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.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Think on This

Philippine Special Action Force Commandos (SAF)
Trained in Pekiti-Tirsia Kali

It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the soldier
who salutes the flag,
who serves under the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag,
who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Silat Telepak Nusantara

The gentleman pictured below in the previous post - Ustaz al-Muhammad (also known as "Ustaz Shifu") - is a lineage carrier of a unique system of Silat in Malaysia. He is as knowledgeable as he is secretive. My friend Saiful and I have been known to defer to Ustaz's unquestionable expertise in some of the "higher" aspects of Silat Melayu.

Here is something about his Art:

From the oral traditions of our elders, the progenitor of this style was Tuan Sheikh Ali, an Islamic scholar and master of Islamic studies who visited the Sumatran Islands long before its foreign occupation. During this time, Islam had just arrived to that region of Indonesia. Aside from teaching the locals of the truth of Islam, he also taught them a martial art form, which he developed, derived from experience and inspiration.

Such inspiration repeatedly came to him whenever the need to defend himself arose, and thus the art developed further. There were 7 distinct stages of development in this style, which currently makes up the 7 levels of proficiency. Each level imparts different methods, techniques, and philosophies.

The final development in this style is the level named Silat Bongsu, which is the most simplified and versatile form. Silat Bongsu is the core of the total understanding of all Silat styles founded by Tuan Sheikh Ali. Because of this, Silat Bongsu is also known as the ‘Ibu Silat’ or ‘mother’ of our Silat styles.

After Tuan Sheikh Ali, several masters succeeded him. They are, in chronological order:

1. Guru Qodim

2. Katik Pasok

3. Muhammad Soleh

4. Malim Siroh

5. Pendekar Rohim (Pendekar Lima)

6. Atuk Haji Husin

There are also higher levels that are more expansive and require a deeper understanding to learn. These advanced Silat styles function as the expansion and refinement of Silat Bongsu. Among the masters of these levels are:

1. Bapak Buyong

2. Tuan Haji Deris

3. Ustaz Ramli

4. Che Mail Kedah

5. Pak Haji Harun

6. Haji Nong Bugis

7. Tuan Haji Shahrom

There are many more masters not listed here. Most of them have passed on, and a few others no longer teach.

Nowadays, pesilat learn and master only a glimpse of the Tuan Sheikh Ali Silat style due to the changes and demands of the modern lifestyle. To master all of the levels of this style, it takes at least 7 full years of consecutive daily studying. To be a good pesilat or gain the basic knowledge of a warrior, one must master at least the first 3 levels.

Long ago, this style of Silat spread far and wide, though always fragmented or under the influence of separate ‘perguruan’ (school), and never taught in its original complete format. Now, this priceless heritage has once again re-emerged in its original form and is being studied, strengthened and fused systematically within our organization.

Although each style or development within Silat Sheikh Ali comes from the same source, they are still unique and have their own identities. Each development contributed to the diversification of techniques, group identity, or even style identity, within our Silat school. Some styles previously had no name but were given them by the masters of each particular style. Among the unique names known are:

1. Silat Bongsu

2. Seni Silat Natar

3. Silek Natar Tuo

4. Seni Silat Sheikh Ali

5. Seni Silat Telapak Natar

6. Gayong Mendahiling

7. Silat Minang Sheikh Ali

8. Silek Tuo Sheikh Ali

9. Seni Silat Nuntoro

10. Seni Silat Sobok

11. Seni Silat Melayu Sheikh Ali

As previously mentioned, Seni Silat Bongsu is the name of the final version or development of Sheikh Ali's Silat style and has now become the first level in our instruction. It is appropriate in terms of the technique, application, and philosophy of this unique style. Our organization now strives to find and systematically merge all Tuan Sheikh Ali Silat styles, whilst at the same time preserving the authenticity of each one. No techniques from other styles of any kind, form or formless can be implemented in perfecting our styles. This action will not be tolerated, especially if the techniques are being practiced without permission.

In the quest to achieve the highest level of skill and understanding, a strict set of rules and regulations must be obeyed. All weaknesses and strengths must be accepted, utilized fully, and - if necessary - perfected in their own way. An open mind with a kind heart must be demonstrated at all times towards the whole of humanity. By accepting one's weakness, one has already achieved the basics in achieving greater perfection. That is the ultimate goal, unachievable as it may seem to some.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another Good Friend in Malaysia

Ustaz al-Muhammad
of Silat Telapak Nusantara

"Dua Tiga Kucing Belari

Mana Nak Sama Si Kucing Belang

Dua Tiga Boleh Ku Cari

Mana Nak Sama Si Ustaz Seorang"

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pekiti-Tirsia Romania

Here's a photo of Cataleen's talented Pekiti-Tirsia group in Romania - under the tutelage of my friend Ricky Rillera.

Keep up the good work gentlemen!