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.

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 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?