Saturday, November 1, 2008

Datin Z's Greatest Role

BELIEVE it or not, once upon a time I was a silat exponent. Even though I cannot recall many details of this chapter in my life - it was 34 long years ago - there are certain aspects of the period that remain crystal clear in my mind until today.

It was in the early months of 1974 and I was a rookie reporter with the Malay Mail when I was introduced to Silat Kalimah, a gentle yet lethal art of self defence.

Unlike many other forms of silat which stress on speed and agility, Silat Kalimah is slow and deliberate, its actions based on the movements of the Muslim daily prayers.

Silat Kalimah comprises five key movements -Takbir, Qiam, Rukuq, Doa and Tahyat - with each movement having several buah (components). There are 27 buah altogether - 2 in Takbir, 8 in Qiam, 4 in Rukuq, 12 in Doa and 1 in Tahyat.

I was brought into this art of self-defence by a friend and colleague, Maarof Mohd Noh, an intense, deeply-religious fellow then writing for Berita Harian.

Maarof himself was drawn into the movement after covering the first ever Malay martial arts convention held in Kuala Lumpur in July 1973, and eventually became an active member of the organisation.

Silat Kalimah has its beginnings in the royal household of Kedah many centuries ago, well before the establishment of the Melaka Sultanate.

According to history (Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa as well as oral tradition), the art was brought to Kedah by Arab traders from Persia and taught to Kedah ruler Phra Ong Mahawangsa (1136 -1179) when he embraced Islam, taking the name Sultan Muzaffar Shah.

It remained the exclusive domain of Kedah royalty and taught only to descendants of Kedah rulers until the 19th century, when a revolt threatened the reign of Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah (1804-1843).

To quell this revolt, the Sultan decreed that Kedah warriors led by one Panglima Tok Ismail be taught Silat Kalimah. Thus the art finally breached the royal confines to reach the common man.

At the time when I joined Silat Kalimah, I was dating N (the journalist I would eventually wed), and he offered our silat group the vast grounds of his father’s official residence as our weekly training arena.

Thus it came to be that we trained on the immaculate lawn of one of those spacious colonial bungalows in Jalan Kia Peng, Kuala Lumpur, under the watchful eyes of a police sentry and several men in blue.

N’s father, the nation's top cop and a true blue gentleman well-known for his grace and humility, would occasionally spend time watching us train.

Sometimes he would be joined by his wife the Puan Seri, and together they would sit by the porch, quietly observing as we executed our steps and movements.

We were of course honoured, not to mention a little nervous too, to have the Tan Sri showing a keen interest in what we were doing.

I guess it came naturally to him because, as the head of the country's police force, he was well aware of the importance of knowing how to defend oneself.

[It is ironic that the Tan Sri was tragically defenceless some months later, in June 1974, when he died in a hail of bullets in broad daylight, in midtown Kuala Lumpur, assassinated by two communist agents, on his way to work. He was only 51]* (read here)

Because all members of the silat group were working people, we trained after work, usually from 8pm to 10pm. We would assemble on the lawn and say our collective prayers before the initial buka langkah (opening movement).

One evening as we were deep in training, one of Puan Sri's friends, Datin Z, whose husband was a senior officer in the Force, arrived for a visit.

The impeccably dressed, dignified-looking Datin Z alighted from her car and nodded lightly in our direction as she walked towards the entrance of the bungalow.

As she came abreast with our group, this pleasant-faced, middle-aged mother of four teenagers suddenly halted her pace, inhaled deeply and broke into a series of silat movements!

Astounded, we stopped our practice to watch. Eyes closed, Datin Z slowly but surely began executing some of the most exquisite silat steps we had ever seen!

Her agility was astounding; dressed in loose-fitting Baju Kedah, she managed to move with ultimate grace while all the time preserving her dignity. As I write this, I can almost see her doing the silat in my mind. It was simply amazing!

Of course there was near-pandemonium in the house as everyone rushed out to see the incredible sight. Datin Z continued with her extraordinary performance for a good five minutes before our silat guru approached her apprehensively to ask who she was.

Eyes still closed she answered in a low voice, strange and distant; Tun Fatimah. The moment the name escaped her lips, Datin Z collapsed in a heap and passed out.

To this day, my nape still pricks when I recall the incident. Thirty-four years on, I am no closer to any explanation and still trying to understand the whole mystifying scenario. It was truly surreal.

Unfortunately for us, the untimely death of Tan Sri inadvertently broke our Silat Kalimah training. His son, N, emotionally burdened by his father's senseless murder, lost interest in silat. We finally quit after completing 16 of of the 27 buah required.


Note 1: Tun Fatimah was a notable Malay heroine, daughter of a royal courtier and one of the consorts of Sultan Mahmud Shah in 15th century Melaka Sultanate, whose governing skills resulted in Melaka's alliances with Acheh, Minangkabau and Borneo.

Note 2: The full account of Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim's assassination can be found under this posting - "Death of A Patriot" - Friday, June 20, 2008. Apologies, I have yet to learn how to do the link.

18 comments:

bergen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mamasita said...

Again,you never fail to amaze me as I learn slowly of your past.Memang you lasak betul.Silat pun you belajar.Can you still bersilat kalau kat carpark somebody tries to mug you?
Also,did you find out later kenapa that Datin Z tiba2 'menurun.?

bergen said...

Silat Kalimah Yahya Said masih popular sekarang. Kalau tak silap ada gelanggang diorang kat rumah di Seksyen 14,PJ.

Pi Bani said...

Whoa! Silat pun pandai rupanya. Don't play play with Kak Puteri...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Mamasita - nowadays if anyone confront me at the carpark demanding money ke handbag ker..i sedekah aja..LOL.. silat 'ca alip bot' tau laa..As to why Datin Z tiba2 menurun, I tak pastila pulak..

Bergen - I am sure it is still being practised today berg. tapi for me, tak lah kot..bersilat dengan Pak Abu buleh la..hahahaha

Pi - dulu Pi, dulu.. now can only bersilat Mulut dengan anak2..:)

Kak Teh said...

So dia tak ingat? Oh God - must be so surreal!

My son is taking silat now - quite seriously and hopes to one day represent Britain in the world silat championships. He missed the one last year. Takut juga orang bersilat ni, kan?
I bersilat di dapork saja dengan pinggan mangkok.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Kak Teh - the Datin menurun. Somehow she was possessed by the spirit of Tun Fatimah, according to the silat guru, that was why she could do the silat. In real life, dia tak tahu. Orang bersilat ni mcm2 cubaan .. i shall tell nother story lain kali..how someone 'berdepan' dengan harimau in his bedroom..:)

Kak Teh said...

Ish! Puteri - I ni baru bangun subuh - morning2 blind dok baca cerita hantu la, menurun la, rimau laa. I pun ada cerita rimau - tapi la ni tak boleh tulih apa lagi - otak beku. It is so cold now.

But seriously, I have been on to some very interesting stories that has taken me back to the early 1900's. So many interesting people I have met and interviewed recently that my memory is full and overloaded. Maklumlah memory bank lama. Tak boleh upgrade dah lagi.

ArahMan7 said...

The more I read the more I'm thrill. You never cease to amaze me (melopong mulut ArahMan7 baca cite ni).

Greetings and lots of love from Kuale Kangsor.

Anonymous said...

Komen Pak Malim, kucing ray yg alim.

Alamak! kata Pak Malim sambil makan nasi lemak. Kak Kama pandai bersilat! kata Pak Malim yg suka mengelat. Takut pulak nak main-main, kata Pak Malim sambil memakai kain.

lenzaidi said...

Im begining to think Kama is most likely to go for script writing for Suhaimi Baba incoming malay horror white screen.
Kak Teh any interest in the light,action and cut/ movie making for a change?lol.
cheers.

Anonymous said...

Lama tak masuk..exam lah Kak..walau hati ni mengedik ngedik gak..

Take 5 lah kunun ni..wah Kak Kama, Silat Kalimah lagi, tabik spring lagi...

Saya biasa tengok orang menurun niih..

Lagi seronok tengok orang tengah berubat...cakap cakap suara garau garau tu..macam macam depa story..

Dari kecik sampai sekarang ..ada can tengok orang kerasukan..sampai timbul minat..

Laa ni tengah belajar jugak lah..macam mana nak belasah anu anu yang duk merasuk..

But..exam real punya dulu lah kena duduk..

Interested tak Kak Kama belajar belajar jadi Perawat Islam ni..best ooo...

Pertama..Itu dalam mesti kasik..keras dulu..

tulih lagi Kakkk...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Kak teh - I tengok CNN kata London minus 2... sejuk tuu!

arahman - kita kan orang tua, banyak ler storinyer! hehehe

wahai pak malim kucing ray yg alim
kalau silat takleh mengelat
nanti kena tibai, terkulat2!
tu kain, pi pakai..
takut satlagi habih semua terungkai!

len - bab mengarut kak kama pandai, bila tulih serious, dak kot..lol

anon 4.54 - no wonder la didnt see you lama. Kak kama was wondering juga, hanyut sampai kemana dah? I hope your exam ok ..sah lulusla tu..

Pak Azmi said...

Actually, the Datin could have been the 'jinjang' by incident, and if I were to be there, I might have the 'chance' to communicate with her. In fact that had also happen to my gang when we performed the silat'menurun'.One of my friend tried to 'panggil' one of the panglima, but 'he' colud not come, instead, Tun Fatimah was 'accidentally' 'terpanggil'. Relising that she had come to a male jinjang, she asked to be 'gone'. May be u can refer to my blog for further 'story'

m00n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
m00n said...

Bersilat? A ah' kan, peninggalan pusaka yang kurang mendapat dihati generasi masa kini. Kenapa ek!! Warisan nenek moyang zaman berzaman yang telah yang dulunya ternyata menjadi senjata ampuh mempertahankan sesebuah kerajaan kini tinggal menjadi warisan seni sahaja. Juga merupakan satu satunya alat mepertahankan diri bangsa melayu (khususnya). Dah ada pistul senapang dan pelbagai senjata pembinasa yang boleh membunuh dari jarak jauh kot no!!? Ishhhh!! Ye apa!!

cn said...

mOOn...
Kamu tu "silat fufu" pandei lerr.. hahahahaha..

Anonymous said...

kak..take 5 lagi..core paper..PR.paper ni...Monday..

sapa nak lulus kak..I only hope at least I can get A minus..lulus zaman kekanak dulu (dah tua renta macam ni..mesti A atau A plus..kalau teruk sangat A minus) tu pun dah tak leh nak letak muka..

Public Library = PUBLIC = so they think they can make public speaking in the library I wish I can spank them with this heavy thick book that do not want to friend with me today..Aiyaah..

karat..sangat dah..