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

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.

PART 10 Holding my breath and mass martial arts teaching


Today we had a little test which was to do the lock 3 form with the Kris without breathing. It takes about 45 seconds to complete when done quickly and most of the moves have very low stances. We all dressed up in traditional Malaysian Silat cloths with a sarong and belt to put our Kris in and also a Malay hat which is basically a bandana .

 I was quiet nerves as the French group sat around us and watched in the conference hall. Guru Azlan told them they should try and discourage us from being successful. Vin and I took the floor and began to perform.

Completely by mistake I took a breath before the end also because we were not in sink we had to do it again.

 I did it in one breath this time probably turning a deep purple as I sprung up to the finishing move. The Harimau people did quiet a restrained job of distracting us, they just laughed and one person kept saying ‘’eeeeh!’’. Guru Azlan was pleased with our last attempt and so the Harimau group got to their feet and formed a line and we shock hands.
 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjKdR8H6O9w&feature=youtu.be

Click on this youtube link to see Vin and I perform lok 3 while holding our breath.

The next day we started off as usual and did the senaman tua exercises for an hour then went on to do the Kris forms. Guru Azlan has also been teaching us privately in the evenings by the swimming pool. This is when the Harimau group has gone back to their hotel. Guru Azlan teaches Vin, Lian and myself well past midnight. Going over details so when we practice the next day we can help him instruct the harimau group. Staying up so late every night has made it too hard to get up early in the morning and train on the beach.

 
In the afternoon Guru Azlan informed us that we would be teaching a bunch of Muslim school students who had come to stay at the resort. I had witnessed the strange act of these students swimming the day before. As we sat eating by the pool side cafe we saw about 100 children all the girls with their head dresses and the boys in trousers and shirts pile into the swimming pool. A small sign asking the people staying at the resort to shower and use the right swimming suits before they got in was ignored. They all splashed around screaming and shouting and quickly the water turned a murky green. We have stopped using the pool now.

Guru Azlan was absent in the afternoon so we waited at 5 o clock for the school students to come, we ran through lock 3 as we waited. I don’t know why you should hold your breath. It goes against the most basic martial arts principles not to mention it goes against the very act of living. At six o’clock we were just about to leave the large conference room thinking that the students must have canceled when a man came in through the open door and told us that the 200 students were hear.
We didn’t know it was going to be this much! Vin, Lian and I had just about enough time to exchange wide eyes before the students came marching in through the doors. They just kept coming and coming, there were teachers with them who sternly told them to get a move on and stand in neat lines. When the room was filled the teachers just left us to it. The boys stood at the front and the girls at the back. There was a small strip of floor which was just enough for us to walk up and down on.

The lesson plan we had prepared was useless because there wasn’t even space to take a full step let alone perform a whole form. Thinking on our feet we decided to teach them some of the senaman tua exercises which only involved sitting and moving your arms a little.

Me teaching the girls one of the empty hand moves from Guru Azlans Silat, I dont think they are paying much attention

Me teaching one of the seated Senaman tua exercises

 

Vin stood at the front teaching the boys and I stood at the back teaching the girls. Lian moved about taking some pictures and helping out instructing. As we went through the exercises the heat rose and the smell of 200 sweaty teenagers became over powering. The girls could not stop giggling as I taught them, I soon realized it was a bad idea to try and correct them individually.

After an hour we all stopped and they went out. I was very impressed with their order and discipline. Even though it was cramped hot and uncomfortable none of them misbehaved and apart from the incessant tittering and laughing they behaved themselves.

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?

PART7. Introduction to Lian padukan Silat and Silat Tua in Malaysia


The third and main art I have been introduced to is Lian padukan Silat. It’s a no frills direct martial art. It has Arabic history and passed through Yunnan province in China and then came to Johor Malaysia. It has many similarities to Wing Chun.

Lian padukan involves multiple fast strikes always attacking and moving forwards. The first thing I learnt was the back fist parry punch combo which I would practice many thousands of times. Then I was introduced to the forms. The Juros forms are simple. Preset strike combos performed with stepping in a straight line. After the Juros I moved onto the Lian forms. There are four Lian chapters and each chapter has 4 sets.

I found the forms quiet hard to remember, as they were all reasonably similar. At first I could be performing a set and I would come to the end of a combo and just stand there with a blank mind thinking ‘’ which one am I doing?’’

Lian padukan also involves semi contact sparring. Vin and I would set the mats up out on the training area and it would be the goal to push and strike each other onto the floor or off the mats. It involved wrestling elements and tying up your opponents arms and shutting them down so that you could overwhelm them. Lian Paduakn is an angry martial art always attacking and moving forward.

I have found this endless repetition of strikes and the aggressive intent which you have while training has changed me. I want to fight and I will often wake myself up in the night because I am kicking or punching in my sleep. I am actually quiet glad Sarah is not staying with us in the school as I think she would be a victim to my night time flailing’s

Like in the other arts I am learning much of the training involves repetition. Nigel will show us a set or a sparring attack or counter and it’s up to us to practice it again and again. It’s an affective training method which feeds the moves right into your body so not only your mind remembers them but your muscles as well.

 Vin and I are practicing Lian padukan for a grading in a few months. It’s called ‘’the seven coffins’’ and involves staying awake for 7 days almost continually training. It involves secretive test which make you face your fears. It’s all very mysterious and slightly worrying. Nigel only gives very vague hints as to what will happen. The only other similar test I have heard about involved washing hands in boiling oil and having rocks thrown at your back and sparring.

Here is a video of Instructor Don Harridine doing one of the Lian padukan forms

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5giMYkESEt4

The fourth art I have been learning is Silat tua. So far it is the one I have the most interest for. Silat tua meaning old Silat is (as the name hints at) an ancient style. The forms are not preset but you are expected to incorporate certain principles into your form. Such as the Malay idea Jantan betina (male female) similar to the Chinese idea of yin and yang. Balance must not be one sided and you can imitate different animals. The tari( dance) is a free style kata.

There is a short strike set and salute before you begin the Tari and then the stage is yours. The first time I practiced the tari I felt very liberated. You can express yourself through movement. Striking at imaginary opponents.

A video of a Silat Tua Tari

Through practice I learn to find my natural movement. Interestingly moves from my Taiji come through in my tari and depending on what mood I am in the tari will be completely different. Compared to other traditional arts I have practiced where there is only set forms Silat Tua is a breath of fresh air. Nigel has told us that through practicing Silat tua you become more aware and in tune with your instincts, He told us that we should tell him of any Silat dreams we have. I didn’t really know what a Silat dream was until I had one.

Learning four different martial arts at once might be some peoples idea of too much but the way Nigel Sutton teaches manages to make it easier to remember. Everything we learn seems to be translatable into the other arts and because we endlessly repeat moves and drills they are hard to forget. I close my eyes at night and I am still fighting