Since I'm stuck at home with strep throat I thought I would take some time to share my recent Silat adventure here in Indonesia.
I recently moved to Surabaya, Indonesia. Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia and sits in East Jawa (Jawa Timor), near the island of Madura. Since I have known I was coming to Indonesia I have looked for Silat training here, what I was most interested in was finding traditional Silat. There are numerous large schools throughout Indonesia that teach sport style Silat, I was looking for something smaller and more traditional. I have had a love/hate relationship with Silat, sometimes it seems to be this incredibly effective system other times it seems flowery beyond words. Almost everyday while here I asked someone if they knew any Silat schools, I speak Indonesian, so I know it wasn't a language barrier, but everyone said there were no schools, tried to get me to go to Wushu schools, or thought of Silat as more a cultural dance, the term "budaya hilang" or "lost culture" came out once or twice. Everyone said Silat was really in the west of Java, Jakarta, or Bandung, or maybe only taught to family members. I refused to believe there was no Silat in Surabaya.
Through the internet I managed to get a hold of someone who studied under a Maduran Guru who lives in Surabaya, Mas Amien Mochamed. I had seen some brief clips of him on the net and read a blog which I am not sure if he put up or his students, but it seemed like a good first try, as it was my first real solid lead on training in Surabaya. From the blog all I knew was that the style was Maduran, and included four sub-styles, only one of which I had any experience with (Harimau).
Finding the club was an adventure itself, I live in the far suburbs of the city, the club was in the furthest side of the city from me about 20km's which with Indonesian traffic could well more than an hour drive. The address I had for the school was near Sunan Ampel Mosque. Sunan Ampel is famous mosque in the city in what seems to be a very religious neighborhood. In fact Mas Amien's school was called the Center for Religious study. My taxi driver seemed perplexed why I wanted to go to the Mosque, or more specifically the small alleyway I was looking for. The school was off the main road down a small alley/street, if you've been to Thailand it is almost the same as the small "soi". After finding the right "street" I headed down, it was obviously not a place with a lot of foreigners passing through. The very small homes all faced the street with tiny porches, the people all watching me as I passed by. I didn't get any bad vibes, just the curious reaction I sometimes get from locals when I wander from the main drag.
Having told him I was coming Mas Amien was waiting for me outside his school.
It was a small school, a room really, in what looked like what would otherwise be the living room of his house. We had the brief but awkward conversation where I stumble through in Indonesian telling my life story. There were a couple of surprises that really should not have been, first I was asked what religion I was, the reason being as a non-muslim I could only study to a certain level (based on the culture/history of the area from which the arts developed this was not too shocking, as the system was still being used against the dutch 70 years ago). Never the less Mas Amien was friendly and said he teaches people of all religions but reserves some teaching, I can accept that.
The second surprise was when I told him how hard it was to find a Silat Guru in Surabaya, he laughed and said on that street alone there were seven Guru's, but most Guru's in the area only teach family and friends, this reaffirmed my beliefs about the availability of schools in Surabaya.
The training was good, it was tough, I came out bruised, tired, sweaty and learned a couple new tricks, the Harimau was similar and different to what I had learnt, I never bothered with the Jurus (forms) in Silat before only the application so that was hard to get used to, as well because of my size, and the size of the training space I was like a bull in a China shop. There were some things I recognized, striking patterns from the open eight, infinity (see Guro Marc's Kali Tudo vids for more on that), as well as somethings totally foreign to me. The "Macan" or tiger style (I'm not sure how the word differs from Harimau which also means Tiger) of pinching pulling and tearing left me with bruises all over my chest and back. It was a great overall experience and I plan to go back.
Oh and I was worried I would get the foreigner ("bule" in Indonesian) pricing, but per month it works out to a little over $7.50 a month.