Thursday, September 27, 2012
Selecting Students the Malaysian Way
This post is taken from the writings of (my teacher) Cikgu Omar Hakim. A student asked a question regarding the traditional Malaysian protocol between Master and prospective student:
“What are the basic and , apparently common interview requirements for the silat systems you have applied to? I am interested in how the instructors select who they shall interview and the whole process of bringing a new student in ....or excluding people from the system. How hard do they make it to join?.....Are there common concerns and issues ?....Do all the methods place similar barriers/ hoops in front of the applicant? Do different instructors do it differently? Are some a bit lax and some extremely discerning?
I am interested in their screening process. I now have a student formally apply and supply me with a background and references......something that experiences have taught me I should do.
I can tell you about three methods that I've had first hand experience with…
The first screening method involves inviting the student to the teacher's home for dinner. A deliberate event may occur during dinner that the student may not even realize is a test. From the student's prospective, everyone enjoyed a polite dinner together. If the prospective student fails the test, the Cikgu will say that he'll consider the prospective student's request to train, and then - after a couple of days - decline to teach the student with no explanation offered… The delay is so that the student won't realize that there was a test that he failed during the dinner.
Another test is to ask a prospective student to write a formal letter explaining why he wants to study Silat and to submit the letter to the Cikgu. The Cikgu will read the letter and then do nothing. If the student approaches the Cikgu and asks for the status of his request, the Cikgu will say that he is still considering the request and will decline to give a time as to when his decision will be made. The Cikgu will then wait again to see if and when the student will contact him again. He will observe the student's demeanor and “akhlak” (manners) during the second conversation. The Cikgu will repeat that he is still considering the application (which is a true statement) and he will decline again to say when the review will be complete. The Cikgu will then wait to see if and when there will be a third contact. If the student remains polite, respectful, patient and persistent during the third contact, the Cikgu will say on the spot that the decision is yes.
The third test that I've observed involves how the student conducts himself during the first meeting. What gifts (if any) did he bring? What questions is he asking? The Cikgu will ask a very simple question: “why do you want to study Silat?” and he will listen very carefully to the answer. A follow up question might be “well, why do you want to study Silat vs. Tae Kwon Do or Muay Thai?” Again, the answer is very carefully studied.