Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weapon Spotlight: The Lading

The Lading Cekak

The Lading is a unique single bladed weapon that has served Melayu as both a tool of war and farming. The weapon, which is normally classified as a type of Parang (machete-like blade) is made up of three distinct parts: the Hilt (hulu), the Blade (bilah) and the Sheath (sarung).

The word Lading exists in many several Nusantara languages, including Banjar and Kutai, which use the term to mean knife. During the 1948-1960 Emergency Period in Malaya, the Banjar united the Melayu in Sungai Manik, Perak to oppose the Communist Threat. This was conducted as guerilla warfare and named the Perang Sabil (Religious War) or Perang Sungai Manik and employed among other weapons, one similar to a sword called the Lading.
In languageIn the Minang culture, the Lading is clearly a parang, as mentioned in this poetic verse:

Si-Muncak mati tarambau,Kaladang mambao ladieng,Adaik jo syarak di Minangkabau,Ibaraik aua dengan tabieng.

Translation:Si Muncak dies in a fall,
To the field we bring a parang,
Custom and religion in Minangkabau,
Is as the bamboo and the riverbank
And the Melayu sayings:

Belakang lading kalau diasah lama-lama tajam juga

Translation: Sharpen the back of a lading and eventually it will be.
Meaning: A fool, when taught well, will eventually become wise.

Mencencangkan sesuatu lading yang hilang/ lading patah

Translation: Slashing with a lost lading/ broken lading.
Meaning: Taking pride in something worthless.

Lading tajam sebelah.

Translation: A lading with only one sharpened edge.
Meaning: A taker, but never a giver.

Bagai lading tak tahu akan majalnya.

Translation: A lading unaware of its own bluntness.
Meaning: Someone who never realises his sorry state.

Memakuk dengan belakang lading

Translation: Chopping with the back of a lading
Meaning: Making a request or an inquiry that offends another person.

Although it rightly started out as a farmtool, but the utility of the weapon has made it a favourite among several groups of users. There is a difference of opinion as to its origins. Some scholars point to the long age of the Kedah kingdom and theorise that being the dominant culture, it would have influenced the exportation of the lading to Sumatera.

Others theorise that large kingdoms often attract immigration and influx of knowledge and technology from outlying areas, suggesting the lading being imported from Sumatera instead. Either way, it was well-known that Kedah once had very strong political and trade links with Acheh and undoubtedly this is when the use flourished.

As with many Nusantara weapons, the exact design date of the Lading cannot be ascertained. It is clear, however, that the basic design of the Lading follows the theme of the traditional round-tipped parang.
The Lading can generally be categorised into two types, based on location, Sumateran and Malaysian from which two sub-categories can be observed: Lading Kedah and Lading Cekak. These categorisations are mine, to lend easier understanding.

Lading KedahThe Lading Kedah is often forged without a sheath, unlike its Sumateran cousin. The Lading Kedah is often used as a farmtool and has no unique specifications between different forging.

It is customary to fashion the hulu (hilt) from the horn of the Balau buffalo. There are etchings on the tip of the hulu ring-shaped etchings on the top area of the hulu. Some assume that the etchings help to keep a grip on the tool.

Although within the state, farmers are normally seen carrying the lading over their shoulder with the blade facing outwards, outside of Kedah, the Lading is not as well known as the ever-regal Keris. It is often confused for its cousin, the Kelewang, which is widely used in Kedah and Kelantan because of its higher utility. The Kelewang is often designed with hooks and tentacles for odd jobs and farmwork, whereas the Lading more often has only a hacking and slashing function.

A normal measure for the Lading Kedah is:
  • Blade body= 60cm.
  • Tang breadth = 1.5cm
  • Blade body width = 0.5cm
  • Blade breadth at tip = 7cm
Lading Cekak

The present Lading Cekak is a recent innovation, believed to be introduced by Allahyarham Ustaz Hanafi during the height of Silat Cekak's founding in the 1960s as a continuation of an older warrior tradition. The Lading Cekak has 3 unique attributes:
  • The measurement
  • The grip, and
  • The cutting edge
Like many Nusantara weapons such as the Keris and the Pedang, the Lading also employs the customisation philosophy by ensuring that each weapon is tailor-made according to specific measurements off the user's body. Each measurement has a corresponding philosophical meaning.

These measurements have been published as:

  • Blade body (A): Equivalent to the distance between the left ear to the right eye, or the right ear to the left eye, which means: "Whatever seen or heard, the blade will find".

  • Tang width (B):Equivalent to the width of the thumbnail.

  • Blade tip width (C): Equivalent to the length of the thumbnail.

  • Cutting edge length (D): Equivalent to the distance between the two eyes.

  • Hilt (E): Shaped like a deer's hoof.
Rumours suggest that there are other measurements, but that these are supposedly kept secret to preserve the copyright of the weapon.
GripThe Silat Cekak practitioner always only uses a reverse grip to keep the weapon hidden behind the forearm in a standing position. The hulu employs the Melayu handle shape (curved) which allows the user to hold the weapon comfortably in his hand.

Any weapon, when held in a reverse grip, will naturally yaw away from the forearm. This forces the wrist to bend downwards to keep it against the forearm. To compensate for this, the hulu is curved away from the hand, while the body of the blade bends towards the upper arm, sometimes in sharp angles, thus reducing the radical weight to nearly zero. This bend is named the Lentik Pelepah Kelapa (Coconut Leaf Bend). Other non-Cekak ladings also use Lentik Pelepah Pisang (Banana Leaf Bend).

The sharp-ended hulu can also be used to strike the ribs, solar plexus or the face.

Cutting edgeThe cutting edge of the Lading doesn't extend along the whole body of the blade. The only sharpened edge sits at the final few centimetres at the blade's tip. This innovation allows the Lading to not only act as a cutting instrument but a leveraging one.

The blunt edge of the Lading can be used to parry incoming arm or leg attacks by meeting the opponent's forearm, upper arm or lower leg. As the blunt metal makes contact, follow through movements apply greater pressure to the parried appendage and slides across it, until the blade comes to the sharpened edge.
What follows is a deepening incision that cuts straight to the bone and exits just as cleanly, by seesawing the hulu. Because of the apparent weaponlessness of the practitioner, opponents are often caught unawares by the solid parry which cuts at the last moment.

Targets for the Lading are often the abdominals, triceps, jugular, ribs and the inner thighs.

MethodThe Lading is used in Silat Cekak as an add-on to their empty hand methods. Thus, since Silat Cekak employs a 99% defensive and 1% attacking policy, the Lading is never used to initiate a strike, rather to counter it.

MaterialThe body of the weapon is made of metals culled from specific backgrounds of former use, similar to the Keris's '7 Pa' of nominal metals: paku, parang, payung, puting, pahat, pedang, pemukul. These secret metals are forged together with other materials to add bisa (poison) to the blade.
The Hulu is made from the horn of a male Balau water buffalo (Kerbau) or a female water buffalo. It is claimed that powder scraped from the hulu can be applied to a Lading wound as first aid to staunch bleeding.

Lading players in history
According to Silat Cekak lore, the famous Panglima (War generals) of Kedah wielded these Ladings into battle. The most well-known among them are Panglima Ismail and Panglima Tok Rashid.
This claim is corroborated by Pak Guru Sani Zainol Abidin of Silat Kuntau Tekpi, who is the direct descendant of Panglima Taib, of the Baling district in Kedah. He says that the Lading is a favoured weapon among the Panglima of the period between 1804 and 1879.

How to get one?
The Lading is granted by the Guru Utama (Principal) only to those who have contributed much within Cekak (currently represented by two organisations, Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Malaysia and Persatuan Seni Silat Cekak Ustaz Hanafi Malaysia).

This tradition is said to have been carried over from Kedah, when the Lading Berambu was given to honoured Panglima by the Sultan.

Similar Lading usesAside from Silat Cekak, the Lading also exists as an optional weapon for Silat Kalimah, which according to Pak Guru Zuhdi Mat Yusof (guru utama of Persatuan Seni Silat Kalimah Yahya Said), is used in alternating reverse and forward grips, unheard of in Cekak.

The Lading belonging to Panglima Tok Rashid, a common ancestor in both Silat Cekak and Silat Kalimah lineages is now kept in the safekeeping of the leadership of Silat Kalimah.

The Lading is also part of the arsenal of Silat Kuntau Tekpi which, other than its normalised weapon, the Tekpi, also teaches various common and uncommon traditional weapons such as the Keris, Rantai (chain), Cindai, Tongkat and many more.

Mahaguru of Silat Harimau Bentara Garang, Pak Jaafar also reports that the Lading can be used as a stabbing weapon, using the sharp triangle tip to penetrate straight to the heart.

All pictures are copyright of their respective owners.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Upacara Serah Diri

In an earlier post we examined the protocol from student to Master with regards to being accepted as a disciple under said Master.  Here is another example from the lineage of our esteemed Ustaz Shifu:

Showing proper respect, utmost gratitude and exceptional commitment are essential in qualifying oneself to be accepted as a disciple. For a beginning, pesilat (practitioner) or “anak bongsu” have to prepare 3 out of 5 'syarat' (requirements) items that will be requested according to the Master’s terms and conditions.

The efforts in fulfilling all the 'syarat' symbolize the willingness in being an obedience student. Usually these are among the required items (or equivalent):

1.  Kefir lime/citrus hystrix (limau purut)
2.  A needle or a piece of cloth
3.  RM7 in cash
4.  Incense complete with burning coal
5.  3 complete set of bitter leaves

Most of this 'syarat' items must be obtained individually, but some must be shared among other Pesilat. The Master will give relevant instruction on fulfilling the 'syarat' according to his understanding which is very deep and symbolic. In the old days - the ancient time - our ancestors had to follow so many strict rules in executing all the 'syarat' which is called 'upacara serah diri' which means ceremony in volunteering self to be a true disciple.

A white traditional Malay (Melayu) Silat shirt or “Baju Melayu” with black trousers will be the official apparel for Pesilat. Generally, any suitable apparel can be used, as long as it is appropriate and comfortable. The best is wearing the official apparel which can be symbolically translated as uniformity. Uniformed in apparel with the Master, and uniformed in discipline with the Bongsu style.

There are no specific restrictions in daily life practice whilst learning this style. However, striving to be a good and righteous individual must be practiced at all time. In being a true "righteous" disciple, no doubt that they must always practice and understand the true teachings of Religion. Learning this style must be based on trying to be an exceptional individual with great wisdom.

All requirements, terms or conditions (syarat) are to educate individuals into giving their full focus and commitment. At all times, everyone must develop high discipline and always show respect towards all creation. This art is not only for Malays (Melayu) Muslims. In fact anyone can learn and practice it as long as they can give a sincere commitment.

Before advancing to the next level, one must master the current level. A period of a month and up to a year will be required to finish some of the levels. At least a year or 3 will be the best period of time to becoming a true pesilat. In 'tutup gelanggang' or closing ceremony, a yellow glutinous rice and a roasted whole chicken is to be serve to the master as a sign of honoring him by providing a delicious feast. This will be held after the completion of the first level which is Seni Silat Bongsu.

After the full completion of the next level, an initiation called 'putus silat' or 'Conclusion of Silat' will be held for qualified 'anak bongsu'. A plank of wood with special requirements will be used during this initiation. In more advanced levels, 'jurus keputusan' will be taught at the end of every level, if the pesilat proves worthy of learning it. A keris with an odd number of curves or equivalent type of weapon will be presented to the master during this initiation.

Specialization and maturation is involved in the more advance levels. The right to instruct or teach will only be given with very strict rules and tight regulations. A songkok and serban (turban) is needed during the initiation when being given the right to instruct or teach or 'upacara ijazah'.