Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some Props to Tuhon Gaje

Stolen unapologetically from the blog of my Brother, Mohd Nadzrin Wahab at

Cross Training in Silat Part II - Training The Core

I observe that when cross training, many people seem to understand martial arts as set techniques, and not natural survival expressions. When we think like this, then cross training becomes difficult, because we are tied down to the instructor's way of thinking (notice I didn't say guru).

An instructor normally understands an MA as a syllabus of techniques, and sadly this is rife in silat today. Traditional silat, once upon a time simply called Silat Melayu (now this term encompasses all type of silat), focuses more on development of core competencies such as strategic thinking, tactical analysis, kinesthesis and understanding kinetic energy, human and animal psychology and many, many more.

Thus, many people accuse Silat Melayu of not having a syllabus, when in fact it just means they have no set techniques. What they do have, are training methods that provide understanding for self empowerment, creating positive mindsets, and applying it to various aspects of life.

This 'life-wisdom', when taken into a physical direction, becomes Silat, the art of war. When taken into politics, becomes Percaturan or Siasah, the art of persuasive management. The source of this life-wisdom is various, depending on the area of Nusantara and the worldview each different Melayu clan accepts.

In some areas, it is clearly Hindu, as in Bali. In others, it is Budhhist and Animism or Natural Tauhid (like the Natural Americans, who many claim to be pantheists, but actually subscribe to a Single Diety idea).

When Islam arrived in Nusantara, it affected quite a bit of these life-wisdoms and collapsed these sources into two: Islamic and Folk. Now, because these life-wisdoms are so vast and various, it is impossible to encapsulate it all into a syllabus.

Thus, masters often only transfer mental tools, paradigms, maxims, or in Bahasa Melayu, called Petua which allows the student to explore his abilities, his weaknesses, his life, alone, without continuous guidance. Essentially, the master gives his students the necessary tools to master himself and eventually become a master.

I believe this is what Ustaz Saiful meant when he wrote:

"The appropriate way in deepen one's understanding and elevate one's skill in silat will be learning from the acquired knowledge. Let the knowledge 'mutating' itself into an 'unseen being' that'll guide oneself towards perfection."

These Petua are not unique to Silat, but exist in many different MA under different names. Void, Point, Straight Line, Circle, Compass Points, Opposites and Switch. Terminologies used by English-speaking martial artists.

Melayu call these petua: Ruang, Titik, Alif, Lam Alif, Mata Angin, Jantan Betina and Jengkal. These petua exist on different levels of understanding and usage.Among them, the physical (as in physics) realm, the social realm, the financial realm (no kidding), the psychological realm and the spiritual realm. In reality, all part of the single realm we call Life. Thus, the term Life-Wisdom.

Successful cross trainers are those who realise that all MAs share a common element: Human.

This is why we find that people who cross train from one Silat syllabus to another find it difficult to adapt, whereas those who have good grounding in traditional Silat Melayu can easily take to the structured arts.

This too, is what I believe Ustaz Saiful meant with:

"In our style, Silat Bongsu, apart from being the "Ibu Silat", it is also known as "Sendi Silat" or The Joint of Silat. Thus it is suitable to be incorporate into all kind of silat or non silat martial art. This can be done with strict adab".

This is why we find that THESE people never become newbies in ANY gelanggang. I have met many silat masters who fit this description very well. However, I would like to pay homage to Grandmaster Leo Gaje Jr of Pekiti Tirsia Kali.

He has the ability to look at any technique, silat or non-silat and immediately perform it, integrate it within his own fighting style and in many cases, reexplain it better than the owner of the technique himself. If he only held to techniques in the first place, he wouldn't be able to do this.


Anonymous said...

I personally met quite a few of exceptional Silat masters here in Malaysia, and learn from them as well. Today, one of them, one of my master, Cikgu Besar (Master) Khairuddin will be visiting me with his family and will be staying with us for a few days. He is a direct descendant of our late Guru Besar Utama Atuk Haji Husin, which is also my master. My late grand father himself, Tuan Haji Ibrahim, is also among these excellent exceptional masters.

There is no words to picture their wisdom. Knowledge that I get from them are precious. Experience from being with them are priceless. They are a very special breed of human being. Their words and actions signify true power of wisdom. Hope we are doing enough to carry the continuity of this rare heritage.

Mohd Nadzrin Wahab said...

Assalamualaikum Jeff,

Thanks for quoting from my blog. I'll keep quoting from yours so both our readers get a taste of local and international at the same time.

Regarding the story about GM Gaje, it was told to me by guro Omar Hakim when he was in Malaysia.

I believe that it's helpful to Malaysian pesilat to know that what they find in silat is not unique to it, but that it exists everywhere a human being exists, and GM Gaje is a rare diamond.

Sad that not many people here know him.