Sunday, October 25, 2009

Todays Lesson - From Malaysia with Love

"Talk to the Hand"

As I write this, Kuya Doug and Ka Jay are languishing in sunny Florida at the Pekiti-Tirsia 112th Anniversary Celebration/Seminar. I would have been there too, if not for a stupid respiratory infection that (thankfully) I am in the process of beating. Last night, as the wind howled and the cold rain lashed against my windows, they were kind enough to phone in and tell me about what a great time was being had by all. Thanks guys, that made me feel much better.

But at least they’re not having all the fun. This afternoon’s Silat class featured an unexpected visit from a renowned Malaysian Silat teacher/historian who just happened to literally “pop” in just as the students were arriving. And what a terrific class it was! I was able to sit back, coughing and taking notes while my students fired away question after question – and got some very enlightening teachings directly from the source. I am pretty certain this was the first class that he has taught in America, and we are truly honored for his time, patience and effort. Terimah Kasih!

On a related note, we have been studying the venerable Art of Silat Kuntau Tekpi for close to 5 years. The majority of my students have learned at least some parts of SKT and have incorporated this into their Kali training. Nothing wrong there. A select few have actually learned the complete first two levels consisting of 42 buah (“strikeforms”) basic senaman tekpi (tekpi exercises), and pelebat (a training form which teaches fluidity and body mechanics).

Now by popular demand, we will be offering a ‘seminar-series’ dealing with what I consider to be crucial, foundational material in preparation for the serious study of the combative aspects of Silat Melayu – stuff you would probably already know if you had grown up in Malaysia. This material will deal with the theory and application of Petua (Principles of Movement) as relates to breathing, footwork, striking, throwing, locking, and breaking. Anyone can learn a buah, or even copy a technique that they see. However, if you really internalize the principles of movement…if you have the necessary foundation, then application becomes spontaneous and effortless. If you just copy a technique and force it, then you have nothing.

Details will be forthcoming…


Forward Slash said...

You're sick? Jeezus, we trained this week! If I have to miss work it's your fault.

guro jeff davidson said...

Tell your boss to call me if there's a problem

Sir Pök Déng said...

Salaam Jeff Davidson,

I am wondering who that Malaysian silat teacher is. Glad to hear you're practicing this particular art for five years thereabout. I'm not a practitioner of this art but I'm very interested in their fighting methodologies since I know this art shares the same lineage with the other straight-back-'waiting'-posture systems which are Silat Cekak, Silat Kalimah, and Silat Kalam.

I have a lot of friends from Silat Cekak and an uncle who is one of the teachers in Silat Kalimah system. They have unexpected ways to counter any techniques from silat/non-silat styles.

Okay, these are deadly systems I'd say. Suitable for people who doesn't like fancy moves and high jumps. It is compact, relax, and effective.

Salaam from Malaysia.

Best regards,
(Seni Gayong practitioner)

guro jeff davidson said...

@ Pok Deng:

Asalaamualeikum. The Malaysian teacher reads this blog so I'll let him chime in when he has a chance.

I completely agree with your assessment. There is nothing fancy in Silat Kedah. Please feel free to tell us some of your experiences if you like.

Who does your uncle study Silat Kalimah with?

Sir Pök Déng said...

Waalaikumussalam Jeff Davidson,

Sometimes, I have to agree to what Dan Inosanto had once said, that what makes a system 'the best among all' is the way it is taught.'Silat Kedah' (Cekak, Kuntau Tekpi, Kalimah, Kalam) has the authority to carry this honor.

However, it's still a two-way type of communication in learning Silat Melayu. A master teaches his students through verbal and physical contact (not through DVD, hehe) and a student absorbs what the teacher has taught while understanding the whole concept for each technique and strategy.

I don't have much experience regarding Silat Kedah except the one that reminds me of my 'playful duel' with one Cekak senior who is also a good friend of mine. He joined our (Seni Gayong) three-day camp to calm his mind after a long period of studying in college.

In one evening, we were exchanging techniques of our respective style until we came across a discussion about Silat Cekak's 'buah potong' (intercepting buah) which is perhaps a secret set of techniques only taught to students who had reached a particular level of training.

He refused to demonstrate the techniques but he agreed to let me 'feel' it. Instead of asking me to attack him, I was asked to block his simple punch to the solar plexus. A very simple yet 'slow' punch. Well that wasn't really slow but that punch seemed to be easily for me to block and grab as fast as I can.

And I did. In a somewhat fast execution of technique.

Before I start executing the next move, which I attempted to deliver my counter attack, all I realized then, my arm had been grabbed by him (since when?) and I was pulled down to the ground. Before I kissed the dirt, his elbow from the very same hand that grabbed my arm smacked my ribcage. And then another slap to the face which I didn't see where it came from.

That was my first lesson.

Sir Pök Déng said...

I never asked his name. I mean, the teacher's name who taught my uncle Silat Kalimah.

Once he brought me to 'visit' his gelanggang. It was a 'closed' type of gelanggang, having surrounded by a perimeter of wall made from wood planks. It was a gelanggang meant for adults. All I can say, the teacher doesn't accept young students. So I don't have the chance to participate in the hardcore training regime, which is my dream.

I don't think that they are legally registered. But they train Silat Kalimah. In a very kampong way of training.

My uncle said, the teacher taught him physical Silat Kalimah. After completing all the syllabus, they learn metaphysical silat, which is hard to explain.

guro jeff davidson said...

Asalaamualeikum Pok Deng,

Thank you for great and eloquent reply. I wonder how many people will take your words at face value, and how many will read into a deeper meaning!

Anyway, I believe SKT also has a similar concept of the "buah potong" albeit under a different name. As you may know, I defer in all matters of Cekak to my Brother Mohd Nadzrin Wahab.

If you don't mind, I would love to ask you about something - and post your thoughts here. What is the role/responsibility/obligations of the "Guru" in Silat Melayu? What about the parameters of the teacher-student relationship?

I (we) would love to hear your thoughts.


Sir Pök Déng said...

Waalaikumussalam JD,

Regarding of the story written above (in my previous comment), you may notice that the man hit (slap) me to the face. That's not the way of Silat Cekak since they are taught not to hit opponents to the face. I reckon he had exaggerated the technique, adding a slap to my face for a good 'lesson' so that I will remember it for the rest of my life. And I do.

This is (the restriction to hit someone in the face), perhaps, their way of showing respect to every human living in this world including the enemies. It's the "adab" (good conduct) of Silat Malayu, I'd say. Sounds weird? Well, Gayong practitioners prone to hit opponents to the face. We got a different way of war here. I shall leave that for everyone to ponder.

Speaking about the role/responsibility/obligation of the guru, I'd say... this matter is beyond my mental ability to interpret them into a string of words, since I'M NOT A GURU. I'm just a practitioner of Silat. A student of silat.

However, in my honest opinion, the role/responsibility/obligation of a Silat Guru is analogically similar to what parents need to have in order to nurture their children into a better person in the future. So I am not going to teach my child (if I have one) to hit someone at school.

My uncle asked me a riddle (a riddle? I'm sorry, I'm not that good in English). His question: Why Silat has "kebatinan" (spiritual) teaching?

And I said, "I don't know. Perhaps, so that we can protect our country?"

Then he said, "No. That's not the reason why we have 'kebatinan'." He added, "the main reason why we have kebatinan in Silat is... we want pesilats to follow the path of divinity, not to trigger the act of war."

Sir Pök Déng said...

Parameters of the teacher-student relationship:

It's all stated in the unwritten law of Melayu's "adab berilmu". I shall keep that term untranslated.

Ask Nadzrin. :D

guro jeff davidson said...

Asalaamualeikum Pok Deng,

I wish you would elaborate on "Adab Berlimu" (Nadzrin and I have indeed discussed this). Its just that I would love to hear your explanation.

JD Tekpi

Anonymous said...

Mr. Pok Deng,

As a student of Guro Davidson I have had some exposure to SKT but i know nothing about 'Cekak' or the other styles you mention.

Can you explain why you refer to them at least in part as:

"straight-back-'waiting'-posture systems"

Thank you,

Sir Pök Déng said...

As the Islamic saying goes, “Learning something without a teacher is like learning from the demon.”

Well you’re not really learning from the demon if you learn silat/kali/eskrima moves through DVD. It’s just a cynical way (with metaphor) of telling people that you will deviate from the truth (the real teaching) if you learn something without a proper way of student-teacher relationship. It is simply that you won’t get the essence of a particular knowledge and skill.

Melayu people see “ilmu” (knowledge) as a living thing. It is priceless that couldn’t be bought by dollars. Since it is priceless, it is carefully bypassed to students, in an organized (and proper) way of teaching and learning. This is where teacher-student relationship comes to play.

When there is a student, there is a teacher.

A teacher knows his students well, and vice versa. It is a matter of trust, no matter what kind of knowledge to be passed down to the students by the teacher. The presence of trust comes together with “berkat”, which means, blessing. Blessing is an unseen thing. Even the best university professor in the world cannot prove the presence of blessing. It’s a matter of sincerity in passing down the knowledge especially the knowledge of killing people such as Silat.

Melayu people believe that whenever trust and “berkat” being held together by the teacher, the “ilmu” will be easily absorbed by the students. It won’t be useless for the students as it has become the flesh and blood. This is spirituality matter.

Logically, if a teacher is insincere in passing down his “ilmu”, he will reluctant to supervise his students. He’ll let them wrong. A teacher is meant to teach and supervise his students. There will be tests if necessary. If they passed, they will be granted the permission to learn more advanced “ilmu”. Perhaps, they had learnt all that advanced “ilmu” before, except that they didn’t realize it since the teacher “hold the key” to the stage of higher level of understanding.

If you learn this from a DVD, who is going to supervise you? Who is going to test you? You can slash a blade as shown by the ‘master’ in the DVD, but there’s nobody as reliable as a teacher to tell you whether you’re doing that right or wrong. In fact, in silat/eskrima/kali/arnis, blade is a living thing, just like "ilmu".

You’re just dragging a locked box filled with gold and jewelries, but you don’t have the key to open it. Is it sufficient to tell other people that “Hey! Look here! I got gold and jewelries!” Sorry to hear that, you don’t have the key.

When there is a student, there is a teacher. This is the basis of student-teacher relationship that breeds two other categories under the broad aspect of “adab berilmu”, which are: “adab guru kepada murid” and “adab murid kepada guru”.

Adab berilmu = good conducts (or good manners) of seeking and learning knowledge.
Adab guru kepada murid = good conducts of a teacher to students
Adab murid kepada guru = good conducts of a student to a teacher
Both are reciprocally influencing each other.

This is my own limited understanding on subject matter.


Sir Pök Déng said...

Hi Eric,
First of all, I’d like to remind you that I’m not a practitioner of this particular art. But since I’m part of Silat community in Malaysia, this is the general information that we share in our circle. However, I believe Nadzrin Wahab carries the authority to explain this particular matter. He’s the encyclopedia of Silat Kedah and Silat Melayu in general.
I (we) had used the term Silat Kedah to describe SKT and its cousins. Silat Kedah is not a style. It is just a way we (Malaysian) describe “Silat styles which are originated from Kedah”, even though it is against the grammar rule of our language. We adopt the shorter term for simplicity and it is widely accepted by the whole silat community.
That’s a loose term, by the way, since I am not sure how many silat styles in Kedah that may deviate from SKT and its cousins’ doctrine. So far for sure, when we say Silat Kedah, we all know that they are derivatives from the art practiced by warrior-chieftains of the palace in that particular state of Malaysia. In order to shed some light in your geographical knowledge, Kedah is actually a state in the northern part of peninsula Malaysia, which is near Southern Thailand.

SKT shares his lineage with other styles such as Silat Cekak, Silat Kalimah, and Silat Kalam. There are more and more offshoots exist due to different opinion in administration and philosophy which leads to the formation of new styles. Basically, they are the same silat sharing the same principles and even the same techniques. So, SKT buahs are 90% similar to its cousins. Perhaps, there’s a little bit difference to the teaching method among the styles. But that’s not a big problem.

Silat Kedah is comprised of 90% defend techniques and 10% attacking techniques. Don’t bother too much about the numerical value since it’s just aimed to give you the rough idea of how the style is all about.

Among all members in Silat Kedah group, Silat Cekak is obviously the most popular in Malaysia since they had established their classes throughout the country especially in higher learning institutions. One of the main reasons they are so popular is that, they’re easy to learn. You need one year to finish the whole syllabus. Then you’re done. After that, you are encouraged to polish up your skills by attending advanced classes and seminars. Unfortunately, Silat Cekak is a ‘closed’ system which only allows Muslim students to participate.

Straight-back-‘waiting’-posture system? Hehe. Please blame my bad command of English for that. It’s a term which I borrowed from Nadzrin’s description of Silat Cekak. One of the ‘weird’ characteristics in Silat Kedah is their standing posture during a fight. They don’t go for standing guard position with “I-am-ready-to-fight” facial expression like in Muay Thai. They don’t imitate an animal (eg. monkey or tiger) like in other silat styles or kungfu. They don’t bounce like Taekwondo, of course! Instead, they just stand up straight like a soldier in attention minus the fierce look and the puffing chest. They just give you the “please-don’t-hit-me” face.

Sir Pök Déng said...

Standing guard position? Okay, I'm sorry. I mean, GUARDING BLOCK position.

Sorry for spamming your blog, JD!

guro jeff davidson said...

Asalaamualeikum Saudara Pok Deng (Dean),

No need to apologize at all! And I do not consider your wise, eloquent, and informative posts here to be "spam" in any way.

In one of my conversations with Nadzrin, he expressed the following:

"Essentially, Cekak is no different from Kalimah or Silat Kuntau Tekpi. A highly skilled Cekak man moves the same
way a highly skilled Tekpi man would, if not in the same style. But the biggest differences can be viewed amongst the
students of the lower levels."

So now Pok Deng, if you would indulge us: what is a 'typical' Silat Cekak class like?

In anticipation,
JD Tekpi

guro jeff davidson said...

...Another question for Pok Deng, if he will:

I have 'observed' that some Silat Melayu systems are more 'pukulan' oriented, while others seem to be more 'kuncian' oriented. Why is this? Philosophy? Geography? Nationality? At one time, was either method more prominent?


Sir Pök Déng said...

Waalaikumussalam JD,

Okay, Pok Deng is not my name. It's my pseudonym. Dean is my nickname, derived from my real name that is hard to pronounce. LOL. I am reluctant to tell my real name here since I am prefer hiding myself in the cloak of partial anonymity.

Q: "what is a 'typical' Silat Cekak class like?"

In my humble opinion, it's not nice to sit back and watch what they do in their gelanggang. It is not a matter of adab, but I reckon this is a part of showing my respect those Cekak students and their gurus. So I don't know how a typical silat cekak class like.

Cekak is one of the most secretive styles in Malaysia. I have witnessed many times senior students of Cekak practice in the darkness of night under the pale light of the moon. Sounds like mumbo jumbo? But that's the way it was.

So you can guess how (and what) they learn in that hard environment. What will you do if your art only consists of 21 'compact' techniques? Make it a secret.

Sir Pök Déng said...

Q: "I have 'observed' that some Silat Melayu systems are more 'pukulan' oriented, while others seem to be more 'kuncian' oriented. Why is this? Philosophy? Geography? Nationality? At one time, was either method more prominent?"

This is my humble personal opinion. Please don't take it as a compilation of facts. But it is good enough for a good discussion.

Silat is not a modern art. It's an ancient art. When I say it's an ancient art, it is battle-tested throughout the centuries. This is not sport. This is the art of war.

I don't think that during a battle, Melayu people used their bare-hand to defend our country. They were using weapons. Blades, and more blades. Cannons acted as their so called "modern" artillery support.

I don't think that during a war, they were either wrestling on the ground (like in MMA tournament) or boxing like Muhammad Ali.

As a matter of fact, they were facing several hundred thousand of angry warriors with bloodshot eyes starving for blood.

Melayu people are masters of fighting dirty. We invented the way to kill our single opponent as fast as a lightning for war purpose. We did not want to get hit by a blind attack. Lightning in our language is "kilat". "Kilat" then became "silat".

Each of the provinces in the Malay Archipelago had their own enemy kingdom. Each of them developed their own way to achieve the goal of lightning fast killing to counter what their enemy had. For an example, Silat Kedah was specially designed to counter Thai armies who brought among themselves the art of eight limbs... Muay Thai. Kedah warriors used a lot of simple "kuncian" techniques to counter Thai warriors. Of course, both sides were not fighting bare-handed. They were using blades.

The Bugis tribe residing in Celebes Islands developed their own brand of "pukulan" system which was more preferred to be used on their boats to attack enemies on another ship. It was hard to execute "kuncian" on boats bobbing up and down on the surface of the water. Furthermore, the Bugis warriors were trained to fight under the water. They were great sailors and swimmers, indeed. I don't think that "kuncian" can be executed perfectly while fighting under the water. And again, both sides were using blades as well.

Borneo Silat has a lot of "pukulan"-oriented styles like those in Java island of Indonesia. While Malaysian Peninsula have a lot of "kuncian" styles, like those in her neighboring land of Sumatera (Indonesia). You can study the map for more enlightenments.

Back then, during the ancient times, there was not Youtube channel that collects worldwide groups of "keyboard warriors". Hehe.

Eric said...

Salaam Dean,

Thanks for answering my previous question. It's interesting what you say about Silat Kedah being used to counter the Thai arts. For what it's worth, several years ago in Thailand I met an old teacher who claimed (I have no reason to doubt him, I just don't know very much about Thai arts) to teach an style that was the predecessor to Muay Thai. I watched him literally play with a Thai boxer 1/2 his age, and he shut the guy down every time. I mean he stopped his movement dead. Lo and behold, to me, the Tekpi entries look very similar to the way that old guy was moving.

guro jeff davidson said...

Disclaimer: Before anyone gets the wrong idea from Eric's comment this is NOT a "Silat vs. Muay Thai" discussion! - and Dean's point is well taken. 'Nuff said 'bout that.

I have always admired Bugis Silat, especially Sendeng and the enigmatic P7Hari. I wouldn't be surprised if there was at least some Bugis influence in SKT. Pok Deng?

Sir Pök Déng said...

That is an interesting story! The world is changing, so do martial arts. Everybody learns from mistakes. It isn't a surprising thing to see Chinese influence in Silat Melayu. Or silat influence in Muay Thai and vice versa.

To add some points to my previous comment regarding the origin or "pukulan" and "kuncian" styles (which I mentioned that Silat was originated from the need of survival in the battlefield), I would like to say that Silat was highly assimilated by various styles from selected regions in the Archipelago (and also from India and China).

Back then, there were no boundaries. Trading activities and migrations had led to this beneficial assimilation.

If you look into the map of Peninsula Malaysia, it is far more smaller than the whole Indonesia, where majority of authentic Silat styles originated. In the ancient times Peninsula Malaysia was known by the Indian traders as "Suvarnabumi" (the land of gold). We were rich. That's why we were being been colonized by more than 300 years!

Through immigrations of various ethnic groups (each ethnic brought their own version of martial art), Peninsula Malaysia became the place of martial art assimilations.

Then, those hybrids were tested in the battlefield to become what a deadly art known to this day as Silat (or Pencak Silat).

"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)"
[Koran, 49:13]

Sir Pök Déng said...


I don't know that SKT has a little influence from Bugis silat. In Malaysia, Bugis silat is known to be aggressive and lack of flowery moves.

As you know, Sendeng is pukulan silat. Seni Gayong, which is also a Bugis-origin, not a strictly pukulan art. We are more into "kuncian". Pukulan is taught at higher level but kuncian is the most dominant.

amirulhusnitekpi said...
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