PART14. Gunung Ledang mountain


Gurang Ledang mountain.

Nigel and Fong took us down to Malacca to climb a mystical mountain. Malacca is further South than Penang island and on the west coast. Mount Ophir or by it Malaysian name Gunung Ledang  situated in the Gunung Ledang national park which is in Ledang district, northwest Johor Malaysia.

We took another chilly air conditioned night bus from Penang to Kuala Lumpur and then to Gunung ledang mountain. We arrived at the base of the mountain in the afternoon and booked a room in the Gunung Ledang resort. A small hotel with a swimming pool. Vin, Lian and myself shared a room together. We unloaded our luggage and went to ascend the mountain.

Gunang Ledang resort

It had tropical forest as we walked up the steep path. Vines and trees, insects clicking and buzzing incessantly. The stone steps became incredibly steep and short and the climb became harder. I was glad for the hand railing.

Nigel Sutton and Lian Sutton by the waterfall

We finally arrived at a pool with a waterfall . The waterfall went as far as the eye could see, up the mountain. We had bought our swimming trunks with us and we all changed and got in. Both Nigel Sutton and Lian took their kris knives out and dipped them in the water.

Lian Sutton washing his kris in the pool.

Gunung Ledang has a legend attached to it about a princess with magical powers who was wooed by the sultan of Malacca; she agreed to marry him only if he could complete 7 impossible tasks. This is when it gets murky; some say he managed only to complete the first 6. The 7th task was to bring the magical princess a bowl of blood from his young son. Others say he was about to cut his son when an image of the princess appeared and told him she could never marry a man who would hurt his own son. Then she disappears forever.

Although there are different versions the point of the story is to illustrate the Sultans pride and how it blinded him to the real reason why the princess gave him the challenges. The reason being she really didn’t want to marry him.

Bathing in the pool or dipping your kris in the pool may be a way of imbuing yourself with the Princesses magical powers.

The pool wasn’t deep and the water was clear and fresh. Tiny fish began to nip and nibble our feet trying to eat the dead skin. It was almost unbearably ticklish.

Tim, Lian, Vin

 After I had swum a while I climbed up the rocks and followed the waterfall up the mountain. Passing the ‘’DO NOT PASS’’ sign and leaping from rock to rock. The waterfall crashing down beside me, thick forest on either side. I kept climbing up and up until I reached a grand bolder which I wasn’t prepared to climb. I sat for a while on the warm rocks watching the water crash down over the rocks. I meditated and focused on the spirit of the tiger. I rose to my feet and made my way back down to the others by the pool.

On the way down Nigel Sutton put a small rock in his pocket, apparently many people try and take items away from the mountain and the authorities have been trying to deter them. ‘’do not take anything off the mountain and you’re not allowed to take machine guns up the mountain’’ A sign warned at the base. Seriously it actually said ‘’no machine guns’’

Vin and I found an old tree which had fallen over on our journey down and we mounted it and practiced our Lian padukan sparring to try and topple each other off. Like so many journeys which have been built up or have significance you should grasp this one failed to take a hold on me. I didn’t feel anything special like many have claimed to. I didn’t see any strange animals or ghosts. We arrived back at the Gunung Ledang resort and had another swim in the pool.

Some people have revealing dreams after visiting Gunung Ledang. I desperately wanted to have some sort of spiritual encounter that evening but I didn’t and I woke up the next day disappointed and with no memory of my dream. Vin did mention that I sat up in bed late at night and said ‘’Vegetables’’ but I am yet to decipher its meaning.

PART13. A little red car (dont hitch hike in Malaysia part 2)


Unfortunately due to money shortage I must cut my trip short. I am planning to go back to China on the 2nd of September. At first I was very sad that I had to go. I have been planning to train here for years and now it has to be cut short. On the other hand I hate having to worry about money and also having to borrow money and it was really playing on my mind all the time so it tainted my trip slightly. I had hoped that Sarah could stay here as well but that didn’t work out so she had to go back to China. I miss her a lot. I always think about the next time I can see her and I wait every night for her phone call.

I am glad that I will see her soon and I will be going back to Shanxi to practice wrestling again.

Later on that week I planned to go to Balik Pulau to shop. As soon as I stepped out of the Zhong Ding training center a man purred up on a motor bike and asked if I wanted a lift, he drove me to the bus stop where promptly a car pulled up and a man popped his head out and asked where I was going. ‘’ Balik Pulau how much is it?’’ I asked ‘’no money no money’’ he replied.

 I got in and as he took me to Balik Pulau he told me that he was a school teacher we talked about religion and faith.  

 

The next day again I  wanted to go to Balic Pulau and I set off walking in high hopes that I would have the same luck as yesterday. My faith in the universe was strong.

 

Shortly after setting out a red car came up and stopped in front of me. “Where you going?” said the driver. “Balik Pulau how much?”. “Ah it’s ok, for free”. Just as planned. As we drove along I found out that the skinny older man was a factory worker. His car was blissfully air conditioned. Cold enough so that for the first 5 minutes it was very pleasant then after that it started to get uncomfortable, it was also pleasantly fragrant. We came up to the last turn to Balik pulau but he turned right.

“Hay it’s the other way”, I said

“oh I thought I show you around Balik Pulau a bit is ok?”. He replied casualy

 

 “Ok” I said,

 

 I didn’t have anything else to do. We passed a nice looking estate with large beautiful houses with balcony’s and large gates, “oh nice houses very big” I said. “You like?” he asked. He then slithered his left hand across my shorts and grabbed my groin.

 

” WOW! No, don’t do that” I said,

 

“you like?”, he said with a little giggle looking deep into my eyes as he drove.

 

 “No I don’t like I have a wife”, I replied as I batted his hand away

 “Oh some English have wife but they like it also”. He said still looking me dead in the eye. I noticed how thin and spidery his fingers were.

 

 “I don’t like it”. I said firmly

 

 We then had a few minutes of silence where I was trying to comprehend what just happened. I was not scared but I was wary. He was smaller than me and I had a knife on me but maybe he did as well, maybe he had friends nearby and things might go beyond my control. I decided that if he turned off the main road I would jump out of the car immediately.

 

For some reason I was still in the car acting like nothing happened. How English I thought. Or maybe I was just lazy; I still wanted a free lift to Balik Pulau.

 “Sorry you are angry with me” he said.

 

 “No I am not angry I am just shocked” I said. And now I was trying to make him feel better!

 

 Then he tried it again!. This time more forcefully. He grabbed my groin and lent over towards me. I parried his hand away. “Let me see it? I just want to see it”. He pleaded.

 

 “No! And I am going to get angry in a minuet if you try that again”. I shouted, suddenly angry, I wanted to punch him in the face.

 

“oh ok” he said and kept driving. I told him to take me to Balik Pulau immediately and he turned the car around and did so.

 

He started to turn off again just before the roundabout in Balik Pulau so a told him I was getting out. He apologized and I had to stop myself from saying something to console him. It’s just such a knee jerk reaction for me to be polite, most of the time I think it’s a good thing but sometimes I cannot stop myself and afterwards I regret not standing up for myself more. I controlled myself and said in a neutral tone “thanks for the lift” as I got out of the car.

 

After shopping and returning to the Zhong Ding training center via the bus I thought about my hitch hiking experience. I thought about Malaysia. My experience so far is that it has a noticeable seedy feeling in certain places. A few times when Sarah was here I noticed Malay men staring at her in a very creepy manner. On one bus trip an older man sat beside her and kept looking at her and had his hands by his groin. She got up and we swapped places and I sat beside the man and returned his gaze until he got off the bus.

 

After a short ponder I decided never to hitch hike in Malaysia again.

 

 

Has anyone else ever got in a little red car and regretted it? What would you have done?

PART12 My new love of weapons


 

Today we did some sparring and sword fighting. Putting on the fencing masks and using tonfa and bamboo swords to fight.

Tonfa, we use this as a forearm shield when we spar sometimes

the type of sword we use for sparring. made from segments of bamboo. Pictures from Wikapedia

 I fought Vin at first. Immediately he hit my finger, at the time it was not painful but even now a week later it bloody hurts. He basically beat me. He kept on coming in after I attacked and closed me down. He was very good. With lian it was a bit different. Because I am taller I had a better reach and I kept my distance and stayed out of his range and got him a fair amount with some good leg shoots and head shots. He didn’t move in much so it was easier than with Vin who would not play my game.

 Lian gave me a really good strike to the knee which left an impressive red and white mark. I find this sword fighting so fun. I want to do more of it and if and when I ever set up a club I hope to do a lot of it. Nigel says it’s not that important to do often but it’s fun and that’s enough for me.

One of Nigel Suttons teachers says that sparring altogether is a bad idea. That when you spar you are playing a game and that your not actualy trying to kill your opponent. So that if and when your life is really in danger you will not be able to react properly. This is said by a man who lives in a dangerous country where machete fights and murder are common. From what I understand this man has also been in many real fights himself. So maybe in that situation sparring isnt as important.

 On another note I am very pleased with my training at the moment. Before I came to Malaysia I wasn’t at all interested in weapons. My experience had been minimal and all I had learnt was Taiji sword and staff forms and also some nunchuck and sai forms from doing Okinawan Te. But I feel that the weapons training in Chen Taiji is incompleat compared with what I am doing now.

Now that Nigel Sutton has introduced me to a more compleat weapon arts like Krabi krabong, Eskrima and Silat I feel that a love for weapons has been awakened. I am very attached to my boken (wooden sword) and I try my best to carry it everywhere around the Zhong Ding training centre. As Nigel told us to.

Boken, hard wooden sword.

 

My waking dreams and sleep walking has now reached a most active point. Only last night I opened my eyes and knew there was an enemy behind the door trying to get in. I ducked under my mosquito net while wrapping my thin bed sheet around my left arm to make a shield, I then grabbed the machety which was propped up by my bed and stood in front of my door waiting for an attack to come. I kept waiting until the illusion faded and I realised it was only a waking dream. I was standing in the Krabi krabong stance with my left forearm in front to protect and my right hand holding the machete was above my head ready to generate a powerful strike.

 

Does anyone reading this sleep walk? I would be interested to hear some stories. Do you think sleep walking is a negative thing?

PART12. Do not hitch hike in Malaysia (part 1)


Thursday, July, 30th, 2009. We came back to Penang and settled back down to life at the Zhong Ding training center. Nigel Sutton had returned from his seminar trip to the UK. He looked pleased when we showed him our Tari we had learn while studying Silat lok 9 with Guru Azlan Ghanie. ‘’It looks like he gave you a touch of the Malaysian spirit’’ Nigel said.

 

I thought about it and I agree. Guru Azlan practices a distinctly Malay martial art and while being with him I feel I learnt not only another Silat style but I also learnt more about Malaysian culture.

 

But it was good to be back. Guru Azlan showed us the Malay way of staying up late drinking coffee and training and now it’s back to the Chinese way of getting up before the sun to practice chi gong. Vin is coming to the end of his 100 days iron shirt training and I can see that he is looking more solid and muscular than when I first met him. In the morning you can see him vigorously pounding a sock full of rocks into his stomach and sides.

 

I am also having hand shaking withdrawal symptoms and whenever I see Lian or Vin we will usually exchange heart-felt long handshakes which exasperate Nigel.

 

Our 7 coffins Khatami grading is looming near.Lian has now come to live at the school with us and trains regularly, he will also join us for the 7 coffins. We all keep going over the Lian padukan forms and have learnt the weapons forms which include a sai form and Nigel Sutton has incorporated a five ancestor’s straight sword form into the syllabus. We have learned the ritual form where you bless and energize your weapons. Your fists, knees, elbows feets. You speak a series of words which have energizing qualities but which Nigel Sutton doesn’t know what they mean.

a picture of Sai from Wikipedia

 

They are not Malay or Chinese and Nigel has researched to try to find their etymology but without success. You say each word at you slap your weapons, moving forward with one breath until you finish the energizing and let your last bit of breath out.

 

We have also been practicing sparring. Similar to Wing Chun sparring you start off with a brief preset of hand strikes before engaging. We practice set moves which are part of the Lian padukan syllabus and which are in fact quiet effective. They are practically applicable in the free style sparring which gives me a lot of confidence in this art.

 

Lian is a fast learner. I sometimes forget that he has only been doing Lian padukan for a few weeks. He has learnt the forms in half the time I did and keeps up with everything else as well.

 

With our grading coming up it reminds me of my old Karate grading’s. I now have a list of things I must practice and remember before our 7 coffins. It’s constantly on my mind.

 

 

 

On the weekend tried to go to a nearby village for internet. I waited for about an hour for the bus ‘’you learn to wait around to wait around’’ Nigel’s Voice echoed in my mind as I waited. Apparently waiting around is a large part of life in Malaysia.

I tried to visualize myself being picked up by a nice person and driven to the internet cafe. As I did this a crappy old black car flew past and the shifty man driving eye balled me. He then executed an impressive fast turn and came back to the bus stop and halted in front of me.

 

The driver and his equally shifty looking friend gave me a strange grin which showed off their brown cracked teeth.It was a couple of young Malay men. They looked at me for a while sniggering away. I didn’t really feel like saying hello so I just waited for the next thing to happen. The passenger said something which I didn’t understand so I gave him a quizzical look. He said a lot more which I also didn’t understand. “Balik pulau” I said. I assume they were asking me where I was going. “ah ok” they said and sniggered again.

 

 They gestured me to get in. I knew they looked unsavory but for some reason I didn’t get a bad gut reaction so I got in the car. They asked for 10 ringet so I made a very slow and obvious reach for my door to show them that I was not willing to pay that much “five ringet five ringet” one of them said and the price was settled. It was agreed and we sped off.

 

We stopped off on the way and picked up a scummy looking man who got in beside me and stared. He also started to talk to me in Malay. I nodded and said that I did not understand. “Ganga u like?” he said. He brought out of his pocket a big bag of marijuana and rolling papers. “ganga Bob Marley you like?”. I told him that I didn’t want to smoke in Malaysia because I didn’t want to be executed, I made a cutting gesture on my neck to make him understand. They all laughed.

The driver was going way too fast and only just missed a group of school kids as he hurtled around a corner and his friend passed him the spliff. I arrived at the internet cafe and shock all their hands and exchanged names which I forgot as soon as I heard them. Later on when I told Nigel about this he said that if we got caught by the police it would have been me the foreigner who would have been hung. This is what usually happens in Malaysia. I would not be getting in their car again that was for sure. It was a bit scary.

On the way back from the internet I got the last bus back along with the noisiest school kids in the world. I sat down and slowly brewed up a rage as they screamed and shouted at each other jumping all over the bus and saying in load voices ‘’AM MOR GAO!’’ Or however one spells it, basically it means red-headed monkey which is what Malaysians call white people. It’s racist. They also spoke in mandarin which I actually understood a bit and they were saying equally racist things.

I sat there and thought about how I would dispatch them. I imagined that the boy to my left who was saying the most would receive a sharp elbow to the face and then I would get up and start to lay into the rest of them quickly working my way down to the front of the bus, using the Lian padukan fast strikes I have learned recently.

 On a related note when people practice Lian padukan Silat they seem to get more aggressive, because it’s such an angry forward moving art that it affects your personality. Nigel was saying how he experienced it when he was doing it intensively. Imagining what he would do to the biggest person he could see and generally thinking about fighting people a lot. I was getting this as well. Or was it just a bad day I was having?

Another story was of a Lian padukan Master in Malaysia who was training so much that in the middle of the night he was sleep walking and kicked his wife in the guts.

So eventually we arrived at my stop, with all the kids alive but some of them did give me a wary glance as I must have been pulsing. As I stood up one of the kids said ‘’bye am mor gao’’ and the whole bus laughed. I replied ‘’ GOODBYE MONKEYS! ’And got off the bus. Nothing like a bit of public humiliation in a foreign country to really piss you off.
I feel a bit ashamed to have gotten so angry and for even responding to a child.

 

For anyone reading this blog have you ever been subject to racism in another country? I would be interested to hear what ticks you off and cannot get used to when living abroad. I find 95% of the time everything is fine but that 5% can get you down sometimes.

PART11. Hysteria and hallucination while learning Silat


Later in the week Guru Azlan took us and the harimau group into Quantan. We parked by the huge mosque where people were going for afternoon prayer. Hundreds of people walking up to the mosque the call to prayer booming over a loud-speaker. I have become very fond of this call as it gives your day some structure. Especially in the morning when you hear that haunting voice speaking a foreign language. It reminds me which chapter of the day I am in.

Quantan state mosque

 

We were going to visit the Malaysian cultural office. Guru Azlan took us into a building and up the stairs into a long conference room with a table and chairs. We sat down and were brought a curry meal and fruit. After eating a projection screen was put up beside us and a young Malay man stood up looking very nerves and he was sweating profusely. The young man began to narrate the slide show which was shown on the projector. The pictures were of old Malaysian paintings, artifacts, temples and people doing Silat. Unfortunately his English was very poor and none of us could understand what he was saying.

 

I was suddenly overcome by the unstoppable giggles. The visit to the Malaysian cultural office had been unexpected and everyone was so austere and formal. The young man kept speaking is a shaking voice with abominable pronunciation. The harimau group didn’t know what was going on either; some of them couldn’t speak English very well. They just sat there looking confused but trying to be polite.

 My hysteria seemed to infect Vin and Lian which only made it worse. I tried so very hard not to laugh audibly and I had to clutch my mouth tightly to stop it coming out. Of course as anyone knows this just makes things so much worse and the odd snort or quiet giggle slipped out.

 

It only got worse as after the speech we stood up and shock everyone’s hand which took about 15 minutes and then we took pictures with the president of the Malaysian cultural office and we were told by Guru Azlan that now we were all trustees to the art of Silat and the royal palace. Then we shock hands again.

 

At the Cultural office in Quantan. Lian far left, Guru George,President at the Cultural office, Guru Azlan, Vin, Tim

Vin and myself trying hard to control our giggling

Myself and Lian have got it under control for the moment but Vin is finding it hard

 

 I tried so hard not to look at Vin or Lian but they too were finding it hard to control their hysteria and in fact some of the harimau group were infected now and they too were added to the list of people I tried not to look at.

 

Looking back now I wonder what the people at the office must have thought. I do feel ashamed that on this occasion which was meant to be so significant I was in such a state.

 

We left and went to a TV and radio recording studio where we performed the lock 3 form on a large stage next to a tall glass window. A camera crew surrounded us and filmed our performance. After that we all walked up to the second floor and met one of the radio hosts who asked Guru Azlan to feature on his talk show. Guru Azlan and Guru George the instructor of the Harimau group went into the studio and so did Vin. I was so relieved to be away from Guru Azlan for a moment as I was just dying to let out my laughter.

 

I suppose the seriousness of being at the Malaysian cultural office had made me nervous and an attack of the giggles had followed. Now that Guru Azlan was out of ear shot I let it all out. Tears came to my eyes as I laughed uncontrollably. I laughed even more when we started listening to Vin speaking on the radio when the host asked him what he thought of Silat. All I can remember is at one point Vin actually said ‘’ I feel like I am Silat’’ and that was enough to send me off again.

Vin is Silat! our room in Quantan

 

 

We spent the next few days training and on the last day we went to the hotel which the harimau group was staying at. It was a huge 5 star hotel with a luxurious swimming pool, much more desirable than the green one at our resort. Guru George and his students invited Vin, Lian and myself to train with them. They taught us their own style. The harimau Silat has movements which imitate the actions of a Tiger.

The swiss garden resort in Quantan where Guru George and his Harimau students stayed

The moves are extra low, involving sweeps executed on the group. Whereas Guru Azlan teaches locks slowly Guru George teaches them quickly and aggressively. One particular set I enjoyed involved grabbing your opponents neck smashing it on your knee and turning them around and biting their Adams apple or nose. Guru George even imitated spitting out the mouthful.

 

We practiced next to the beach by the hotel. Another move I was most impressed with was a kick I had never seen before. It was similar to a low Thai boxing roundhouse kick but instead of kicking the side of the leg you cock your leg and drive it into the front of your opponents leg and when you make contact you extend your leg and slice across theirs. I was practicing with one of the better harimau students taking it in turns to kick each other. It became unbearably painful having him drill his shin into the front of my leg again and again.

 

It was a breath of fresh air to train outside and with a more relaxed atmosphere and I felt I got to know some of the harimau people more in that short time than I had over the few weeks we have been training with them.
Guru George told us about a man who came and challenged him at his school. He was very rude and insisted that Guru George fight him, He accepted the challenge and the man came at him with a baton out of the blue and Guru George kicked him in the nuts so hard it split his scrotum open then Guru George grabbed his neck and broke it. He now has a court case on his hands.

 

It was sad to say goodbye to the Harimau group and we exchanged emails and they invited us to go and train with them some day. When we were walking to the car park Guru Azlan recognized one of his friends who practiced Silat and there and then in the dark car park he gave us a demonstration of his forms. There were similar to the Lian padukan forms, quick short strikes but this man looked like he was about to explode. With tense shoulder and holding his breath be machine-gunned through the moves as if his life depended on it.

 

 

That night I had a waking dream that Guru George and some of his students were attacking me I could clearly see them even though my eyes were open and I was conscious. I was lying down and I began to kick and claw at them, defending myself and I got to my feet and defeated them. For a moment I stood and looked at Guru George and he looked at me. He was smiling.

 

It was only the next day that I realized what a strange hallucination it had been. I have always been subject to sleep walking. When I do it I feel fully awake and my eyes are open. I can move my body but I cannot really see what is around me. The real world is there but it’s weak and far away and hallucinations crowd my vision. I remember one worrying time in China when I was sleep walking, I knew that I had to go out. So I came out from under the mosquito net and walked to the second floor window and opened it. I was already half way out of the window when Sarah woke up and asked me what I was doing ‘’I am going out’’ I said matter of factly. Thankfully Sarah didn’t let me go out.

My waking dreams almost always are connected with what I have been doing the day before although a frequent and incredibly annoying reoccurring waking dream involves me taking all the sheets and pillow covers off and then trying to put them back on again. I will sometimes fully wake up holding my sheets amidst a mass of blankets and pillows.

 

So our time with Guru Azlan had come to an end. We packed our things up from the resort and he drove us to the bus station. We said a sad farewell to Guru Azlan and got the long chilly air con bus back to Penang Island. It’s been a very good experience. Meeting new people, trying out new styles getting to know Lian and Vin better. Swimming, eating, sleep deprivation, holding my breath till my head hurts and shaking a lot of hands.

PART 10 Holding my breath and mass martial arts teaching


Today we had a little test which was to do the lock 3 form with the Kris without breathing. It takes about 45 seconds to complete when done quickly and most of the moves have very low stances. We all dressed up in traditional Malaysian Silat cloths with a sarong and belt to put our Kris in and also a Malay hat which is basically a bandana .

 I was quiet nerves as the French group sat around us and watched in the conference hall. Guru Azlan told them they should try and discourage us from being successful. Vin and I took the floor and began to perform.

Completely by mistake I took a breath before the end also because we were not in sink we had to do it again.

 I did it in one breath this time probably turning a deep purple as I sprung up to the finishing move. The Harimau people did quiet a restrained job of distracting us, they just laughed and one person kept saying ‘’eeeeh!’’. Guru Azlan was pleased with our last attempt and so the Harimau group got to their feet and formed a line and we shock hands.
 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjKdR8H6O9w&feature=youtu.be

Click on this youtube link to see Vin and I perform lok 3 while holding our breath.

The next day we started off as usual and did the senaman tua exercises for an hour then went on to do the Kris forms. Guru Azlan has also been teaching us privately in the evenings by the swimming pool. This is when the Harimau group has gone back to their hotel. Guru Azlan teaches Vin, Lian and myself well past midnight. Going over details so when we practice the next day we can help him instruct the harimau group. Staying up so late every night has made it too hard to get up early in the morning and train on the beach.

 
In the afternoon Guru Azlan informed us that we would be teaching a bunch of Muslim school students who had come to stay at the resort. I had witnessed the strange act of these students swimming the day before. As we sat eating by the pool side cafe we saw about 100 children all the girls with their head dresses and the boys in trousers and shirts pile into the swimming pool. A small sign asking the people staying at the resort to shower and use the right swimming suits before they got in was ignored. They all splashed around screaming and shouting and quickly the water turned a murky green. We have stopped using the pool now.

Guru Azlan was absent in the afternoon so we waited at 5 o clock for the school students to come, we ran through lock 3 as we waited. I don’t know why you should hold your breath. It goes against the most basic martial arts principles not to mention it goes against the very act of living. At six o’clock we were just about to leave the large conference room thinking that the students must have canceled when a man came in through the open door and told us that the 200 students were hear.
We didn’t know it was going to be this much! Vin, Lian and I had just about enough time to exchange wide eyes before the students came marching in through the doors. They just kept coming and coming, there were teachers with them who sternly told them to get a move on and stand in neat lines. When the room was filled the teachers just left us to it. The boys stood at the front and the girls at the back. There was a small strip of floor which was just enough for us to walk up and down on.

The lesson plan we had prepared was useless because there wasn’t even space to take a full step let alone perform a whole form. Thinking on our feet we decided to teach them some of the senaman tua exercises which only involved sitting and moving your arms a little.

Me teaching the girls one of the empty hand moves from Guru Azlans Silat, I dont think they are paying much attention

Me teaching one of the seated Senaman tua exercises

 

Vin stood at the front teaching the boys and I stood at the back teaching the girls. Lian moved about taking some pictures and helping out instructing. As we went through the exercises the heat rose and the smell of 200 sweaty teenagers became over powering. The girls could not stop giggling as I taught them, I soon realized it was a bad idea to try and correct them individually.

After an hour we all stopped and they went out. I was very impressed with their order and discipline. Even though it was cramped hot and uncomfortable none of them misbehaved and apart from the incessant tittering and laughing they behaved themselves.

PART9. Learning Silat from Guru Azlan Ghanie


Saturday, July, 11th, 2009.

 Vin, Lian and myself have travel down to Quantan near Kuala Lumpor to learn from Guru Azlan while Nigel Sutton is off to the UK for 10 days. Guru Azlan Ghanie teaches a form of silat called Melayu Lok Sembilan. Its main focus is on the kris weapon, a very symbolic weapon in Malaysia.

A kris knife, not all kris have wavy blades. The waves are called locks.

From what Nigel has told us Guru Azlans art involves a lot of low stances and precise slow movements and holding your breath while you do it. One of the most worrying things I heard is that Guru Azlan does not allow you to drink water during his training sessions. It worried me because when I train with Nigel Sutton I am permanently drenched in sweat which streams down my face. I can easily consume a liter of water in one go at break time. So the idea of going an entire training session without water isn’t plesent.

We took the sleeper bus from Penang island down to Kuala Lumpor. The seats were big and luxurious with plenty of space to stretch out. The only negative aspect was the air conditioning. It was icy cold the whole time. All my cloths were away in the buses hold and I was shivering in my t shirt and shorts. It was a cold 8 hour journey. I was glad whenever we stopped and I was able to go outside and warm up for a while. Malaysia is a funny place for air conditioning. In cinemas, shops and malls it’s just cranked right up.

 We arrived in KL and completely missed our stop, mainly because we where asleep and also because the bus was so fast that when Vins alarm went off we had already arrived at the last stop. It was 5 o’clock in the morning and Lian rang Guru Azlan who came and picked us up. He arrived later and we shook his hand, touching our head onto his hand as I sign of respect.

The sun was still behind the world and Guru Azlan drove quickly out of the city and onto the almost deserted motorway. He spoke to us about his senaman tua classes. He described them as gentle health exercises. He told us how practicing these arts could cure leukemia and how some of his students had asthma before but now after practicing senaman tua they didn’t have it anymore. He opened a glove box and took out a kerambit knife. An evil little stealth knife which fits in your hand and comes out just by your little finger. Guru Azlan said that they are illegal in Malaysia and if your court with one you go to prison without trial.

a rather nice looking kerambit, often they are much more basic than these

 

 The sun rose and I fell asleep. I felt a bit rude being in the front seat next to Guru Azlan and just Z ing away but the motion of the car was just too persuasive and I fell asleep. We drove for 7 hours and arrived at an airport were we greeted the other students from France who would be joining us in a resort to train. The group exited from arrivals looking jet lagged and grizzly. Guru Azlan said hello and we all shock hands. The group of about 15 people, both men and women all wearing black matching t shirts. They are a group from Africa I think but they look French and speak French. They are from a Harimau Silat school. Harimau meaning Tiger which is a Silat style from Indonesia.

They piled into their bus and went off to their own hotel to rest until tomorrow. Guru Azlan then took us to his mother’s house in Quantan. A large house with expensive looking furniture. The kitchen had a beautiful wooden table and when we arrived his mother and maid prepared a curry with fish, fruit and salad. I felt a little out of place. A scruffy looking foreigner who needed a shower after so much traveling. His Mother sat beside us and watched us smiling as we ate. ‘’ she says you should eat more, she enjoys watching you eat’’ Guru Azlan said with a grin.

So I did, I ate a fair amount. I am sure I could have eaten more but you must find the middle road between eating as much as you want and being a polite guest. Guru Azlans nieces and nephews were there as well and quietly sat in the living room. After lunch Guru Azlan left us in the living room and Lian, Vin and myself sat and watched TV. I was sitting on a rather knobble plush leather seat. There was a controller attached to the arm rest and being the little fiddler that I am I mashed a few buttons and to my initial shock and eventual pleasure my seat began to vibrate and the knobble bits round my back began to rotate and massage me. I was most pleased.

One of Guru Azlans Nephews came and sat beside me looking  serious ‘’I think you’re in his chair’’ Lian said to me. ‘’ I don’t care” I said back. But soon the massage made me feel sick. I was over vibrated and I got up and let the child have his seat.

We left and took the final leg of our journey to the resort where we would stay and train. Out of the city and by the beach the resort was small but better than I had envisaged. Our rooms were big and clean and there was even a swimming pool outside. A big conference room where we would train and also a restaurant.

The next day we woke up at 6 30. Vin Lian and I walked to the beach. We practiced our Lian Padukan forms on the sand and have a swim in the sea. Vin and I taught Lian the forms at the same time. Lian will also be joining us in the 7 coffins test in a few weeks’ time and Nigel instructed Vin and I to teach his son the forms.

It was unique to practice on the beach. The sun rising, the sea making soothing noises. Sand between your toes, sand in your eye after you somehow manage to kick some up into the air and all over your face. We then had breakfasts at the hotel and had our introduction class from Guru Azlan with the other French students.

He looked a bit nervous at first. We were all gathered in one of the small conference rooms. We sat down. He started to tell again how he had helped people cure themselves of leukemia, asthma and back problems. As I watched one of the French people translate, I saw some very skeptical looks from the other students. He told a slightly overweight woman that with these exercises she could lose a kg in one lesson.

He then started to tell us about how this style of Silat Melayu Lok Sembilan comes from the Malaysian royal Palace. He showed us 1001 ways to put on a sarong. We were also taught how to shake hands properly. He taught us many other things that are ceremonial ways of entering a room who to greet and how.

We learnt a few locks and the secret way of how to get out of them, then we shock hands again to thank Guru Azlan for teaching us the secrets.

When Guru Azlan does the Silat tari with a kris knife or empty hands he has a controlled and crisp look. Not flashy but very precise and you could defiantly see this art coming from the palace. He had a stroke when he was younger and he is now 50 years old I think and he goes down so low on all the moves with control and style. Effortlessly moving from one technique to the other. Some of the locks he showed us were things that I had never seen before, tying up an opponent so that the whole body in immobilized. He told us that he had taught the police in Malaysia and he is still known for being able to get out of any lock or choke they apply on him.

We practice in the morning for a couple of hours. Along with the French group. We practice the lock 1 form. A short slow-moving form which can be done with a Kris knife or empty-handed. Nigel Sutton very kindly lent myself and Vin a Kris for this trip. The one I borrowed is a long knife with what I think is a bone scabbard. The blade is rusty and often I will find ants coming out of the hilt. Apparently it can be an advantage to have an old rusty Kris so that when you stab someone it breaks off inside them and they can die from the infection. Nigel Sutton points out that the Kris is in fact the last sort of weapon you should use in a real fight. Its real importance is symbolic.

During our training Guru Azlan teaches us some of the senaman tua exercises. They are simple movements like out stretching and twisting your arms many times. Done slowly and with intent these moves can be hard work in a unique way. You’re not out of breath and you’re not lifting anything heavy but you’re still tired. The senaman tua exercises involve deep breathing and it has many similarities with Chinese chi gong meditation. Guru Azlan would not want me to say this, he regularly stresses that seneman tua and his Silat Melayu Lok Sembilan are true Malaysian martial arts. He tells us that many Silat arts are not Malaysian because they have been influenced by China, Thailand and Indonesia.

Hand shaking is a well-practiced ritual during our lessons. At the beginning of the class, at the end, after learning a new move and after Guru Azlan has told us something new. We all line up and the last one turns in and begins to work his way up the line shaking everyone’s hand. You clasp and shake normally then flip it up like an arm wrestling stance, then you hold with both hands, then release, look into their eyes and touch your chest where your heart is.

It can take up to 10 minutes to complete a full round where everyone shakes everyone. There are a few of the French group who are so serious and when you shake their hand and look into their eyes you feel like you are seeing their deepest heart. It’s very personal, it can be draining and when it comes to shaking Lian and Vins hand we all find it hard to keep a straight face.

One of the unique training methods of Silat Melayu Lok Sembilan is holding your breath throughout the form. The first form can take about a minute to perform and with low stances and out stretched arms it can make you feel faint. I do not know the exact reason for this training method but it is very challenging.

 The afternoon seems to be more hard work than the training. The endless driving around and sight seeing and going to restaurants eating great food and having drinks. none alcoholic ones of course because he is Muslim. We stay up well past midnight chatting with Guru Azlan.

We have been to see transformers 2, brought fruit and walked along the beach, went swimming in the sea which had little things which bit us. It reminded me of being in Sarah’s home town and being taken out to “play”. It’s done with such enthusiasm and gusto and it’s unrelenting so after we got back to train in the evening we were all very tired. Happy and full of amazing food but tired. Even Guru Azlan seemed a bit frazzled after 3 days of intense fun and exploring.