In April of 2005, I was blessed to be among the first group of ‘Cikgu Muda’ to complete the first two levels of Silat Kuntau Tekpi during an intensive training camp hosted by Cikgu Omar Hakim in
Equal in value to any of techniques I learned were the friendships that grew from that experience. Two of my senior classmates in that training group made a tremendous impression on me: Robert Slomkowski and Ricky Rillera. These two gentlemen have a lot in common, beyond the fact that they follow similar paths in the martial arts. You will not find a more perfect example of what the Silat masters call Ilmu Padi – The Way of the Rice Plant – than these gentlemen. The Way of the Rice Plant is thus: when it is young, it stands straight and proud – almost with arrogance. However, the older and more full (wiser), and developed it becomes, it humbly lowers its profile. That’s Robert and Ricky.
After a grueling day of Silat practice, we would eat dinner close to the training facility, and then somewhat informally practice Kali at night. I’m sure it was nothing special to them, but these guys blew my mind. Ricky is a legend in Pekiti-Tirsia circles. Facing him with a baston even doing a simple exercise felt like standing in front of an exploding pipe bomb. More importantly, behind the technique is a calculating, strategic mind that controls the fight like a chess master runs the board.
Robert is much the same way, although his personal style is somewhat different than Ricky’s. I distinctly remember thinking – as he blasted me with three solid kill-shots before I could get off one angle – that my best hope would be to get knocked out by the first crack and be spared the pain of the following volley. At one point, Robert was kind enough to show me a grappling drill that he developed, which made me feel as if my spine was made of rubber. Ah memories!
Although I was certainly the low man on the totem pole, and knew next to nothing compared to these guys, both of them taught me with patience and generosity as if I was their own student. As I flew home at the end of the training camp, I made two resolutions:
1. I resolved that one day my own students would have the honor of meeting and training with them; and
2. I prayed that one day, I could share something with them that was in some small way comparable to what they had taught me.
A few weeks ago I seemed to have achieved both objectives. After much planning, I came out to
I’m really looking forward to the next time we see these guys. I have a feeling that they will be doing our stuff better than we do it!