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.

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.

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?

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