Teaching a Silat seminar in Kuala Lumpur


After the demo was over we helped Guru Azlan out in one of his seminars. It was only a few minutes’ walk from the mall. The seminar was held in a theatre. In the lobby there was a stair case leading up to different door. Through one of these doors and on a big stage a Silat seminar was taking place.

 

It turned out that it wasn’t actually Guru Azlans seminar. As we walked in we saw an elderly Malay man on the stage showing a few people some moves with the sai weapon. There was about 30 students most of them were dispersed and talking or looking around in a confused manner. It would seem that Guru Azlan was asked to rescue this failing class.

 

As we watched the class for a moment by the seats surrounding the stage one of the old Silat Guru’s students came up to Lian and myself and told us with utter seriousness that the old master was 135 years old. I could not help myself and I had a little laugh and Told Lian that they should contact the Guinness book of world records. I was in no mood to indulge in Guru worshiping that day.

This sort of lying where a martial arts master is turned into a god like person is not only found in Malaysia. I have found over the years of studying Taiji that there are teachers who claim to have special powers. For instance to be able to use their chi energy to throw someone across the room or even to control their body’s with telekinesis. I don’t find this sort of god making unusual from the point of view of the person telling the lies but I do find it fascinating that so many people go along with it. I think it’s a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

 

‘’the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed’’ (Joseph Goebbels)

 

Maybe that why religion has done so well.

 

 

It’s the same with corrupt governments, there is a view that we are the poor abused who are controlled and exploited by a faceless devil. But didn’t we as people allow our world to be as it is? I am not proud that I am English and that our past is so shameful and full of blood shed but wouldn’t any other country have done the same if they had the means at that time?

We are our own worst enemy and we either encourage or simply do not fight against those who which to control and cheat us. We are those people as well. If you were given the opportunity to become successful by cheating or using others are you sure you would turn it away?

 

‘’Let the people have no cunning and no greed
so those who scheme will not dare to meddle’’

 

 

(From the Tao Te Ching, Derek Lin translation, chapter 3)

 

 

On top of being tired and hot I was also in very smelly wet old Silat uniform. Seeing as we had done the demo 2 days in a row. My cloths had been left in a plastic bag to fester and rot over night then the next day I had to put them on again. There was no time to wash them and dry them.

On top of being tired and hot I was also in very smelly wet old Silat uniform. Seeing as we had done the demo 2 days in a row. My cloths had been left in a plastic bag to fester and rot over night then the next day I had to put them on again. There was no time to wash them and dry them.

Soon Guru Azlan beckoned myself Vin and Lian up to the stage and he organized the students into rows and we began to teach them the Lok 1 form from Guru Azlans Silat. I enjoyed teaching even though a few of the Malay people did give me funny looks as if to say ‘’why is a white person teaching me a Malay person my own native martial art?’’

Tai chi demonstration in Kuala Lumpur


straight sword demonstration

Nigel and Lian Sutton attacking Vin who demostrates his iron shirt skills

Next Vin and I changed into our green Zhong Ding taiji t shirts and performed push hands and a sword sparring demonstration. Vin also performed a 5 ancestors straight sword form. Nigel and Fong also performed. Next Vin showed off his new Nei gong skills which he has been practicing religiously for 100 days.

 

First Vin walked out and Min Sutton as well. She punched him repeatedly in the stomach, when this had no effect she came and got me. I went up to Vin and punched him several times as hard as I could also to no avail so I went off stage to get Nigel Sutton. He came and began to punch Vin as hard as he could, not only in the stomach but also the throat, at the same time Lian Sutton snuck up behind Vin and punched him in the back.

 

Although this sequence was all stage the punches where not. I punched Vin as hard as I could and so did everyone else. Vin just stood there and took it without any outwards sign of pain.

 

After this demonstration we thought it was all over but Guru Azlan asked Vin and I to help him teach a Silat seminar nearby. I wasn’t worried about that but I was worried about my black gi. I had been wearing it two days in a row and it had dried sweat twice revived in it. It was now wet and stunk to high heaven. Of course Vin and I agreed to help and we put our sweaty old uniforms back on. The smell was terrible. As we walked to the hall where the seminar was taking place I hoped that Guru Azlan would take one whiff and turn us away.

Min Sutton punching Vin

 

Silat Melayu demonstration in Kuala Lumpur


 

After the Lian Padukan demonstration Vin and I put our sarongs on. Very kindly two of the Harimau group from Malacca had given us their sarongs. Next was our demonstration with Guru Azlans students. We had not prepared for this either but for some reason I was not nurves now. We went on stage again and performed the Lok 3 form with the other Silat Melayu students.

After we had performed we asked Guru Azlan what he thought ‘’ It was good but you guys were wairing shoes’’ He pointed out with a hint of disappointment. Indeed my running shoes didn’t quiet match with my traditional sarong and black gi.

one of Guru Azlans students performing a sai form at the Kuala Lumpur demonstration

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.

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. 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.