The bitter and the sweet. The seven coffins come to an end


I was in dread as Nigel Sutton took us round to the garden area where there is a punch bag and a metal training dummy. I envisaged a grueling set of fights or standing in the sun all day long.

“Cut the grass”. Nigel told us and he walked away. Vin, Lian and I exchanged looks and quickly set about the grass with scissors from the kitchen. After an easy grass cutting Nigel informed us that our last test lay outside the training center.

This also made me scared. Could we be going to fight? It was the morning now and being out of the Zhong ding training center for the first time in days was quiet refreshing. We walked towards the café and instantly I knew what we were going to do ‘’we are going to drink aren’t we?’’ I said possibly quiet hysterical. Nigel didn’t say anything. Instead of fighting we went to the bar and Nigel ordered us each a pint of strong black sugarless coffee and a big can of 12% beer.
Before we drank Nigel explained the coffee represents the bitterness and hardship of training and the beer represented the sweetness of reward from hard work. So we had to drink the coffee first before the beer. With these two powerful drugs inside me I felt sick with the caffeine but soothed by the beer.
After this we went back to the Zhong Ding training center and Nigel told us that the 7 coffins was over and that we had a few days rest until our ordeal with Guru Zainal Abidin and his students which would then be followed by on all night Khatami grading. The ordeal was not specified but it would involve Thai boxing and Silat fighting as well. Guru Zainal teaches Silat Tua and Krabi Krabong as well as white tiger Thai boxing. We have never met Guru Zainal before but from what Nigel says he is a very serious martial artist. His students also like fighting a lot. In training and on the street.

The next couple of days Vin and I rested as Nigel and Lian had gone back to the condo. We had to prepare something’s for the Khatami grading. Nigel Sutton gave us a list of things for the ceremony. We needed:
A holy book. Vin and I went to a nearbye town and bought two Qurans.

One knife. I bought a machete.

5, 4 inch nails which I thought was strange, Vin and I went to a hardware shop and got the nails.

7 limes and honey, we got them from the supermarket.

Shoes, a sarong, T shirt and hat. We got them all from a cloths shop nearby.

7 different kinds of flower petals. We were quiet resourceful on this one and went out onto the road side and picked some flower and then went to a town to buy a few more kinds. We took all the petals off and stored them in the fridge.

Lastly we had to give 7:50 ringet in coin form. Nigel Sutton informed us that he had to give 750 ringet when he did his Khatami so I was glad our amount was much less.

We didn’t know why we needed all these things and it was a little like being in a computer game trying to get everything. I was very relieved when we had done so and I could relax a little although the Khatami and ordeal was playing on my mind.

The anticipation was brutal, I had diarrhea for 3 days before and on the day Guru Zainal arrived for the ordeal I could barely eat.

The 7 coffins, my Khatami grading


I am not allowed to talk about exactly what happened during the 7 coffins. Because half the test as I have found out is not knowing what’s going to happen, so on the off chance that someone other than my dear Mum is reading this blog and they happen to be someone who wants to do the 7 coffins Khatami I will not spoil it all for you. The 7 coffins is a grading for the Lian padukan Silat. It is the comparable to getting a black belt. It is a culmination of having learnt the syllabus of the martial art and having what you know pressure tested. People may think that it would take years to get up to black belt status and how have I been able to do it in 3 months?

 

On one hand Silat is not the same as Karate. On the other hand I have been practicing various martial arts since I was 14 years old and I do not have to spend so much time practicing basics as a complete novice would have to. I know how to punch and kick with reasonable technique and I can learn forms at a quicker pace than someone who has never done so before.

 

On top of that and I think most importantly it’s not about how many years you have been studying a martial art but how many hours. You could have been doing Karate for 5 years and still be a novice if you only went to one class a week and did no practice in between. You could have studied Silat for a month intensively and your body and mind would have made a leaping improvement if you worked hard. I have been practicing roughly 7 hours a day, 6 days a week for 3 months. If you do the mathematics how many years does that add up to for someone who only practices an hour or two a week? All I can be bothered to work out is one day of hard training is like doing two months of one hour a week.

 
What I can say it that the 7 coffins is meant to span 7 days, each day you are meant to focus on one of the secret deadly vital points of the body. There is nothing secret about the 7 vital points. Just think of the 7 places that you would least like to be hit and your probably right on. We did not do it for 7 days. We condensed it into 4 days. Yet again I am not allowed to say how long we trained every day but just imagine going to work and doing 7 full days in the space of 4.

We got very little sleep. Being woken up at any time, day or night with no more than 4 hours sleep at a time. In fact 4 hours was a holiday amount of time during the 7 coffins. Lian, Vin and myself were required to perform each of the Lian padukan forms 100 times each. This was not such a mission with the basic sets which take under a minute to perform but as we worked our way through the forms and into the ones which took over a minute things dragged. We would spend hours and hour’s continually repeating the forms. Entering a trance where our minds no longer were needed and the body with its reflex and memory took over.

 

Thankfully for a few days there was a storm. The rain beat down heavily on the metal roof of the training area and cooled us, Nigel Sutton said this was a good omen for us. Other times the weather was steaming hot. Depending on what we were doing we had to change into different uniforms. Sometimes in our full black gi, other times in our green Tai chi t shirts and finally into our white Tai chi t shirts. It didn’t matter either way as they were all permanently wet. No time to wash them and no time to dry them either. Alongside repeating forms for hours we did well over 150 fights each throughout the 4 days. The fighting was bare knuckled and on the mats so we could take each other down full speed. Not hitting full power to the face but everywhere else was allowed, we would take each other to the mats or batter each other out of the arena. We practiced striking the venerable areas of the body over and over.

 

We had to meditate for very long periods of time, once for so long in the kneeling position that we could not walk for a couple of minutes. We lay there in pain waiting for the blood to slowly comeback to our legs. Standing meditation with surprise repeated attacks which have left my legs and chest bruised still after a week.  I was in the standing post stance hoping that I would not feel faint again when Nigel Sutton came into view and kicked and punched me.

 

There was alot more but I cannot talk about it. I had a lot of bruises on my chest and cut lips and a painful head from a skillful elbow from Vin. The worse thing was the sleep deprivation, by the 3rd day it was hellish. During the night time Vin, Lian and myself took it in shifts to stay awake. One person would stay awake for 4 hours continually training while the other slept beside him outside in the training area. Things became distorted and magical during this time.

You are in the dark, you have not slept properly for days and you have been doing rigorous exercise over that time. I remember when it was my time to train and I was running over the Lian padukan forms again and I fell asleep while I was standing, I didn’t notice because I immediately started dreaming that I was doing the forms. I woke up suddenly as I began to lose balance.

 

Even the short time when I was allowed to rest was almost useless as I was so on edge that I found it hard to sleep, my dreams were like I was awake and when I was awake I was in a dream. Nigel Sutton gave us a permanent assignment which meant that none of us could relax at any time; we had to constantly be on guard and to look for opportunities to attack each other’s backs. Even when we could eat we had to be alert. Sometimes when we were napping Nigel would wake us up and we would have to run quickly to a door or gate with weapons and stand with the weapons in out stretched arms until he tells us to relax.

PART15 Martial arts demonstration in Kuala Lumpur


After our short trip to the mountain we got a bus back to Kuala Lumpur.  The plan was to perform a Taiji demonstration and a Lock 9 demonstration with Guru Azlans students. When we arrived at the small mall where we would be performing we saw that a large crowd had formed around the entrance. Already there were Silat groups demonstrating. Also a group of Indians performing their native martial art Kalarippayattu. In my opinion their demonstration topped all the others, especially one staged sword fight with the use of the urumi a flexible whip like sword.

These two warriors danced and sprung lightly as they attacked and defended. Even though it was a staged performance they were going full speed and power.

 

Nigel Sutton stood by us and we watched the performances. We also saw a group of Lian Padukan students getting ready for their demonstration. Nigel told Vin and I to go and change so we could join in. A wave of fear washed over me as I panicked. We didn’t know what the Lian padukan troop were going to perform.

For those of you who are interested here is a link to a blog about Lian Padukan, it has a more in depth post about its history

 

We changed into our black gi and got behind the other students and marched onto the stage area.

 

Nigel Sutton far right, myself and Vin at back of Lian padukan group

Lian padukan form demonstration

Nigel Sutton said in a very stern voice just before we went on “don’t make any mistakes”. So we went on with only a rough idea of the program and managed to keep up and stay in sync with the other students.

myself trying to see what Vin was doing with the eyes in the back of my head

far right, Tim, Vin, Nigel Sutton, ?

After some of the forms we partnered up and I saw the other students practicing sparring. Vin and I pared up and took it in turns to beat each other to the ground. Both of us getting into the performance spirit and striking one another quickly and aggressively.

 

Sparring demonstration

myself giving Vin a much deserved thrashing!

Vin giving me a compleatly undeserved thrashing!

 

After the sparring which left me red faced and sweaty a few students took the center and performed some of the longer forms. While Vin, myself the other students stood back and watched. Soon Vin and I were called up to the center and the teacher gestured us to start. Vin was in front of me and I followed his movements. After a few moves I suddenly realized that I didn’t know which form Vin was doing. I panicked he was about to turn around which would mean I would also have to turn around. At that time I honestly thought the world was going to end. He turned and I had to look over my shoulder to try and follow his movements. My face felt like it was on fire I was so embarrassed, I didn’t manage to follow Vin and I cobbled together a form of my own. I just did some random moves and finished the form with Vin feeling like a prize lemon.

“I am really sorry that I made those mistakes” I apologized to Nigel Sutton after we had finished

 

“What mistakes?” Nigel said. He had not really noticed and when I looked back on a video which Min Sutton had taken, it didn’t look as bad as it felt. I remember my old drama teacher at school used to tell us ‘’ the audience doesn’t know your lines so if you mess up just pretend that nothing’s wrong, the worst thing you can do is to freeze’’

 

I just hoped that our next two demonstrations would go better.

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.