Taking an intro class into the very basics of Silat was like stepping into another world of warriors and rice fields, where one’s awareness marked the difference between life and death, where mental & physical agility had to be honed as much as the weapons they used. As we worked through the movements it felt like an ancient skill coming up through time. It raised a lot of deep, philosophical questions about me as a person, about non-violence and violence and how I react to different situations—many things I’m still thinking about—but then again I like to be deep like that.
On the surface this course was great fun, and the instructors were really encouraging and enthusiastic. I kept thinking of it more as a ballet class and had a difficult time remembering I had to aim for my opponent. Maybe if I had a sparring partner I really wanted to best, it would’ve been different. It’s hard to want to hit a lady (particularly a nice one), but it seemed improper to spar a man. Perhaps I’m still too wrapped up in all those social rules of decorum whose main purpose seems to be to make an easy life complicated, but do nothing to keep you alive when the sword hits the tree. Maybe it was the headscarves that prompted the added modesty (Malaysia is now predominately Muslim, which reflects in the martial art).
And Silat is deeply regarded as an art form, with the artistic side being greatly celebrated at traditional Malay weddings and other times, as a cultural gem of which to be proud.
(Hint: You can youtube search Silat weddings for some examples. I haven’t included any here because posting demonstrative videos here of random people’s nuptials would be weird.)
Physically, I learned I punch better than expected (see above) and kick less so (hence the lack of photo), though it felt the opposite. Somersaults make me dizzy, and I’m pathetic at push-ups. I also did my first-ever, really proper sit-up thanks to some exceptional instruction in that department.
Overall, as perhaps with any physical activity, it demanded more compromise between mind and body than my mind is used to conceding, and for the first time in my life I felt old and rickety. I shouldn’t yet, so that’s something to work on, else I’ll be obliged to borrow my next cup of rice from the neighbors. Hopefully it won’t end in a fight.