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. 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.

PART8. Teaching wrestling to children in Penang island

Friday, June, 26th, 2009.


We were all doing standing post meditation; it was the Yi chuan style with a more alive stance than the Taiji variety. Just standing still with your arms out in front like your holding a ball. We did half an hour of it, well John and Vin did. nearing the end of it when my arms felt like falling off I started to feel a bit ill and faint the white mist creeping in from the outside of my view, so I let my arms down a bit. This was when Nigel said in a very serious voice ” I have told people to leave when they cannot complete this”.


I panicked and raised my arms up again. The mist quickly came back and I could feel my face empty of blood. I felt like I was going to be sick and pass out.
Thankfully my ashen face must have convinced Nigel that I was not faking it and I was allowed to sit down. Very kindly Nigel offered to get me a drink and he also got out a little gadget to test if I had low blood sugar levels, I didn’t, also it was not that hot and I had eaten and drunk enough that day. This has happened before a couple of times but usually when I over do it in the heat.


I have always found standing post meditation hard. My mind rebels against being so still and my body gets itchy and fidgety.

Later on in the week a group of school kids came to the Zhong Ding training Centre. They were all from Fongs Kung foo class. They would be here for the weekend. It was a chance for Vin and I to practice teaching. The kids were split up into two groups. One for me and one for Vin. My group was the Shaolin monks and Vins group was the Wudang mountain monks. No particular reason for these team names but Nigel Sutton refused my idea for having Transformers, Autobots vs Decepticons.




Vin taking some of the children through a warm up

Vin took the classes at the beginning and warmed them up then I taught them wrestling and Vin taught them kick boxing. I don’t really like kids especially when they don’t do what they are told. But this group aside from one or two lazy one was pretty good. They picked up the wrestling very fast, doing a few throws even after just 20 minutes of being taught. Nigel Sutton said this was because wrestling is so natural and instinctive. He also said that in some cases even if someone has been doing martial arts for a long time a wrestler will usually beat them in a fight because they just do so much more actual sparring compared to other arts.


Nigel and John also taught the kids and Lian, Nigel’s son got involved. At the end of the weekend we had a competition for the children, getting them to have a wrestling competition and also to chose a form that they knew and perform it in front of us, one speed test involved hitting Lians padded hand holding a stick as many times as possible with a rattan stick. Unfortunately as the minute wore on the children’s accuracy which wasn’t much to talk about before became worse. They madly thrashed and threw themselves at Lian,s stick. Quiet often they would hit Lian on the forearm or catch a tender spot which was ill protected by the glove. Lian kept an indifferent look on his face letting out a controlled ‘’aow’’ when he was struck.

Instructor Nigel Sutton teaching

Vin and I have done this before as well and it’s still very painful even with the pad on. Holding out your arm for a few minutes while someone goes crazy smashing your hand, the odd blow penetrating through the pad and bashing the thumb.


There was also a kick boxing competition which I was apprehensive about but which turned out really well. I expected wild flailing punches and tantrums, But there was none of that. The children were very sportsmen like even after trying to beat each other up. At the end of the competition the scores where even.


 So Vin and I put on fencing masks and took up our kendo bamboo swords and had a fight. Although the bamboo swords really hurt you don’t feel it at first because you’re so pumped with adrenalin. The odd whack to the leg stings a bit and if it catches your hand its smarts. Vin won on points but Nigel said that there was one strike that I did to Vins head which if it was a real sword would have finished the fight, so Shoalin won. YEAH!


 Apart from that not much else has happened, we have just been training away. We have finished all the forms of lian padukan, and we are slowly getting ready for our Katami test in a couple of weeks. It involves a week long test called the 7 coffins where we have to sleep outside and are attacked and woken up any time of the night to fight and train, then after that week we get injured by Nigel Sutton. I still have not found out how or where we will be injured.


Then after all that we finish off by having an all-night test where we must face our fears. That’s all I know so far. It’s getting closer and closer. How do you prepare to face your fears?



If anyone who is reading this blog has ever felt faint or sick from meditation or Chi gong I would be very interested to hear about it. I hope I am not the only one. Please leave a comment, what do you think causes it?

PART8 A typical day at the Zhong Ding training centre Penang

Friday, June, 12th, 2009.

 I have been training in the Zhong Ding martial arts Centre for two weeks now. I am slowly getting used to the training; my feet are still sporting huge blisters from the bare foot training. But I have quickly got used to weapons training. My wrists have become stronger so I can swing my swords with full power and not hurt my hands or arms.

 I get up at about 6 or a bit earlier. I shower, lie down on the mats outside and whack a sock full of beans into my chest, stomach and sides for half an hour. I then get up and do it all standing and letting my weight drop into my legs when the sock impacts. Letting the sock hit my back and sides and stomach a few hundred times.

Vin does the same but instead of a sock of beans he uses a sock full of rocks and hits himself a few more hundreds of times. His training has progressed more than mine as he has been here longer. I then us a thick bunch of chop sticks and hit my forearms and legs and shins a few hundred times. These are all conditioning drills which desensitize the body and bones.

 Then I do nie gong which could loosely be described as Chinese meditation. It usually involves breathing exercises and repetitions of gentle physical movements. There are countless variations of nie gong and for every variation there are many interpretations as to what their benefits are.

The particular style Vin and I are learning from Nigel Sutton is a sitting nie gong. It involves visualizing energy inside your body, also sharp breathing techniques which engage and strengthen your core muscles. Vin has embarked on a 100 day practice of this nie gong and will be able to demonstrate his skills of being punched in the chest, stomach, back and neck afterwards. One of the parts of this 100 day training is he must refrain from any sexual activity. The end of the 100 days is roughly when he leaves Malaysia in a few months. This is also the time when we will both be put through various tests and gradings.

Although waking up so early isn’t my favorite, the actual training is one of my favorite times of the day. The air is cool and quiet. You can hear the eerie wails of people in the park practicing their own style of nie gong. The sun is just rising and the day is new.

After the bean laden sock thrashing and the nie gong I have a stretch and that all takes about two hours. I have another shower because at that point I will yet again be drenched in sweat. A quick breakfast and back to bed.

At 10 am the morning session starts. It changes every day but for instance one morning we worked on strikes and blocks with the Krabi and shield, slowly working up until Vin and I were going over set sparring patterns one taking a few strikes at the other and the other blocking then quickly striking back, repeating this until (usually myself) gives up because the sword is becoming too heavy. Then at about 12 we stop for lunch and we sleep until 2ish. Vin and I sometimes do a fitness routine which involves crawling pushups, sit ups and jumping over a cardboard box with a sword and shield and hitting a wooden post wrapped with a towel hundreds of times.

Then the afternoon class starts which is like the morning class going over moves hundreds of times or holding the sword and shield with out stretched arms for as long as possible. I have done 3:45 minuets but when I have my Krabi Krabong test I will have to do it for 15 mins or I will fail.

 I have a lot to practice. Half ways through the session we will all sit down and drink tea or water and have a chat about martial arts or Vin’s lumps. Vin has developed some lumps on his body and they are constantly discussed. Then we train again till 6 or 7 ish. I have also started doing the Chinese wrestling basics in the evening if I have enough energy.

It’s not always the same but it’s usually about 6 or 7 hours training a day.

The evenings are spent recovering. If we have all had enough of each other we do our separate things but most nights we will sit around the small tv and watch DVDs from Nigel’s large box of films. The fans cooling us in the humid air. Sometimes we will go to the village restaurant and have a beer.

PART 5 Arriving in Malaysia and starting to study martial arts

Saturday, 6th, June, 2009
Sarah and I spent a few weeks back in Yang Shou and I studied Taiji while I was there but that’s a story for another time.

From Yang shou we took a flight to Kuala lumpor and from there to Penang island airport. We arrived in the evening, the weather thick and muggy. Nigel and his wife Fong picked us up in their car
For more information about Nigel Sutton you can view the Zhong Ding web site.              

Coming to Penang has been a dream of mine for about 10 years now. I remember hearing about Nigel’s martial arts school from my then Taiji teacher Lynn Gordon. Lynn told me that Nigel ran a full time year course to train instructors. As soon as I heard this I was obsessed and for ten years  I daily thought about it. Now after all this time I have finally made it here.

While I am in Penang I will be learning Krabi Krabong, Escrema, Lian padukan and silat tua.

Fong drove us back to their condo apartment and kindly allowed us to stay with them until I go to live at the Zhong Ding training center and until Sarah finds a job in Penang. For a few days afterwards we stayed at their apartment and rested. Nigel and Fong fed and watered us. We felt well looked after.

We had a look around the island. tropical, steaming hot and with a multicultural population. Malays, Chinese Malaysians, Indians and westerners. The beach is very near to Nigel’s condo and it looks inviting from a distance but on closer inspection the pollution and waste on the sand puts you off the idea of swimming.

On Monday Fong drove Nigel, Sarah and me to the Zhong Ding training center. The drive is along a small road which wound around the hills, through thick forests, durian fruit farms all around. The huge durian trees reach high up and you can spot the yellow fruit. Nets around the tree trunks catch the falling fruit. I think a falling durian fruit is one of the fructose family I would least like to be hit by, Surly it would cave your head right in. The drive made me feel incredibly sick and I tried to focus on looking straight ahead.

Thankfully we arrived before I turned gray and threw up. The training Centre is in a small village on the opposite side of the island. It’s a gritty dirty looking village with a strange feeling like you’re in an old western town. Gangsters and old men purr around on battered old motorbikes. There are Chinese, Malay and Indian people here and one Thai prostitute.

 The school is compact; you go through the gates and into the hall. A longish room with swords hanging on the walls and an impressive statue of Guang Dong the Chinese god of war. There are 4 small bedrooms in the school, a shower, loo and kitchen with gas hobs, microwave and washing machine.

Out door training area in the Zhong Ding school. Photographs taken by Sam Casey

view looking out from the school. Photos by Sam Casey

The hall inside the school

I unloaded my luggage into my new room which I was sharing with Vin another young English guy who had already been here for a few months. My new room has 3 beds, many knives, sticks, swords, fencing masks and a few electric fans.

Outside the house there is a long training area sheltered by a corrugated roof. The floor is wooden, balls on string hang from the ceiling and a wooden man stands by the door. Another unsheltered training area on the other side of the house has punch bags. Just by the entrance is a wooden shelter with a table and benches.

The school is also next door to a gangster who is apparently a loan shark. When we arrived I heard shouting over the wall, giving in to my newly formed Chinese habit of shamelessly gawping at anything I please. I shuffled over to the wall to have a look. The other students who were there advised me not to look at all. “Especially don’t look at his wife”. Then when we were going to dinner I had a peek at his house and I was told “don’t look at his house”. We ate at one of the two small restaurants in the village, Plastic tables and seats with tatty old posters on the walls. It wasn’t busy; most of the inhabitants were. fishermen relaxing.

one of the two resturants in the village, Known as the Nags head

Back at the school Sarah helped me unpack my luggage into my new room and I began my training. Although I was allowed to wear shoes Nigel, Vin and John Another English man had bare feet so I followed suit. I was handed a wooden katana and told that it was mine. ‘’it’s actually heavier than a real Thai Krabi so it’s good strength training’’ Nigel said to me. I was also told that while in the training Centre I should always have it by my side. Even when I eat, shower or sleep.

 I was also given a wooden forearm shield. It was made of heavy wood with canvas straps to attach it to your forearm; it also had a metal strip lined down the Centre of the shield. Traditional the shield is a hollow segment of bamboo. Not much of a real shield so I was told to use it lightly. ‘’ when you are going to use your shield just use it to deflect a blow and compensate by moving your body out of the way. Don’t actually block the strike’’ Nigel explained.

John Began practicing Bagua. Walking in a wide circle practicing the different arm positions. Myself and Vin began our Krabi Krabong training. Vin has already been doing it for a while now and has learnt all of the strick sets and the dance. Vin and Nigel showed me the different strikes and blocks and how to put your body’s weight behind each blow.

 After only a few minutes of holding the sword above my head and my shield out in front I began to feel the ache in my shoulders. The strikes were easy to learn. Horizontal, vertical and diagonal and thrust. Basic blocks with the shield and after I had them remembered Vin and I began to practice together, using a set of strikes and blocks. I found it quiet scary at first as we quickened our pace. Slashing and thrusting at each other. When Vin tried to attack me I raised my shield and when I blocked the shock ran through my arm. Even though the strikes and blocks were preset I was worried what would happen if one of us failed to raise our shield. We got to the point where we were using full speed and power.

Soon I began to get blisters on my feet from being bare foot on the hot floor and I was sweating profusely. I thought about how even if you’re fit in a certain area of physical movement it doesn’t mean you are in another. I am still reasonably fit from training Shuai jiao in China and I am used to wrestling but I have never trained with a sword and shield in wet heat before. It shows and there is only one way to change that. Practise.

Later that night Sarah went back to the condo with Fong. Even in the evening the weather was steaming hot. Although I was tired I found it hard to get to sleep. The electric fan was most welcome but the heat was too strong. I even had to get up in the middle of the night to have a cold shower.

The next day we worked on incorporating Thai boxing kicks into the Krabi Krabong training but Nigel told us to remember not to over use kicks or to kick too high. We still had to remember that our sword and shield were the most effective weapons compared to kicks and punches and you don’t want your opponent to block your kick with their sword either.

That night a group of youths were loitering by the training center. It sounded like a group of young men on motorbikes. Their cigarette smoke wafted over the wall and into the training area. It was dark and Vin and I were getting ready to do some night time training. Nigel turned the CD player on and selected some traditional Thai music, usually heard at Thai boxing matches. If you’re not familiar with this type of music I would recommend you take a sample.

It had the desired effect and almost instantaneously the youths started up their motorbikes and rode away.

Nigel turned the lights off and Vin and I donned our swords and shields. In the dark I could only make out Vin as a dark salute brandishing a sword. We practiced slow sparring in rhythm to the music. Although not the sort of thing I would turn on after a long day at work the music fitted perfectly with the sparring. It’s the music of fighting. It’s agitated and flits about, sometimes fast sometimes slowly.

We circled and moved, slashing and stabbing, deflecting and dodging. It was one of the most special sessions I have ever had. It’s only been a few times that I have really felt the weight and significance of practicing martial arts.

 You can easily think about it. Think about how blessed you are to have the health and opportunity to train, you can think about the lineage of the art you’re practicing. The work and sacrifice generations went through for it to have become what it is today but it’s not often that I feel it through my whole being.

Getting to bed after this training was hard and I had the first of my violent fighting dreams which would continue almost nightly even after I left Malaysia.