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The Malay Dance of Life

Silat Tua

Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab Nigel Sutton FREE FEBRUARY 2007 Sendout for SMC Members

SilatMelayu.Com - The Malaysian Martial Heritage

Dear Members of SilatMelayu.Com (SMC), Welcome to Silat Tua: The Malay Dance of Life, the first book of its kind on silat to be published in Malaysia. This 30-page sendout previews the book written by guru Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab and Nigel Sutton. This means that SMC members are the first people in the world to get to read two sample chapters, before everyone else! (Who said being an SMC member was dull?) Although the sendout is given to you in your capacity as an SMC member, you are free to distribute it to anyone you wish, the more the merrier. If you like what you see here and want to have a copy of Silat Tua for your own library, never fear, the book will soon be available on SMC and leading book online book distributors as well as being directly available from the publisher. If you have any specific inquiries into the contents of this book, you may email the publisher at info@living-tradition.com.

Salam persilatan, Mohd Nadzrin Wahab webmaster@silatmelayu.com Norazlan Abdul Wahid admin@silatmelayu.com

28 February 2007

SilatMelayu.Com - The Malaysian Martial Heritage

Silat Tua
The Malay Dance of Life
by Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab Nigel Sutton

SilatMelayu.Com - The Malaysian Martial Heritage
SILAT TUA: THE MALAY DANCE OF LIFE A Living Tradition Edition 1C-2-A2 Taman Leader, Jalan Chee Seng 13, Tanjung Bungah, 11200, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia Tel: 604-890 3313 website: http://www.living-tradition.com email: info@living-tradition.com First printing 2007 ISBN 978-983-42328-0-1 © 2006 Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab & Nigel Sutton

Editing, Layout & Cover Mohd Nadzrin Wahab Published by Azlan Ghanie (M) Sdn Bhd (692773-K) 6-1, Jalan 5A/6, Taman Setapak Indah, 53300, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tel: 603-4025 5379

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Living Tradition Sdn Bhd (749627-X)

Printed by Percetakan Tatt Sdn Bhd 17425, Jalan 2, Taman Selayang Baru, 68100, Batu Caves, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia Tel: 03-613 666 86

SilatMelayu.Com - The Malaysian Martial Heritage

Table of contents
1. Foreword - Azlan Ghanie 2. Foreword - Haji Abdul Rashid Baba 3. Foreword - Ismail Ahmad 4. Introduction 5. Origin of Silat 6. What is Silat? 7. Fundamental concepts 8. History 9. Preparations for training 10. The Silat training experience 11. Mythic concepts 12. Interview with Tok Guru Haji Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab 13. Poems of Tok Ayah 14. Glossary 15. Additional References 16. Acknowledgements 5 7 9 13 17 21 25 37 41 47 73 89 115 119 126 127

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Both authors wish to dedicate this work in gratitude to all those Martial Artists of the past who dedicated their lives to developing those arts which have been passed down to us today.

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Foreword

It is an honour to be invited to pen a few words for Silat Tua: The Malay Dance of Life, especially since this book comes at a time when many more people are interested in rediscovering the Malay martial traditions. In the past, silat had suffered various problems, initially stemming from its humbleness and hesitance to display its real combat efficacy in public. This caused the Malays to value foreign martial arts over their own. Later,it underwent several identity crises which saw many old traditions lost to the ravages of time and apathy. Now this generation, in this decade, has seen a resurgence in interest in the traditional styles and this book plays a very important role in safeguarding these traditions; by far, its authors count among the most qualified people to carry out this task. Guru Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab is honest and sincere in his affirmation that although silat is from the Malays, it should not be a restricted art, because to spread it is to keep it alive, while hiding it under a shell would only stifle it and doom it to a slow and humiliating death.

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I have met many silat masters during my career as a journalist and martial arts researcher and guru Zainal and Silat Tua are the embodiments of everything that silat should be: perseverance in the face of adversity, intelligence over sentimentality and adaptation as against stubbornness. As a book, Silat Tua is unique in that it harks back to the foundations that make up silat, including the mythic and Islamic influences, its animal inspirations and elemental principles and it gives an accurate description of how these parts define silat as a whole. It is, in my opinion, a work close to the heart of what silat truly is. Co-author Nigel Sutton, although not Malaysian-born, has endeared himself to the local martial arts community in his very own way. English by birth, but Malaysian by assimilation, Nigel fully understands the needs that Malaysians have in preserving their culture, and often helps to fulfill those needs. He is not only an expert in various traditional Chinese martial arts but has also helped in spreading several Malay silat styles through his association in the United Kingdom, including my own family style. This is why we thank him for his effort. For someone not of Malaysia, he has made many lasting impressions on us, and this book is his latest. Finally, it is my hope that Silat Tua will become an invaluable introduction to the traditional Malay arts for those who are interested in becoming part of our silat family. For in silat, when one dances alone, the flowers blossom and die, but when we come together, is when the flowers blossom into fruitful abundance. A hearty congratulations to both guru Zainal and Nigel, may we all unite in the martial arts, in peace and harmony, for many years to come. AZLAN GHANIE Guru Azlan Ghanie is the publisher of SENI BELADIRI, the premier Malaysian martial arts magazine, aside from being the latest trustee of his family silat style, Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9. He is also the founder of Senaman Tua, a traditional Malay exercise form and the co-founder of the Malaysian Martial Arts Grand Masters’ Association (MAGMA).

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Foreword

During the time that I have known Haji Zainal, he has done a great deal to promote Silat here in his native Penang both as a teacher of Siku Dua Belas and Silat Tua. During his years of training, research and teaching he has studied with teachers of the highest calibre. Haji Zainal has also had numerous opportunities to test his art in actual use. This makes him something of a rarity in the present day martial arts world where theory is often loudly heard while practice sits quietly in the corner. Now we are fortunate that he is sharing his extensive knowledge and skill with the younger generation. This book is a further step in this process and one that I hope will introduce readers all over the world to the native arts of the Malay people. While I have known Nigel for a shorter period of time, his influence on the world of martial arts in Penang has been considerable. Through his efforts and promotion he has brought martial artists from the US, Europe and Australia to learn more about Silat and to exchange and share experiences

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with local martial artists. His own research into the Malay art of Silat has taken him the length and breadth of Malaysia and he has interviewed and trained with many teachers. It is obvious to me that these studies coupled with his previous martial arts experience have given him a deep and insightful appreciation of the value of Silat. I feel certain that this book, with two such knowledgeable and experienced authors, will play an important part in introducing the world to the depth, beauty and wisdom that is contained in Malay culture and exemplified in Silat Tua. HAJI ABDUL RASHID BABA President, Persatuan Warisan Dada Pulau Pinang

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Foreword

Haji Zainal and I have been friends since childhood and, in all the time we have known each other, we have both shared the same passion for Malay martial arts. Although our paths have diverged during this time, we have both continued to practice traditional Silat. This book that he has written with our English friend, Nigel Sutton, aims to share the Malay traditional art of self-defence with a worldwide audience. This is a goal that I wholeheartedly support. It is important in this time of constant change that we value the traditions that have been handed down to us by our forebears. From the practice of Silat we learn positive values such as self-discipline, respect for our elders, honour, loyalty and integrity. Through such practice we can play a positive role in the society of today and in shaping the society of tomorrow. In Silat it is the duty of the teacher to ensure that the student becomes stronger and better than him. This book gives the serious Silat student the opportunity to learn from the experience of the authors and also of the generations that have preceded them.

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This book presents the traditional values and practices of Silat as a living vehicle for the transmission and understanding of Malay culture. It is my hope that through this book people of all races will become interested in not only the physical art but also the rich cultural tradition which underlies it. ISMAIL AHMAD Guru, Senaman Siku Dua Belas Persatuan Warisan Dada Pulau Pinang

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“I study the knowledge of the warrior I have studied the Way of the Warrior”
~ Tok Ayah

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Introduction
In this book, the reader will be introduced to the Malay art of selfdefence, commonly called Silat. While there are many explanations as to the origins of this term, some of which will be explored in this book, it is widely used to describe the art of self-defence, both armed and unarmed, developed and practiced by the Malay people. While there have been a number of works exploring the physical aspects of Silat, it is the experience of the authors, based on the traditions of the lineage to which they belong, that Silat is far more than just a sophisticated method of fighting. The art in its completeness embraces an approach to life, developing and enhancing those skills needed to become fully human and to live life to the fullest. As there are hundreds of different styles and systems of this art, the authors have chosen to focus on one style practised on the peninsular which is now the state of Malaysia in the South and Thailand in the North. The art which this book concentrates on has its origins in this area which historically was the Malay kingdom of Pattani but which is now a part of modern Thailand. Whilst this art is sometimes known as Silat Pattani, in an effort to explore its historical origins and to track its development through the periods of animism, Hinduism, Buddhism and finally Islam, the authors refer to the art by the name it was commonly and simply known, Silat Tua or Old Silat. It is beyond the scope of this work to detail every aspect of this system; that we leave to personal study with a qualified teacher. We have, however, attempted to explore and describe all of the major areas of learning, study

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and training which make up this beautiful and complex art. In attempting to research and understand Silat, it is important to realize that, unlike the Japanese or Chinese martial arts traditions, where there is a large corpus of written materials documenting the arts, the Malay tradition is almost entirely oral, being handed down through the lineage by word of mouth from generation to generation. This means that the knowledge transmitted is often not only specific to one school but also to individual teachers in that school. For that reason it is difficult, if not impossible, to find any degree of consensus as to what particular terms or techniques mean, outside the small circle of those who have a specific understanding based on the transmitted knowledge of their own style. Although this makes it difficult for the historian or researcher, it is one of the factors which make the study of Silat so fascinating, for what emerges as the aficionado delves deeper, is an art based not on set techniques or long, elaborate forms, but rather one centred around key principles and concepts. Because of the long history of the art and the varied historical, cultural and religious influences, these concepts are sometimes presented in animistic or mythical terms, sometimes in terms of movement patterns and at others, in terms of complex cultural and religious paradigms.

SIlat Tua students in keris sparring.

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“And if what lies within is to appear, I must be obedient to the same Master Then I cannot fail to bring forth the warrior within When my submission is to the Master, the Creator, God”
~ Tok Ayah

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Fundamental Concepts
A. Silat works from the outside to the inside and then from the inside to the outside.
This concept is used throughout silat training and in the simplest terms means that first you learn from the teacher, your fellow students and the environment and then you learn from within yourself. The importance of this concept lies in the fact that by explicitly being taught this, the silat student realizes that ultimately he or she is responsible for their own progress, as the ultimate lessons are the ones that you learn from within yourself. At another level this teaching illustrates how the student first learns the basic physical postures and exercises before progressing to learn the finer points. Initially training is all about strengthening the muscles, improving coordination and working on the grosser physical aspects of movement. The next step is to work on the breathing, mental intent, focus and what might be termed the internal aspects of the art. With an understanding of the internal, the student returns to his study of the external aspects, understanding more about what motivates movement.

B. Jantan Betina
This is the concept of the opposing forces of male and female, similar, on one level to the Chinese theory of Yin and Yang. Jantan is the male force while Betina is the female. In practice this means that the hard must complement the soft and vice-versa, so that the silat exponent is able instantly to change from strong and solid to gentle and flowing. It also means that force is not met with force. Against a strong attack, the silat player yields and

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flows. On the other hand when meeting a yielding, flowing response the silat exponent might power through using strength and heaviness. All aspects of Silat Tua must be considered in the light of the concept of Jantan Betina and through careful research, the exponent will discover a myriad of ways in which this principle may be put into action. In connection with Jantan and Betina there are other pairs of opposites which are used in the art. Jantan is generally expressed as fierce, strong force, while the Betina principal is soft and subtle.

C. Berlawanan opposing forces or energies
This includes such opposites as: full and empty; hard and soft: fast and slow; up and down; left and right and so on. All of the above pairs of opposites are used by the exponent of Silat Tua. In practicing the Tari all of these aspects must be present in order to completely express the art. For example when moving in the langkah tari one leg is full, that is it functions to bear most of the weight, while the other is considered empty. At the same time the opposite hand to the weighted leg is performing the dominant action, while the hand on the weighted side is subordinate. But the action is never carried out by just one hand or one foot, the other side has its role to play, thus right and left complement each other as do up and down. Consider again the langkah tari where one hand is high while the other is low; one palm is up while the other is down and so on. By paying careful attention to the expression of these pairs of opposites the exponent is able to express the whole range of human movement thus realizing his body’s full potential.

D. From Start to Finish and from Finish to Start
In Silat Tua the newborn child is considered the epitome of purity and innocence with natural skills, instincts and abilities, but as the environment and life work on him, he becomes sullied and loses the natural aptitudes and innocence that he had at birth. The process of Silat training seeks to strip away the impurities and unnatural influences and habits, to return to the original state thus restoring his instincts and natural abilities.

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Langkah Tari start.

Langkah Tari transition.

Langkah Tari other side.

In order to do this, the exponent must go through a process whereby he accumulates skills and habits, honing newly awakened reflexes to the point where he has achieved a measure of skill. This is what many might consider to be the finish of the training process but now he must try to drop away any conscious reliance on these hard-won skills and try to allow his natural Godgiven ability to surface. This process is one that is identified in most martial training. The late Bruce Lee referred to it thus:
“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just a punch, a kick was just a kick. After I’d studied the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch, a kick is just a kick.” Tao of Jeet Kune Do, p.70 Ohara Books 1975.

E. From the river to the banks, from the banks to the plateau, from the plateau to the banks, from the banks to the rocks in the river
This teaching, while similar to the previous ones, also points to the actual physical training progression that a student of silat must take in order to fully absorb their art. The Silat exponent may well undertake basic stance

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and movement training while standing in the shallows of the river. Thus his stance will become firm and his movement fluid. From there he proceeds to training in the mud of the riverbanks, further improving his stability. On the firm ground of the plateau he can build on the foundation he has established, and really explore the full range of motion of his body and the abilities he has discovered in himself. Then he goes back to the slippery mud to test these new-found skills. Finally he returns to the water where he started and practices in the full torrent, moving on slippery rocks and negotiating the currents of the river. This cyclical training process continues throughout the exponent’s life and illustrates the way in which it is the journey rather than the goal which is of prime importance.

F. Weakness overcomes strength
As has been outlined above, the Silat exponent never relies on overcoming force with force, for the simple reason that if you become dependent on force and then meet an opponent who is stronger than you, your responses will be severely limited. It is easy to see how this emphasis on weakness has developed in Silat because it is an art that is first and foremost based on the use of weapons, particularly bladed ones. While sports-based martial arts can develop in their students the power to absorb blows, it is all but impossible to absorb the strike of a sharp blade. Instead at the slightest touch the Silat exponent must evade and move. One result of this is the fluid appearance of the art. G. Body, Mind and Spirit Exponents of Silat Tua have an understanding of body, mind and spirit as one complex organism, effective use of all components of which will achieve the maximum effect in all aspects of life. On the other hand, neglect of any one of these three components will result in less than one hundred percent efficiency. In order to fully understand the interdependency of these three essential parts of the human being we must also understand how they derive their power according to the silat worldview. First and foremost, all power comes from the Creator. The parts of the physical body and the energy that animates it are all from the Creator. It is the heart, the seat of the emotions which gives life and movement to the body and it is the mind which determines the actions to be taken. In order for the

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silat exponent to be truly effective he knows that both heart and mind must be in harmony with the will of the Creator. In practical terms this means the student must do his best to live according to the moral code described in the Akad or Solemn Oath taken at the time that he begins his studies. At the beginning and end of every silat training session, and when training with partners, the salutation reminds the student that he receives his skill as a gift from the Creator and that he must use them justly. This understanding of the source of power and the responsibility involved in its use is fundamental to the silat exponent and it is on this understanding that the art is based and from which all action flows.

H. Mental training
The first and most basic form of mental training is meditation. The purpose of this is to train the exponent to be able to focus their mind. The fundamental meditation form is the Heaven and Earth meditation. The exponent sits cross-legged or in the half or full lotus position and places the outstretched second fingers of each hand so that they are touching the floor. To exponents of Silat Tua, this finger is known as the Ghost Finger and thus symbolises things spiritual. The palms of your two hands are turned away from you. This gesture with the fingers touching the ground establishes your spiritual connection with the earth. Then straighten your back so that you feel as if the top of your head is pushing up to the sky. This reminds you of your connection with Heaven. Thus you have completed the trinity of Heaven, Earth and Man between the two.

Seated meditation.

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Now concentrate on your breathing; breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Your tongue remains naturally at the bottom of your mouth and once you feel relaxed enough, and in a natural breathing cycle, shift your attention to your tongue and try to feel a rhythmic pulsation. When you can do this you will feel as if you are on the edge of sleep. This is the state you wish to be in, for your meditation. Initially practice this exercise for five minutes but then build up to longer periods. High level adepts sometimes meditate for as long as six hours a day.

I. The Body
Since silat is the art of bringing out the full potential of your own body there are no fixed forms or set routines, nor are there any restrictions on the form your movements take. As the exponent becomes more experienced so their silat will take on its own unique style. For these reasons basic training in silat consists of learning key principles and concepts which then may be embodied in the form most appropriate to the individual student. The body is composed of four elements, the same elements which make up everything in the cosmos; and so, in silat the human body is seen as being a microcosmic universe. These elements are earth, water, fire and wind. Earth corresponds to the flesh, bones and muscles, while water is the blood and body fluids, wind is the respiratory system while fire is the vital energy that animates us as well as the senses of sight and hearing. By training using these elements, the silat exponent is able to tap deeper energy sources because he is acting in harmony with nature.

J. Element Meditation
This meditation is done either cross-legged or in the half or full lotus posture. 1. Bring your hands up, clenched loosely into fists and rest them on your hips. Next, as you breathe in, extend your arms in front of you, fists turning so that the palm sides face down. As you do so chant “earth” either audibly or under your breath, and visualize all that earth means to you. This may mean a sense of heaviness, solidity and strength; whatever earth means to you.

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2. Then as you breathe out, open your hands and turn them so that the palms face upwards, and push them up with the base of the palms cupped together in front of your face until they are level with your forehead. As you do this chant the word “water” visualizing all that this means to you.

3. As you breathe in again, press your palms together and push them down towards your solar plexus, this time chanting the word “fire”, while visualizing what fire means to you.

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4. The final part of the cycle, requires that you extend your arms in front of you at about waist height, palms facing down, and then make them into loose fists, which you then turn over and pull back into your hips as you breathe out, chanting the word “wind”. The visualization this time must include all that wind means to you.

The basic training for the four elements consists of sitting or standing and performing moves that may be associated with these elements while at the same time striving to ensure that the physical movements embody the qualities of the element they represent. Such movements might be for example a heavy, solid front punch to represent earth,

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followed by a soft inner block to represent water.

Next a sharp, short palm strike represents fire,

and finally a powerful elbow strike represents wind.

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By practicing this sequence of movements repeatedly the exponent begins to identify and train the feeling and quality of movement associated with each element. Exploration of the four elements is limitless because of the many and varied forms in which the elements manifest. For example fire, could be a small flame, or a raging forest fire, it could be a slow burning fuse or an explosion. Using the principle of “from the outside to the inside”, the teacher first shows the student a series of basic exercises connected with the elements with the expectation that once he is familiar with these then he will progress to follow the principle of “from the inside to the outside” and develop his own unique sets of movements which embody the elemental qualities. Physical movement originates from the pusat (the navel) or centre, and the whole body must be used to generate power which comes from the earth through the legs, is controlled by the waist and then directed out through the arms. The nature of this power will depend upon which element is being used thus it may be rooted and heavy or light and fluid as the situation requires. When delivering power in punches or strikes, the weight is sunk down through the heels into the floor. This ensures stability should the opponent counter at the moment of striking and also enlists the aid of gravity in generating power.

K. Energy
The silat exponent has a deep understanding of the energy systems of his body. This not only encompasses breathing and the dynamics of motion but also the deeper aspects of the body’s spiritual energy. In silat culture the energetic body consists of a number of interlocking circles of rotating energy. The tendency of this energy is to rotate outwards from the body along diagonal lines. By being aware of this the silat exponent is able to harmonise his movement with that of the energetic body, thus achieving greater efficiency and power. The emission of energy from the centre line outwards, is what underlies defensive movements while movement focusing from the sides of the body inwards is offensive.

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Silat Tua is training to develop human beings not clones. Thus training in the art reflects all that is natural. Consider the life cycle where the baby at first is weak and totally dependent, then it grows strong and independent as it reaches maturity, and then finally with the onset of old age weakness sets in again. Thus the Silat trainee starts weak and gains physical strength but this then declines; along the way, however, experience and the use of strategy and tactics compensate for any decline in mere physical strength. The silat exponent learns to take equal advantage of everything and nothing. The Pendita Guru, the mythical hermit founder of the art wandered the earth with nothing, yet was able to make use of everything in his day to day survival. The Silat exponent knows that we enter the world with nothing and we leave it with nothing and anything that we appear to possess along the way, in terms of material goods cannot be taken with us. In Silat Tua the answer to the question, “What is Silat?” contains much more than might be imagined. Author, Guru Zainal Abidin’s teacher, Tok Guru Aziz always stressed that true Silat begins the moment you step out of the house. Every step must be taken with humility and without ego. The true Silat exponent should express love and compassion to all and behave in such a manner that no one has any reason to harbour ill-will against him let alone want to attack him. Seen in this light Silat is the art of living life to the full, avoiding the dangers and pitfalls that face man and being prepared for any eventuality. Thus it is truly the art of life.
9 789834 232801
ISBN 978-983-42328-0-1

Zainal Abidin Shaikh Awab

Nigel Sutton

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