The mystical abilities of silat masters cannot be defined in any straightforward manner.
In the old days, in Pahang and other states in Malaysia, a real Malay silat master needs to have profound skills and competency in the self-defence techniques of his silat style and to be at his peak always, as there will bound to be someone who will try to challenge him to a duel.
It is not just to test his ability, but sometimes it is by someone who wants to be his pupil or student, and to learn new techniques to improve his own art of self-defence.
Besides having to strengthen their physical beings, silat masters sometimes need to enhance their spiritual or mystical abilities through methods they were taught.
We know from stories told by their children, close friends and students that some of these silat masters have some kind of mystical abilities and supernatural energies beyond comprehension by the laymen.
And it is definitely beyond rational logic and belief, perhaps one step beyond the normal paradigm, closer to the twilight zone.
Below are some of the extraordinary capabilities and mystical abilities of silat masters covering not merely brute physical strength but also extra-physical abilities bordering on spiritual and supernatural powers, from stories told and from my own personal knowledge.
These are special abilities where bullets, deadly weapons and even poisons cannot kill them. Sometimes their shirt or clothes are completely torn by gunpowder bullets and cannon fire but they are still alive and strong.
Mat Kilau, the great Pahang nationalist who fought against the British in the late 1890s, was said to be invulnerable to bullets. In fact he showed bullet scars in several places of his body during the investigation on the veracity of his identity in 1975. The bullets could not penetrate further than just below the skin.
He is also said to be able to eat a fish whole -- the bones and all -- without being choked.
Hang Tuah, the great Malay silat exponent during the Sultanate of Malacca, was said to be invincible when in possession of the Taming Sari keris.
A master may have power and extraordinary strength concentrated secretly in one part of his body, such as a finger in one hand, where he will use its killer potent during actual fights to kill. Just a touch will kill an opponent.
His students will know this when he will close the finger and not use it when teaching silat to his students or during his normal everyday activities, as it is dangerous when touched.
Stories have been told of Tok Gajah (father of Mat Kilau) who can lift a house by himself.
Mat Kilau himself had the super ability to lift a cow or cattle single-handedly.
And I know that my silat master (who died more than thirty years ago), once lifted a Volkswagen Beetle and threw it when a group of disrespectful strangers messed up with him. No need to say what they then did!
The silat master could use ordinary twigs or branches of trees or rattan cane to fight guns and cannons. The item used will turn deadly and if it doesn’t kill immediately, the opponent touched by the object will die sooner or later.
Mat Kilau is said to have used only a piece of sharpened cane in battles with the British who used modern gunfires.
Stories of flying kerises, parang (machete) and other weapons, searching for their targets, are common. These weapons kill or injure the targeted opponent or enemy, whether individually or many.
And understandably this method is really accurate, unlike the modern drones or cruise missiles where the innocents are also killed or maimed, crudely termed as "collateral damage". In contrast, the pre-directed weapon (keris or machete) knows specifically what or who to target and look for.
This usually happens when a master is outnumbered or surrounded, and he will use the ability to turn himself invisible to escape from opponents.
Mat Kilau has the ability to make himself looked dead, even when examined. He is in a sort of hibernation mode with no breathing and no pulse -- a super-normal ability to stop his heart-beat for several hours when doing this.
Thus Mat Kilau was thought by the British to have died in an ambush by the Siamese in Kelantan in the late 1890s. And after having been examined and certified dead by both the Siamese and then the British, he was later buried.
Apparently his supporters replaced his body with a banana trunk when they pretended to bury him.
Well, he lived to 122 years old and actually died only in 1976!
This ability is where bullets or weapons directed at him will miss the target. The master will just stand there and the bullets, spears, arrows or whatever, will never touch him. It is as though those bullets or objects were deflected by something.
This phenomena can sometimes be seen today during performances and demonstrations by certain styles of the Malay silat.
Mystical abilities of some silat masters to change their form into a certain animal, such as a cat or bird, are for the purpose of listening to the strategies and tactics of their enemies.
This method is also used to escape from enemies, besides becoming invisible as mentioned above.
Some masters of the silat harimau style are able to change themselves into the cat family ("harimau" is Malay for "tiger") to suit their purpose.
This ability to walk on water is also one of the mystical abilities of a silat master.
Mat Kilau and his friend, Dato’ Bahaman, another famous Pahang nationalist fighter against the British, were known to be able to walk, skim and glide on the rivers of Pahang, not only when escaping, but when going for the attack.
And Dato' Bahaman himself was seen fishing in the middle of a river sitting on a floating coconut!
Making their opponent or enemy unable to move is also one of the mystical abilities of silat masters and such stories are also quite common.
An opponent or enemy sometimes get stuck on his feet, or is unable to stand up when sitting down, or unable to take out his weapon, such as a pistol or sword from its sheath, as it is stuck. The opponent is then at the silat master’s mercy.
Well, I’ve just outlined just some of the unbelievable things that a great Malay silat master can do.
Super abilities are God-given and are to be used only for good purposes. Otherwise the abilities will never happen.
The cynics will probably laugh at the supposedly mystical abilities of silat masters mentioned above. But as I mentioned somewhere before, never, ever underestimate the real silat masters.
Most Malays probably know and learn to respect them, especially those silat masters who are humble, who hide and never show off their skills to others.
Be really afraid of such people – they are the real masters. They use their powers only when truly needed.
So next time you learn silat from a great master, in Pahang or elsewhere, observe how the master keeps his secret weapon. It could be anything.
Mystical or mythical abilities?
Well, with that I leave you to ponder.
As always, from me...