'Silat' strengthens Malay culture

'Pencak Silat' performance at an official opening ceremony held at Rizqun International Hotel, Gadong. Picture: BT/Rudolf Portillo

Sunday, August 8, 2010

SILAT is an indigenous martial art of the Malay Archipelago and Malay Peninsula of Southeast Asia. In Brunei and in other Malay countries in the region such as Malaysia and Indonesia, silat is perceived as one of the elements that make up the Malay component.This perception then entails the art of silat to be seen from different perspective such as from the views of religion, culture as well as science.

These different perspectives were conveyed yesterday during the Silat seminar and workshop organised by the Silat Club 41 of the Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB). The panel comprised of a variety of senior Pesilat or silat practitioners made up of educated officers from the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Education and the Brunei Darussalam National Pencak Silat Association (Persib), while majority of participants were made out of young Pesilat from ITB and the local university. This gave evidence that the art of silat is still prevalent in the society engulfing both the old and generation of the future.

From the perspective of Islam, Haji Noralizam Haji Ali Bakar from the Dakwah Islamiah Centre of the religious ministry reminded the younger Pesilat that when attaining the knowledge and technique of the art, a Pesilat has to be aware that it is not in done in a manner that goes against the teachings of Islam.

"Silat is a type of martial art that involves deep knowledge that is refined whereby even the process of knowledge and attaining the techniques is of an exquisite manner. This is what should be appreciated and not to be used as a tool to acquire strength away from the teachings of Islam," he said.

Silat has and still is perceived by some as an art that can go against the teachings of Islam when it is used for other purposes other than for pure physical and spiritual strengthening.

"This can come out from an intense desire for extraordinary strength. According to Imam Ghazali, an early Islamic philosopher, there are three types of strengths that go against the teachings of Islam," he said.

The "animal strength" is described as an intense physical strength channelled towards hedonistic activities such as immoral and vicious sexual activities. The second type of strengths is described as a "wild animal strength" which cultivates a feeling of ease and confidence towards being harmful for the sake of it while instilling emotions centred around continuous anger and displeasure to excuse aggression. The third is the described as the "strength of satan" which is the type of strength that comprises of the two strengths mentioned earlier, driving one to continuously preform wicked and harmful deeds.

"These are the type of strengths one acquires when one begins to view strength as a novelty rather than an art and a self defence mechanism," he said.

Pesilat, he said, should instill values of strength that comes from conscious awareness of the Creator with restraints of the heart and mind for clear intentions. Rozaiman Makmun, a lecturer at the Universiti of Brunei Darussalam, spoke of the role of silat in the Malay culture. The word for culture is "budaya" which comes from the Malay words "budi" and "daya". The definition of "budi" means good deeds while "daya" in this context would mean capability.

"Good deeds can only be acquired with a good strong mind as well as the strength for effort, this is what the Malay culture is all about. True silat is a product of a strong mind," said Rozaiman.

According to the Malay literature lecturer, silat can project the values that define what being Malay consists of. He highlighted that the art of silat according to Malay literature, was originally a product of an art and self-defence skills developed within the walls of palaces of the Malay sultanates before spreading into the public arena.

Rozaiman explained that different cultures have different heroic epics that can function as a sample for the ideal individual of a certain culture. "The epic for Islam is Amir Hamzah, the epic for the Indian culture is Ramayana whilst the epic for the Malay culture is Hang Tuah. The role of an epic character in different cultures is to honour the heroines of one's culture," he said.

Hang Tuah is a legendary warrior or hero who lived during the reign of the Malay Sultanate of Melaka in the 15th century. He was the greatest of all sultan's admirals, and was known to be a brave and loyal fighter.

He elaborated that the Pesilat should cultivate the values portrayed in Hang Tuah. These values include; ready for change, charismatic, ready to forgive, refusal for slander, generous, religious, knowledgeable and clever.

Md Azmi Yaakup, a Form Six Physics teacher related how silat can be related to scientific approaches that can strengthen the silat moves which he deems crucial and beneficial for a silat practitioner. All the movements he said can be improved by viewing it in terms of force, mass and acceleration.

"For example, the faster we move to executing a punch, the greater the force applied. we are looking at the relations between force, mass and acceleration," he said adding that with this knowledge the size of a pesilat should not matter. "No matter how small or how big a silat practitioner is, equal maximum force can also be achieved by both silat practitioners," said Md Azmi. He also explained the relationship between work done and time taken is equals to power. "By increasing our speed of movement, we will be able to execute a punch very fast thus maximum power is achieved. In other words, the faster we execute a movement the greater the power produced," he said. The Brunei Times