The Malays, like most other people of the world, have their own unique culture.
One of the aspects of culture normally associated with the Malays is the practice and art of self–defence techniques called "silat". This very graceful martial art is inherent to the Malays of Malaysia and some parts of Indonesia.
Watch the silat videos here if you have never seen a silat performance before.
In the old feudal days, the Malay children, including those of the royalties and high palace officials, are taught silat as part of their growing up and education system, and not purely for defensive purpose.
Silat training is meant not only as a self-defence technique, but also to inculcate the child with values of self - discipline, and to instill in him the qualities of self-dependence, self-respect as well as respect for others. This is to ensure that the child would be a rounded human being, useful and beneficial to society.
The Malay silat, as a technique, has many variations and forms based on the different locations it originates from and the masters who established them.
Today, the main and most popular silat forms in Malaysia with members comprising of thousands, and which are also practiced by individuals and groups in the state of Pahang, are as follows (just a listing - not in order of popularity):-
1.Silat Gayung Fatani
2.Silat Gayung Malaysia
3.Silat Cekak Hanafi
4. Silat Lincah
5. Silat Sendeng
6. Silat Harimau
8.Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9
9.Silat Rajawali Tunggal
Whereas in the state of Pahang, perhaps the main silat forms found and practised are : -
1. Silat Tari Pulut or a form of Sendeng
2. Silat Sendeng 2 Beradik
3. Silat Melayu Lok Keris 9
4. Silat Lian
The Malay silat during training and exhibition must normally be accompanied by the silat music, and the musical instruments comprise the drum, the gong and the flute. This is the real silat, with accompaniment of music, without which not.
In the old days, the music played are varied. During a battle or war, music which encourages bravery and to uplift the spirits are played. During training, a different tune is played for different dance movements.
Silat Tari Pulut is essentially the earliest form of Malay silat found in the country, and it has no specific name. Some say it is the origin of the modern silat sendeng.
Subsequently Silat Tari Pulut evolves into other variations and forms, with various names given by the masters and exponents of the variations. Nowadays the name "silat tari pulut" is usually exhibited during ceremonies like Malay weddings and traditional welcoming ceremonies.
Silat Sendeng 2 Beradik originates from Paya Kumbuh, in the Minangkabau district of Sumatra, Indonesia and brought to Malaysia by the two brothers who founded the silat. Currently the silat is being practiced by students in Kampung Paya Luas in Temerloh, Pahang.
Silat Melayu Lok Keris 9 is a silat form using the keris, the main weapon of the past Malay warriors. This silat was originally practiced and performed by royalties, and currently it is being taught and given the name by the exponent and master, Azlan Ghanie, who is also actively promoting the Malay art of self defence, as well as a silat type of exercise known as Senaman Tua.
He is also the publisher and writer of the popular monthly Malaysian martial arts magazine, Seni Beladiri.
Other forms of silat also exist especially in the very remote villages, with members consisting of a few students.
The current law and regulations require that the silat bodies need to be registered as an association or club. Therefore we find that those silat forms with very few members are those which are being practiced in a secretive way in remote areas and are taught only by invitation of the master.
We also can find other forms of silat practiced which are branches of silat from Indonesia such as the pentjak silat.
In the villages and very small towns, silat are normally taught in an enclosed place called "bangsal gelanggang" (arena or courtyard) with the earth or sand as the floor.
In the big towns, however, they are mainly conducted in halls or big rooms, with space enough for the students to move around.
In the old days ( and sometimes still carried out today in the remote villages), the "gelanggang" for learning or practicing the silat is first "cleansed" by conducting certain prayers or rites by the master.
The procedure must be conducted and followed to bless the ground before the place could be opened for silat, to avoid, it is sometimes believed, possible accidents or untoward incidents to happen during the learning.
However, since this practice and belief are against the teachings of Islam, in most cases, the practice is now not followed.
Traditionally, silat is only taught to the Malays and Muslims, as they also contain various verses from the Quran to be used in the rites and actual fight. It is said that a real master can fly like a bird or walk swiftly on water, and sometimes he could make himself invisible to the opponent.
These all seems make-believe and a lot of hot-air to the modern man. But to those in the know, and those who have actually seen the master performs the so called magical acts, these beliefs are true and they would without hesitation accept the notion.
But then these "superhuman" capabilities are not for show, especially not to outsiders. Only the nearest master and selected students will be allowed or can see the magical acts performed.
And it is said that it will not happen if it is done for show or to show-off. It will not happen – and the master knows this - and of course he has the requisite character and temperament not to be a show-off either.
The mystical abilities to fly like a bird,walk on water, etc., are achieved through the spiritual means.
That is why in silat, a thin or even a disabled or physically challenged person can overcome a tough or bigger person because his ability lies in the spiritual realm and with this extra ability can take opponents with physically bigger body. This, it is believed, is also as a result of practising the reciting of various "magical" verses.
It is sometimes believed also that in Malay silat a killing can be done without even touching the opponent, or be made at a distance, from afar. And even one punch would be enough to kill as it contains tons of energy that the opponent will feel like being knocked by a kilo of steel bar or stone. This is quite normal actually.
But the true masters will not show their "supernatural powers" in their normal day to day living or for exhibition or show because it will never happen. Only a real fight will make it happen. In fact, in normal living, the true master would be a very humble person, and people around him would not know of his secret ability or prowess.
As I said earlier, this all seems fiction. But it is not. The silat masters of the Malays had from time immemorial possessed the knowledge to be invincible and strong spiritually – magical powers - so to speak.
Most probably, other than the practice of spiritual matters, it is their inherent and intimate knowledge of the body structure and parts, veins and arteries, the body movements, even psychology, and to use all these knowledge in perfecting their art of self-defence, which made them invincible.
Different silat forms have different defence and offence movements. The differences can be observed from the initial stance, from a straight standing position ( the normal praying position of Muslims) of the silat Cekak Hanafi, to the bended knee or "kuda-kuda" posture of the majority of the others.
The dance movements "buah" (or fruit) and the "bunga" ( flowers) in silat terms, may also look similar, but there are nuances of differences, which can be identified by practising exponents and masters. This comes about from the different experience and training received by the masters.
The "dance" of the warriors of silat are known to the exponents of the silat by various names. Each is used for a particular objective, either for defence or offence or for locking the opponent. It is also used as an exercise form to invigorate and keep the body healthy and strong.
Different forms of silat have different names for their dance and movements.
Encik Mazlan bin Haji Hashim is a master in the various dance form of the old Pahang silat. He has learned and mastered the original and true Pahang silat art form and dance.
They are given various names to distinguish the movements as follows (with a rough free general English translation to understand its meaning):
1.Seludang Jatuh (falling of the bird)
2.Lenggang Janda (sway of the widow)
3.Benang Kusut (loose thread)
4.Merbah Berlaga (clash of the bird)
5. Kayuh Raja Beradu (cycle of the sleeping King)
6.Tarik Rotan Banar (pull of the banar rotan)
7.Cacak Racik (straight carving)
8.Helang Berlegar (circling of the eagle)
9.Helang Melayang (flying eagle)
10.Tarian Layang-layang (dance of the kite)
11.Angkat Pulut ( carrying of glutinous rice)
12.Belah Udang (slicing of prawn)
Each of these movements, although executed gracefully and gently, are in fact potent and powerful movements for defense and offense purposes. As they say, looks can be misleading.
This is so of the Malay silat. Graceful and gentle movements, but beware though --- they could be lethal!!
Never, ever, underestimate the graceful movement or dances of the Malay silat.
The stories and adventures of Hang Tuah and his four friends during the time of the Malacca Empire in the 1400s, emphasized on his strength and prowess in the silat arena.
The great Malay warrior that he was, Hang Tuah fought and consistently beat exponents and warriors from other empires, notably from Majapahit, through his silat prowess as well as his intelligence.
It is sometimes pointed out that Hang Tuah also uses the art of speaking as a weapon, by using it to psychologically convince his opponent to give up or lose confidence. Coincidentally this verbal technique to make opponents lose confidence is much like what the boxing great Muhammad Ali used before and during his boxing fights!
And, perhaps if you watch village demonstrations of the silat, you may observe that the exponents are always smiling. But a smiling face -- make no mistake -- is a lethal weapon, and is also sometimes used as part of the psychological technique during fighting.
Nowadays,the Malay silat as an art form for self-defence (without the traditional spiritual inner strength) is exhibited internationally as Silat Olahraga and although a bit different, is also acknowledged as a science and included as an international sports art, like karate and tae-kwon-do.
Silat Olahraga is principally a self-defence form for the general public, and provides good exercise for the body as well.
However, the bunga sembah or the beautiful dance "flowers" of the silat are not included as they are perceived as not part of self-defence methods.
So also is absence of the beat of the silat drums, gong and flute, without which, to conservative silat exponents, it lacks the original spirit and traditional beauty and mystic of silat.
The above is just a general view of the Malay silat as a self-defence technique and martial art form which has been part of the culture of the Malays in Malaysia as well as in Pahang for centuries.
Until then, from me...
*** SELAMAT DATANG ***
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