Tuesday, May 23, 2006

End of the beginning

So it's been a fucking mad 3 months, I've been punched, kicked and thrown into walls. Had rocks thrown at me and been set on fire. I've ached all over, had bruised shins and swollen ankles and I think I may have fractured a toe last week (I dunno it still hurts like a bugger). I've climbed magic mountains and meditated in sufi tombs. And last but by no means least I've sweated, a lot.

So after all that was it worth it? Fuck yeah, I'd do it again in a heartbeat, it has been a truly life changing experience and I'm going home leaner, meaner and with more information than you can shake a stick at :-).

Thanks go to Zianal for torturing me the last few months and sharing a small amount of his massive knowledge with me but mostly to Nigel, who has put up with my annoyingly cheerful face darkening his doorstep almost every morning, has graciously opened many doors and allowed me to steal a small amount of his chi, giving me enough material to keep me occupied for a lifetime.

Thanks also go to Fong who has fed and watered me, given me lifts all over the place and been very gracious about the lanky foreigner sweating all over her nice living room floor while she's trying to watch her Korean soap operas. And finally thanks also to Lian and Min, just for being Lian and Min.

All I've got to do now is practice the stuff for the rest of my life....:-)

So next I'm off to India, I fly out Tuesday night and am currently planning to go South to Kerala (though this may change as I get there just in time for the monsoon...bugger). Well whatever happens I'm sure I'll have a few more things to post about.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Khatam vids

Here are some clips of the Khatam (see earlier post) that a friend has kindly let me host on his server, enjoy.

don_adam_weapons.wmv (7163 kb)
adam_fight.wmv (6269 kb)
dons_fight.wmv (30,578)
stone_vs_fire.wmv (7513 kb)
fire_vs_flesh.wmv (6607 kb)
fire_walk.wmv (2081 kb)
washing_in_oil.wmv (3100 kb)

(Note I've fixed the links now so they should all be working)

Oh and I've taken the word checker thingy off the comments because people were complaining it wasn't working properly and stopped them posting. I've already had two lots of spam and some abuse so feel free to add to them. :-)

Training, training and more training

Well things have been relatively quiet here for the last few weeks. I've mainly been drilling the stuff I've learnt over the last couple of months trying to etch everything into my synapses, make the most of my time before I start the long trek home via India and give Nigel and family a bit of a break from having the lanky foreigner jumping around the living room.

Pak Zianal also told me yesterday that I've completed the syllabus for the White Tiger Thai Boxing. This doesn't mean I've suddenly transformed into some martial arts master, rather I've now learnt all the basic drills, conditioning and forms, all I've got to do now is go and practice them for the rest of my life :-). It was quite interesting yesterday, I joined in training with some of his Malay students (something I haven't done for a while) and the difference between when I trained with them when I first got here to now was startling. All my techniques were much more solid and had a lot more power and my shins weren't killing me after 15mins of kicking, just shows you what a few months of beatings will do for a mans character.

On top of all the Silat and Thai boxing my form has improved no end with a lot of niggling problems if not ironed out at least in the process of being fixed and Nigels taught me a kick ass staff form that I've been dutifully practicing until my arms fall off, it's very nice and has lots of fa-jing training that's feeding back into my fast form which seems to be developing some oomph now.

I've got about a week left now, my little sister is in Malaysia (passing through on a leg of her own round the world jaunt) and she should hit Penang next week, so we should have time to meet up for a few days before I leave for India. I've got a place booked up in Mumbai for a couple of days and then the plan is to head down South and work my way back up (a slight change of plan than previous but more realistic I think).

I'll try and do another post before I leave, I've helping Nigel and Fong teach some kids martial arts at a local school on the weekend before I leave so that should be amusing.

Monday, May 01, 2006


So you think after having rocks chucked at me and being almost set on fire I could handle anything, but this morning standing at the edge of a small stage dressed up again in my Malay gear (which I have to admit I find most comfortable) waiting to go out in front of an audience I could still feel that familiar dry throat and gurgling tummy.

Myself, Nigel, Fong (Nigel's wife) and Lien (Nigel's son) where all at the USM ABN-AMRO Arts and Cultural Centre in the centre of Penang performing a Silat Tari demo to help launch an art exhibition by a local artist Shamsul Bahari. One side of the small stage was crowded with the traditional instruments of a Gamalan Orchestra, metal bells and gongs hanging in beautifully crafted housings adorned with intricate carvings, the other half clear for us to jump around in.

It may sound odd that a group of Europeans should be out promoting Malay traditional arts to Malays, and I'm sure there is some novelty value in it, but as Pak Zianal says; when people see that someone is willing to travel half way round the world to immerse themselves in Malay local culture and arts it helps to make people realize how much it is worth.

Nigel took the stage first opening the proceedings with a Tari dance to the four directions while some of Pak Zianal's lads banged out a rhythm on the gongs and drums. As he finished the rest of us came on clutching small bowls of flowers, I passed Nigel his and Fong and Lien left the stage we began Silat Smarap. This is a dance, normally performed at weddings, where the participants each hold a bowl of flowers, one representing male and the other female (the female is distinguished from the male because she has the bigger bowl, which seems quite appropriate I think :-p).

The idea of the dance is that the male has to try catch and touch bowls with the female while the female has to simultaneously tease and avoid the male, so the female is characterized by her creativity in avoiding the male while the male is distinguished by his cunning, trying to corner the female and use feints and tricks to lure her out. Apart from being great fun, my nerves were soon forgotten as I chased Nigel around the stage grins on our faces (I was the male, much to Nigel's annoyance but he could do the feminine moves much better than me :-)), the dance is a fantastic footwork and sensitivity exercise as you attempt to trick, tease, corner and escape from each other and because it's a dance it's less likely degenerate into a forceful contest.

After Nigel had kindly conceded (otherwise I'd have been chasing him for hours) Fong and Lien took the stage and performed the same dance. One of the best things about Silat Tari is that it allows the exponent to bring him or herself to the picture from the beginning. Instead of having to conform to a set style, conditioned by set patterns of movement, the principles and basics allow the person to find his or her own way of moving. This means that when you watch a group perform Silat Tari, though it is obvious that each person is moving in a similar fashion, there is also a certain stamp or quality of movement that is unique to each individual. Therefore watching Fong and Lien do the dance was quite different to myself and Nigel, Fong moves with fluid grace and strength while Lien's movements have a focused intensity that you can feel across a room.

Once they had finished the dance we all took our turns to perform various Tari, empty handed and with weapons (Nigel used a Pedang, a Malay single edged sword, while I had my trusty stick and Lien had a Kris) , to finish myself and Nigel performed a 'skit' whereby Nigel played the aggressive 'hard' martial artist, terrifying both the audience and the band stamping and shouting (he hammed it up beautifully and the hardest part was keeping a straight face), and I was the soft and flowing Silat Tari guy deftly avoiding and countering his blows (obviously we' been rehearsing this before and Nigel kindly uttered a blood curdling scream every time he attacked). The skit ended with Nigel crawling off the stage and Lien coming on to defend his fallen father, by running up my leg and elbowing me in the head (he was kind to me today as yesterday he landed a beautiful knee right on my nose while practicing).

In all it seemed to go very well and both Pak Zianal and Nigel got positive feedback and seemed happy, which is the important thing on these occasions. Something that can be easy to forget coming from the West is the concept of Face, if you are performing a demo it's not just your own embarrassment you have to worry about if it goes wrong but that of your teacher and their lineage whose skill you are representing.

Once all the excitement was over we got to have a proper look round at the art exhibition, the artist was a Penang local who I think had lived overseas in the States and Japan before finally moving back to Penang. The art was really good, with a diversity in style ranging from pen and ink miniature's and cartoons to full size canvases of everything from abstract images to landscapes. The two particular things that caught my eye where a series of pictures of tropical fish, their dayglow colours against a stark black background that seemed to fix them in it's embrace and a large canvas filled with intertwining tree branches reaching up to surround/ensnare a white dove at the centre.

I'm glad that I had another opportunity to something out of the ordinary while out here but I'm also glad that the demo is over as these things are always nerve wracking, still it's good to get the chance to help in a small way to promote the local culture and art and hopefully give back something of what it has given me.