophet's lineage) Abang in their names strike a chord of authority and respect in their fellow commoners, even if these 'royals' were poorer than them.
Datuk Meor's vestigial princeness from the Bugis clan, his subsequent commendation from the Sultan of Perak as 'Sendo' (Mighty) and his commanding respect as a CID officer in the Singapore Police (not many Melayu back then in the White Man's professional realm!) all contributed to the acceptance of his ideas and methods.
Add that to the fact that many 'traditional' Silat masters had to bow to his superior skill when they matched him in hand to hand combat, the loser eventually forced to study Gayong. However, needfully mentioned, as public relations dictate, the names of the masters who overwhelmed Datuk Meor has been kept quite secret to this day.
My reason for comparing the three masters above: Datuk Meor Rahman (d.1991), Ustaz Hanafi (d.1986) and Pak Mat Kedidi is to illustrate the may ways Silat Melayu has held on to its Melayuness. Gayong in principle, Cekak in form and Lian Padukan in spirit. Unfortunately, it is evident that the minds of the masters are foremost in any adaptation process since after the passing of these two silat greats, Gayong and Cekak have ceased to be progressive as a whole in martial arts terms (which does not mean they are not effective).
However, Lian Padukan's philosophy of 'Padukan!' (empower, solidify, encompass) still sees new innovations based on the old under the leadership of its new guru utama, Haji Mohd Hasyim Mohd Salleh, all the while receiving the blessing of Pak Mat Kedidi who is healthy and hale to this day.
Gayong as a whole in Malaysia and Cekak which is more visually presented by the offshoot Silat Cekak Hanafi seems to have taken different directions.
Silat Cekak Hanafi has jumped head first into a corporate public relations frenzy, redesigning the uniform to a non-traditional look, using increasingly modern backing music for their demonstrations, organizing corporate dinners with local artistes performing. Image-wise, it has essentially done in 10 years what Taekwondo took 30 years to achieve in Malaysia. However much the look has changed, a board of trustees are strict in changes, if any to the silat syllabus that Ustaz Hanafi set to paper.
Gayong, however, has clung stubbornly to its past, rites and customs while very few of its masters deem to follow Datuk Meor's penchant for pressed slacks, coat and tie and a well-groomed appearance (although I am proud to have friends of the younger generation who are doing their best to present a good corporate image of Gayong).
It is true that cikgu Awang Daud has formed his Awang Daud Martial Arts Academy and is tirelessly promoting Gayong as an adaptive art, building other arts onto its core. As an art and culture, Gayong is highly recognizable, even when other arts unintentionally copy its form and look and the gait of its practitioners. While having absolutely no lineage to Gayong, these arts conform to the Gayong Norm, where demonstrations of breaking, self-torture, extremely violent weapons play are everyday culture.
Needless to say, these new values wowed the then Taekwondo, Judo, Karate-minded Melayu to begin respecting Silat again. In the 50s and 60s, Silat was mainly categorized by bunga and appearances at wedding ceremonies. Gayong changed all that and the norm is no longer the bunga, but the combat. However, I personally believe Allahyarham Datuk Meor Rahman overdid it since many Gayong practitioners now have trouble with softer, more precise movements.
That was why, the late cikgu Razali (former President of PSSGM) planned a return to more traditional forms, reintroducing music and tari. Unfortunately, he was taken too early for this to succeed. Some Gayong people are realizing this and have taken individual steps to study the more graceful village art of softness and pliability.
However, the process is not managed and Gayong recedes in popularity every year, quickly being overtaken by newer upstarts with a finger on the pulse of the youth and know what they want. For the same reason that Gayong is increasingly popular in the West, it is just a lack of it that is causing the very same art to lose its luster in its homeland.
09 October 2006
I came across an interesting piece of news today. Apparently The National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) has decided to fund the making of a Silat documentary.
As many Malaysians already know, apart from those produced by Filem Negara Malaysia (oh so many years ago), the following ones such as the Mahaguru series (shown on TV3 terrestrial tv in the 90s) and Wajadiri (shown on the sattelite operator Astro) were short of expectations, but we embraced them anyway, since that's all we had.
TV3 also came out with a one episode 'SILAT' which was a forum show where masters discussed their views on the arts. Unfortunately, I have never seen it and the only person I know of who has a copy is Azlan Ghanie (so, go bug him for it).
Anyway, back to the FINAS effort. Six million ringgit has been allocated to produce quality documentaries of National Geographic standard. Currently, the body is in the midst of producing three of them — 'Silat', 'Seni Pertukangan Perak' and 'Tembaga'. Each documentary costs RM200,000 and is made for local tv, but they're hopeful they can be exported.I just hope the money spent isn't going to go the way of other 'cultural white elephants'. Rant rant rant.
Click here for the full story http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/nst/Monday/Features/20061008144230/Article/index_html
01 October 2006
It's been a slow news week for silat, unfortunately. Those who have come to the blog expecting an update would have been sorely disappointed.
However, a piece of good news for those silat instructors who have been shopping around for a Sport Science short course to add to your resume:
Cikgu Baharin Ibrahim (former national coach and current Asst Secretary for PESAKA Malaysia) is organising a Level 1 Sports Science Course. Interested? Then contact the man himself at +6017 679 6977.
The details of the course are as below:
Date: 8th - 13 Oct 2006
Venue: MSN Keramat AU
A steal if you ask me. Sigh! Can't get off work to attend though. So, if you're keen, then get further details from Cikgu Baharin before the places run out!