Why Malay & Indonesian Silat Masters do not protest they are not frauds
By John Chow, of Tao of Tai Chi Chuan Institute, Melbourne, Australia.
There has been many outcries about fraudulent martial artists who claim they can influence, repel or even knockdown an attacker without contact.
In Chinese martial arts folklore of ancient days, this secret skill was supposed to exist. It was various known as “Feng Zhang (literally translated as “Wind Palm”) etc. In Chinese occult it was variously known as “Wu Lui Zhang” (5 Thunderbolt Palms) etc.
This phenomena, and associated supernormal skills (such as invulnerability to stirikes and penetration) are common lore in the Malay and Indonesia martial arts of Pentjak Silat. A traditional Silat master is expected to know and posses such skills. It is not necessary for them to practise it, or even to approve of it. Indeed, in conservative Islamic circles, such skills are regarded “haram” (not allowable, prohibition). Silat master would learn it, and then not practise it, or practise in secret to maintain a minimal level of skill. In any case, even without Islamic prohibition, cultural sensitivities and tradition (“adat”) dictates that a Silat master be humble and not show off his super skills.
In addition, there is also a much safer, and perhaps, stronger skill, that is natural to the human body. It is called “Tenaga Dalam” which translates as “Internal Power” or “Internal Energy”. This is the Malay/Indonesian equivalent of “Nei Gong” in Chinese martial arts. One difference in the application between Tenaga Dalam and Nei Gong is that in Tenaga Dalam can be used to withstand attacks with a blade, and may be used to counter sorcery/black magic/spells etc.
Thus, whether it is supernatural magic or it is Tenaga Dalam, skills such as invulnerability (“kebal”) and distance hitting (“jarak jauh”) are common lore and belief in traditional Malay and Indonesian Silat circles (and some contemporary ones as well). It is a skill that is common place, and expected. It is a skill that enhances the reputation of a Silat master. It is a skill with a formidable reputation attached to its owner that protects him from any challenges from other Silat masters. “So-and-so has very powerful ilmu, so don’t fight him”.
In such societies, the Silat masters are never regarded as frauds. They are treated with respect, and even love, and sometimes fear as well. There is never any insinuation, nor, as in the West, accusations of frauds, scams, conmen, etc., I have seen immature, irresponsible, moralising martial artists in the West who think they know so much about traditional martial arts, that they make obscene remarks about people who claim to posses, or even believe such skills. (something about people’s mothers, and their private parts - which shows that the internet is full of martial arts students, and not martial arts masters. Those who make such obscene gastrulations should fly over to Indonesia for a 3 month holiday and make publish such obscenities in their newspapers. Wait for the mud to fly).
Let me digress just a little. I have great respects for the fighting skills of many Silat masters. They can be very formidable. I especially fear the traditional ones in the rural villages. In additin, I have great respect for Arnis/eskrima masters such as the very great fighter Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo, an undefeated fighter, who happens to be the master of my tradition of Kalis Ilustrismo. Tatang Ilustrisimo not only believe in his power of Orascion (mystical incantation) - praying 3 times daily, but professes to posses powers such as invulnerability, which he only demonstrated towards the end of his life. I would advise not to, and never to, call this great master a “fool, fraud, scam, mother-f*cker, c*unt licker, and other names. Please take my advice. I may not go after you, but if you carry on in such uncouth manner, you may meet somebody who is a hothead who might do so
I have asked Silat masters and students why don’t they defend themselves against such accusation. Why don’t they protest when the West say they are frauds. The response is that it is up to the person to believe or not. "We are not earning your money, so we are not trying to cheat you. They is no need for us to convince you. Just leave us alone to practise our arts. It is a secret skill anyway, so it is none of your business. Just leave."
Well, one thing is for sure - can't say they are trying to cheat us of our money! It is their practice. And it is their spiritual belief. We have quirks in our own religious belief also (I will be polite and not mention weird things about your religion at this point). They are not trying to convince us, so they do not need to respond to the West. The West should butt out. It is a secret practice to the Silat masters, so, just butt out. Even Malays and Indonesians are not encouraged to peek in. so why should Westerners be so nosy? Just butt out! The little they have told us is for “superficial information” only. They do not want anything further. Thank you!
Written by John Chow, a registered doctor of Chinese medicine and acupuncturist, masseur, healer and teacher of martial arts (Tai Chi Chuan, Anis/Eskrima), and spiritual paths.
No part of this article can be used, quoted, copied in any form without the permission from the author.
For further information on this article, please contact John Chow at firstname.lastname@example.org
Added on Wednesday 14 September 2005:
I will be going to Manila this November to meet Grandmaster Tony Diego who is the successor to Tatang Ilustrisimo, and I will bring up the issue of certain names in the internet who have bad mouthed those who believe in such skills. Such people will be banned from learning Kalis Ilustrisimo in future.