Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Adam in chains

So I've been busy, busy inflicting more masochist's agony on my poor aching body.

Spent a few days last week visiting Fong's parents down in Batu Pahat, this is proper small town Malaysia and as such doesn't get many tourists, so myself and Nigel had to get used to being stared at everywhere we went. It's funny when you're in Penang it's not as noticeable, as they're quite used to seeing foreigners, but outside of these areas you really get reminded of being a minority.

Fongs parents live in a large open plan Chinese style house which seems to be the social hub for the family (Fong has 9 siblings and most of them live in the area) so the place is always humming with activity. Fong's parents were very hospitable and took us out on a number of occasions for food, I'm just about getting used to the idea of rice and noodles or breakfast but it always seems odd eating what feels like an evening meal at 8 in the morning.

I wasn't allowed to escape training while I was there, with Nigel making me run through forms and kick things out the front of the house and Fong taking me up a killer of a local hill (I say hill but it's a steep gradient and takes an hour to walk up) to keep up my fitness.

We left Fongs family the middle of last week and after a brief 4 star luxury stop in KL we arrived back in Penang. If I was being paranoid I'd have thought Pak Zinual had been thinking up new ways to torture me while Id been away, because the first thing he had me do when I got back was spend 20mins meditating kneeling on a chain.

I'd already become acquainted with his chains training method just before I left, he had 2 of them padlocked round my ankles to build up my legs and improve the strength of my kicks, when he First explained what he was going to Nigel jokingly said 'Is going to have them round his neck next?' to which Pak Zinual replied 'How did you know?'. Nigel finds he whole thing most amusing and has is now referring to me as 'The Chained White Man'.

The kneeling thing is a new one though. Sitting on the concrete at the back of Pak Zinual's house, the chain placed in a loop between my shins and the ground, I spent about 20mins letting my body weight sink down on the the loops of metal. I can say for certain that it definitely focuses the mind and once you concentrate on the breathing, sending the mind somewhere else, it is actually surprisingly bearable. The worst part is getting up as the blood rushes back into your limbs and you try and rub the chain pattern out of your flesh (or dragon skin as Pak Zinual calls it).

Outside of Pak Zinuals training, Nigels not been letting me off the hook. He's been re-teaching me the Fast Form (which I've learnt before and forgot), making me shaped dents in his walls during push hands and teaching me a couple of others forms of Silat.

The Silat is very interesting. The first, Silat Tari, is basically a method of traditional dancing but is also supposed to contain the highest techniques of the martial art. You learn a series of basic hand movements and footwork patterns as well as certain animal aspects (Monkey, Snake, Tiger, Dragon, Cat and Deer) and mythical personalities from the Ranayama (an Indian poem also popular in South East Asia). From this you basically enter free form movement (with or without music) moving how you feel the body should move, generally you find the movement principles will spontaneously appear during the dance and you can change the appearance and flavor of the dance by adopting one of the animals or characters.

The second is the Gerak Diri, I'd like to go into more detail with this another time, but basically you are taught to take yourself into a trance from which you again move spontaneously but in a more overtly martial manner. The idea being that if you open yourself up and move naturally you'll defend yourself in the manner most appropriate to you. This does have some parallels in Chinese arts like Spirit Boxing but Nigels points out the Gerak Diri seems more holistic and pragmatic.

Later this week Pak Zinual is going to take myself and Nigel on a little pilgrimage around some important Muslim tombs in Penang and at the beginning of Next month we're going to go to Gunung Ledang a Mountain in the South of Malaysia with many myths and legends associated with it. So stay tuned for more Malaysian madness.


Blogger nurulknight said...

Dang! I should have also got you The Quest with John Claude Van Damme. It also has a section about animal styles! I am glad you are enjoying yourself. Not sure about the chains, what was wrong with the chains we used to keep you at your desk! To welcome you back, will be sure to beat you with a cricket bat!

9:42 pm, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Nick Merriam said...

Ouch. I have been inspired to train a bit harder myself. Thanks for that.

10:30 pm, March 29, 2006  

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