Later in the week Guru Azlan took us and the harimau group into Quantan. We parked by the huge mosque where people were going for afternoon prayer. Hundreds of people walking up to the mosque the call to prayer booming over a loud-speaker. I have become very fond of this call as it gives your day some structure. Especially in the morning when you hear that haunting voice speaking a foreign language. It reminds me which chapter of the day I am in.
We were going to visit the Malaysian cultural office. Guru Azlan took us into a building and up the stairs into a long conference room with a table and chairs. We sat down and were brought a curry meal and fruit. After eating a projection screen was put up beside us and a young Malay man stood up looking very nerves and he was sweating profusely. The young man began to narrate the slide show which was shown on the projector. The pictures were of old Malaysian paintings, artifacts, temples and people doing Silat. Unfortunately his English was very poor and none of us could understand what he was saying.
I was suddenly overcome by the unstoppable giggles. The visit to the Malaysian cultural office had been unexpected and everyone was so austere and formal. The young man kept speaking is a shaking voice with abominable pronunciation. The harimau group didn’t know what was going on either; some of them couldn’t speak English very well. They just sat there looking confused but trying to be polite.
My hysteria seemed to infect Vin and Lian which only made it worse. I tried so very hard not to laugh audibly and I had to clutch my mouth tightly to stop it coming out. Of course as anyone knows this just makes things so much worse and the odd snort or quiet giggle slipped out.
It only got worse as after the speech we stood up and shock everyone’s hand which took about 15 minutes and then we took pictures with the president of the Malaysian cultural office and we were told by Guru Azlan that now we were all trustees to the art of Silat and the royal palace. Then we shock hands again.
I tried so hard not to look at Vin or Lian but they too were finding it hard to control their hysteria and in fact some of the harimau group were infected now and they too were added to the list of people I tried not to look at.
Looking back now I wonder what the people at the office must have thought. I do feel ashamed that on this occasion which was meant to be so significant I was in such a state.
We left and went to a TV and radio recording studio where we performed the lock 3 form on a large stage next to a tall glass window. A camera crew surrounded us and filmed our performance. After that we all walked up to the second floor and met one of the radio hosts who asked Guru Azlan to feature on his talk show. Guru Azlan and Guru George the instructor of the Harimau group went into the studio and so did Vin. I was so relieved to be away from Guru Azlan for a moment as I was just dying to let out my laughter.
I suppose the seriousness of being at the Malaysian cultural office had made me nervous and an attack of the giggles had followed. Now that Guru Azlan was out of ear shot I let it all out. Tears came to my eyes as I laughed uncontrollably. I laughed even more when we started listening to Vin speaking on the radio when the host asked him what he thought of Silat. All I can remember is at one point Vin actually said ‘’ I feel like I am Silat’’ and that was enough to send me off again.
We spent the next few days training and on the last day we went to the hotel which the harimau group was staying at. It was a huge 5 star hotel with a luxurious swimming pool, much more desirable than the green one at our resort. Guru George and his students invited Vin, Lian and myself to train with them. They taught us their own style. The harimau Silat has movements which imitate the actions of a Tiger.
The moves are extra low, involving sweeps executed on the group. Whereas Guru Azlan teaches locks slowly Guru George teaches them quickly and aggressively. One particular set I enjoyed involved grabbing your opponents neck smashing it on your knee and turning them around and biting their Adams apple or nose. Guru George even imitated spitting out the mouthful.
We practiced next to the beach by the hotel. Another move I was most impressed with was a kick I had never seen before. It was similar to a low Thai boxing roundhouse kick but instead of kicking the side of the leg you cock your leg and drive it into the front of your opponents leg and when you make contact you extend your leg and slice across theirs. I was practicing with one of the better harimau students taking it in turns to kick each other. It became unbearably painful having him drill his shin into the front of my leg again and again.
It was a breath of fresh air to train outside and with a more relaxed atmosphere and I felt I got to know some of the harimau people more in that short time than I had over the few weeks we have been training with them.
Guru George told us about a man who came and challenged him at his school. He was very rude and insisted that Guru George fight him, He accepted the challenge and the man came at him with a baton out of the blue and Guru George kicked him in the nuts so hard it split his scrotum open then Guru George grabbed his neck and broke it. He now has a court case on his hands.
It was sad to say goodbye to the Harimau group and we exchanged emails and they invited us to go and train with them some day. When we were walking to the car park Guru Azlan recognized one of his friends who practiced Silat and there and then in the dark car park he gave us a demonstration of his forms. There were similar to the Lian padukan forms, quick short strikes but this man looked like he was about to explode. With tense shoulder and holding his breath be machine-gunned through the moves as if his life depended on it.
That night I had a waking dream that Guru George and some of his students were attacking me I could clearly see them even though my eyes were open and I was conscious. I was lying down and I began to kick and claw at them, defending myself and I got to my feet and defeated them. For a moment I stood and looked at Guru George and he looked at me. He was smiling.
It was only the next day that I realized what a strange hallucination it had been. I have always been subject to sleep walking. When I do it I feel fully awake and my eyes are open. I can move my body but I cannot really see what is around me. The real world is there but it’s weak and far away and hallucinations crowd my vision. I remember one worrying time in China when I was sleep walking, I knew that I had to go out. So I came out from under the mosquito net and walked to the second floor window and opened it. I was already half way out of the window when Sarah woke up and asked me what I was doing ‘’I am going out’’ I said matter of factly. Thankfully Sarah didn’t let me go out.
My waking dreams almost always are connected with what I have been doing the day before although a frequent and incredibly annoying reoccurring waking dream involves me taking all the sheets and pillow covers off and then trying to put them back on again. I will sometimes fully wake up holding my sheets amidst a mass of blankets and pillows.
So our time with Guru Azlan had come to an end. We packed our things up from the resort and he drove us to the bus station. We said a sad farewell to Guru Azlan and got the long chilly air con bus back to Penang Island. It’s been a very good experience. Meeting new people, trying out new styles getting to know Lian and Vin better. Swimming, eating, sleep deprivation, holding my breath till my head hurts and shaking a lot of hands.