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.

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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.

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.