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

19 June 2013

I disgraced silat and my family: banned Singapore athlete

Sport and family are everything to silat fighter Saiedah Said.

Since she was five, the former national athlete has trained, fought for and coached at the Al-Haq silat club founded by her late grandfather, Haji Hosni Bin Ahmad. Saiedah’s uncle is Hidayat Hosni, head coach at the Singapore Silat Federation (PERSISI).

Both her brothers, aged 27 and 21, are well-versed in silat – with the younger, Elyasak, a two-time Southeast Asian (SEA) Games athlete. So when Saiedah was handed a two-year ban for failing a dope test earlier this month, the ex-world champion felt she had committed the unthinkable.

“I brought down silat,” the 28-year-old told Yahoo! Singapore after a training session with her club at Kaki Bukit Community Centre.

“I brought down my family,” she said, choking back tears. Saiedah first tested positive for the illegal substance sibutramine, a weight-loss stimulant, at the National Pencak Silat Championships in April. After a second urine sample sent a month later confirmed the result, the National Anti-Doping Disciplinary Committee slapped the 2005 Sportsgirl of the Year with a two-year suspension.

During this period, Saiedah will be barred from taking part in any sport as an athlete or official. The Class E (65-70kg) gold medal she won at the tournament will also be forfeited.

It was a nightmare the petite, 1.57m-tall silat exponent never saw coming. The competition was meant to be her comeback from retirement, following a prolific run of five successive SEA Games outings and a bountiful haul of medals and accolades.

After calling time on her career in 2011, Saiedah signed on with the Singapore Civil Defence Force in August last year. For six months, the section commander at Tampines Fire Station left the world of martial arts behind, but could not resist the lure of competing once again.

So she jumped at the chance to take part in this year’s national championships – despite a severe and nagging pain in her lower back. Saiedah could not pinpoint the exact cause of injury – only that she’d tried everything she could think of to get better. But neither painkillers nor multiple massage therapists helped, and as the competition loomed, her condition worsened.

‘Thought it was nothing’ Saiedah’s mother, Kamariah Hosni, grew desperate as she watched her suffer. The 52-year-old turned to jamu, buying the traditional Indonesian herbal medicine from a friend who imported it from Malaysia.

The acquaintance had claimed that her product, labelled “Jamu Kampong”, was good for relieving pain. “If your daughter is in agony, whatever you have, you just give to her, right?” an emotional Mdm Kamariah told Yahoo! Singapore. Jamu is popular among the Malay community here, according to Saiedah.

In 2008, a jamu product branded “Lami” was found by Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority to contain sibutramine, an appetite suppressant used to treat obesity. Both Mdm Kamariah and Saiedah said they were unaware of this. “Maybe I’m not the reading type,” said the unfailingly polite Saiedah, who shared that it was her first time taking jamu. “But we thought it was nothing, just eat (sic).”

It never crossed Mdm Kamariah’s mind that the jamu would contain anything illegal. “On the bottle, it just says the ingredients are herbs, nothing else,” said the mother of three. The packaging of the supplement, as provided by Mdm Kamariah, is written in Malay and lists ingredients such as rhubarb, ginger, honey and other natural extracts. Saiedah is now certain the “Jamu Kampong” she took was the source of the banned substances that she tested positive for.

But the jamu didn’t help. The pain in Saiedah’s back never went away, and two days before the start of the national championships on 7 April, she walked into the Accident & Emergency department of Changi General Hospital. Doctors could not provide a clear diagnosis, and instead prescribed more painkillers and a physiotherapy appointment in August. Saiedah was also given firm orders to rest. But she proceeded with the competition anyway.

“I fought through pain,” she said. Saiedah went on to win the finals a week later on 14 April. That day marked her triumphant return, but it was also the day she would fail the drug test conducted by Anti-Doping Singapore. She was notified of her suspension six weeks later.

The veteran silat practitioner submitted an appeal last week, after letters from her mother and PERSISI were rejected by the National Anti-Doping Appeals Committee. Saiedah’s friends and family have rallied behind her, and she spoke of strangers approaching to comfort her: “They know that if I wanted to (dope)… I would have done it during all my years of being a national athlete.”

But one person she cannot console enough is her mother, who blames herself for the entire debacle. “I don’t want to ruin whatever she has gained,” said Mdm Kamariah, her voice cracking. “Poor thing, she has to face all this… It’s my fault. I really, really regret giving her the jamu.”

Saiedah is keen to move forward. “I’m going to take this positively, as a lesson learned,” she smiled. “Next time, I’ll read up whatever I want to take.” PERSISI chief Sheik Alauddin agreed, and said the “unfortunate” mistake was Saiedah’s for not checking what she was consuming.

Her next move will depend on the outcome of the appeal. She said: “Maybe this two-year ban will turn me off for life. Maybe it’s telling me, 'this is the end of your career, you need to rest now'.”

“But if the ban is reduced to less than one year, I will come back,” maintained Saiedah. She revealed that she was planning on trying out “one last time” for the 2015 SEA Games squad, with an eye on the regional gold medal that has eluded her. Does she worry that her name is now tainted?

“I don’t care what people might say,” she said. “I want to prove to them that this jamu doesn’t help in any way. I can do it through hard work. I can still win for Singapore.” And in the process, achieve what is of utmost importance to Saiedah Said. “Bring up the name of silat, and make my family proud,” she declared.

Written by JUSTIN ONG
Sourced from http://sg.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/fit-to-post-sports/disgraced-silat-family-banned-singapore-athlete-034841185.html?page=all

16 June 2013

Silat man survives two deep slash wounds in his neck

SIPITANG: Laud Adau is probably a living testimony that miracle does happen. Probably it was also his quick thinking that saved him from bleeding to death when he covered the slash wounds on his chin and neck with a shirt, and survived for about 12 hours before receiving treatment.

The 68-year old silat (traditional martial arts) teacher, who taps rubber for a living, was attacked at his house in Kampung Susuk Sapok at around 11pm on Wednesday and robbed of over RM1,000 cash. Laud is single and lives alone.

A neighbour, who came to clean up the grass near the victim’s house, found him lying at the verandah in a pool of blood, and rushed him to the hospital for medical attention.

His attacker, a local man in his 20s, was however arrested by police in less than 24 hours following investigation and public tip-off in the same village.

“We picked up the suspect near the area at around 5pm on Thursday,” said district police chief DSP Mustapha Othman. The suspect, who did odd jobs, is currently detained to facilitate investigation.

“We have yet to recover the weapon used in the attack and the cash. The suspect is investigated under Section 397 of the Penal Code for armed robbery,” he said. Mustapha said they received a report at around 10am from the district hospital when the victim came to seek treatment. Laud was later referred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the state capital for further treatment.

The victim was hacked twice with a scythe-like weapon. He appeared to be in stable condition when met at his hospital bed. There beside him was his younger sibling.

“My brother is a nice man and I do not know of anyone who has any ill feelings towards him,” said Setia Adau, who was sitting next to Laud’s hospital bed. The 57-year-old said she nearly lost her mind after learning of her brother’s condition, but kept calm by saying her prayers, hoping for the best.

“Only God knows our feelings after learning of the incident, especially knowing that he was attacked while sleeping on Wednesday night. I am just glad that he is stable despite the severe injuries.

“I was told that he could only make some noise when the neighbour called out his name. I am grateful to the Good Samaritan for helping and sending him to the hospital to seek treatment. Only God can repay his deeds,” said Setia.

Sourced from: http://www.theborneopost.com/2013/06/16/silat-man-survives-two-deep-slash-wounds-in-his-neck/#ixzz2WdP2VcpQ

14 June 2013

Singapore silat chief: I want apology for ‘demoralising’ remark

Say sorry. That’s what enraged Singapore Silat Federation head, Sheik Alauddin, wants from bowling chief and chairwoman of the Singapore Sports Awards (SSA), Jessie Phua.

Sheik’s fury stems from the omission of the Sportsman of the Year accolade from this year’s awards, after a selection committee deemed that no male athlete had achieved anything of note in 2012.

Silat world champion Muhd Shakir Juanda was one of four nominated for the honour, along with paddler Gao Ning, sailor Colin Cheng and wushu exponent Seet Wee Key.

While explaining the decision not to award a Sportsman of the Year to various media, Phua said the panel had to “consider the quality of the competition” faced by the athletes. A source told Yahoo! Singapore that on the night of the awards held on Tuesday, Sheik – incensed by the comment – had approached a minister to “demand” an apology from Phua.

When contacted, Sheik said that he was “just telling (the minister) how the silat council and community were unhappy, hurt, down and low in morale” as a result of Phua’s remark. The silat chief, himself a two-time Sportsman of the Year nominee and former world champion, confirmed he wanted Phua to "apologise to the community”.

“Is she saying the quality of silat is not there? This is the first time in my life, and in 30 years of silat, that I’ve heard something like this,” he told Yahoo! Singapore over the phone. “I personally feel demoralized,” added the Singapore Sports Council Hall-of-Famer. “This is not about awards or medals. It’s about the integrity of the silat community.”

Phua declined to comment when pressed for a response. As part of her earlier explanation, she had referred to the number of participants in the athlete’s sport – a point which Sheikh passionately addressed.

“25 countries took part. But it’s not about how many countries are taking part. It’s about who you fight; your opponent’s background,” said Sheik.

“Shakir fought world champions. He fought with the best of them all. This is not a 'kampong' sport. What more do you want?”

In the grand final of the World Pencak Silat Championships last year, Shakir overcame defending world and SEA Games champion Le Si Kien of Vietnam. Moving forward, Sheik said that the Jakarta-based international silat body “will know about this” and that locally, the Singapore Silat Federation plans to convene to deliberate the matter on 3 July.

The three-time SEA Games gold medallist also hit out at the SSA selection panel’s modus operandi. “I personally invited the relationship manager of SSC to Chiang Rai (in Thailand) to watch Shakir compete at the World Championships, but they said they were busy,” said Sheik. “After that, the committee never interviewed the silat federation about Shakir’s achievement.”

The sports awards were given out during a gala ceremony on Tuesday. Table-tennis paddler Feng Tianwei won Sportswoman of the Year, but there was no male equivalent. Former national fencer and triathlete Nicholas Fang, who was on the committee to decide the SSA recipients, told Yahoo! Singapore on the night itself that the committee was “not disparaging the achievements (of) the male athletes”.

Fang, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament, then said that Shakir’s efforts did not go unrecognized as “we made sure we rewarded him with a meritorious award.” But he acknowledged that the exclusion of a Sportsman of the Year award was “very tough” and that the “sports fraternity is disappointed for sure”.

Ultimately, he said, the panel’s decision was based on the need to “inspire people to aim very high.” “If somebody wants to be Sportsman of the Year, he really has to dream big,” concluded Fang. The question now is how big is big enough.

Written by JUSTIN ONG
Sourced from http://sg.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/fit-to-post-sports/singapore-silat-chief-want-apology-demoralising-remark-031350035.html

18 March 2013

Draw your weapon

The markings on weaponry offer a window to a culture’s aesthetical values and into the character of the weapon. This is what I learnt at the recent exhibition of traditional weaponry at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex, which showcased decorative art on classic weapons.

Reflection of the maker
According to Zainal Abidin Che Pa, director of Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation’s Conservation Department, the decorative elements on traditional weapons differ from one weapon to another.

“Weapons made by the Melayu often carry floral motifs and those made by the Chinese feature turtles, bells or dragons. For the Indians, their design elements often feature elephants,” explains Zainal.

“Weapons that feature ‘heavy’ decorative markings were also used as accessories for special events such as weddings,” he adds.

The decorations often indicated the status of the owner. In the olden days, weapons with engravings complemented with gemstones usually belonged to nobility and dignitaries, or those in the higher hierarchy of a community.

Types of weapons
There are various types of traditional weapons. Among them, the badik, golok, kelewang, keris, sword and sundang.

The badik is a small dagger used for self-defence. It was widely used after the keris was banned by the British government. The badik’s blade is made of metal and the hilt of wood or ivory horn, decorated with gold, silver and brass. Badik was the weapon of choice for women in the olden days.

The golok is a machete used in battles. Its shape is influenced by the Javanese and European swords. The shape of its blade is slightly rounded and sharp on one side. There are a variety of golok — Golok Kelantan, Golok Bugis, Golok Perak and Golok Minangkabau, among others.

The kelewang is a shorter version of a sword. But its blade’s design makes it prominent. Popular in the East Coast states, especially in Kelantan at the end of the 18th Century, its length measures 0.6m. Its blade tapers on one side and the size increases towards the tip. The blade has two tips with oneside carved.

But the traditional weapon with the most extensive decorative elements would be the keris. This weapon is synonymous with the Melayu community. To some extent, it speaks of the Malay identity. Having been in existence for six centuries, a keris’ hilt has the most weight in design.

Carved by master craftsmen, the process of carving a keris can be quite complicated. The carving styles for a keris’ hilt involves several processes. Before the hilt receives its beautifying finishing touches, the craftsman will first have to do a low-relief carving to define the outer facet of the hilt.

Then the base motifs, which have been traced using carving blocks, will be defined using a wooden chisel. The hilt’s carving technique is very fine.

“Craftsmen believe that the keris is very special and mystical. It is not something to toy with,” says Zainal.

Besides the keris, the sword is just as special. Designs in the country are influenced by designs from India, Pakistan, Persia (Iran), Japan, Sumatra and Java. For example, a type of sword called cenangkas looks like a sword from India and another type, jenawi, is somewhat similar to the Japanese katana or Samurai sword.

Then there’s the sundang. It is the largest item in the keris family. Its design too can be elaborate as it is used for royal installation ceremonies.

Hunting and protection
The traditional weapons of the Orang Asli in the country have completely different decorative features. The designs are influenced by the environment. Among the Orang Asli’s arsenal are blowpipes, spears, the adze and trident. They are made using materials found in the environment.

These weapons are decorated with inks of different colours. The weapons are used for self-defence and hunting. For Sabah’s Murut and Bajau communities, their most favoured weapon is the machete, which is available in different sizes.

Decades ago, the machetes were used to kill. In the olden days, enemies were beheaded using the weapons. But, not anymore. For Sabah-born machete craftsman Jamawid Soh, modern Sabah machetes are these days made as souvenir items and for personal collections.

Jamawid makes hand-carved Bajau machetes for a living. Among the machetes from the Bajau community are the gaya and barong.

“The Bajau machete is different because the carving is not only on the sleeve but also on the blade,” says the 42-year-old. Jamawid learnt to make the machete from his father. He started making machetes when young. He takes about three days to make a machete. The Bajau machete features a significant motif, a replica of the head of a bird. Jamawid says this design is called the Sigai.

In Sarawak, one of the better known weapons is the ilang machete also known as mandau. Like in Sabah, this machete was used for self-defence. The head-hunters would decapitate their enemies with it.

According to Zainal, the ilang machete is synonymous with the Iban community. Other types of machetes in Sarawak are the nyabur machete (used by the Sea Dayak people), and spear, pipe and jepur (sword).

These three weapons are significant to the Bidayuh people. Traditional weapons in Sarawak are made beautiful by decorations and carvings. Like the keris, the hilt is carved. The sheaths are made of animal skin or wood.

Often, the motifs for these weapons are geometrical. Additional features of the weapons include shells, beads and animal teeth.

Sourced from http://www.nst.com.my/life-times/sunday-life-times/draw-your-weapon-1.236067#ixzz2NrqqtlEB