Ex-silat champion yearns for revival of Malay martial art

By Ahmad Muliady Abdul Majid
MELAKA: Amidst the clanking of the frying ladle and wok as Norazman Naim cooks up a storm at his stall here, he often cannot help but fondly recall memories of him wielding his keris at the World Pencak Silat Championship in 1987 at Stadium Negara, Kuala Lumpur.

It took place more than 30 years ago but the event where he defeated his challenger Zainal Zaluddin to clinch the gold medal remains vivid in his mind.

Now aged 56, Norazman, who is better known as Man Putra, has traded his keris for a frying ladle and is showing off his culinary skills and ability to dish out a mean ‘mi bodo’ — the nickname given to noodles fried with the bare minimum of ingredients.

Norazman Naim has traded his keris for a frying ladle.

No longer actively involved in silat — an ancient Malay art of self-defence — he however still helps out Persatuan Seni Silat Hulubalang Melaka with its activities and represents Melaka when invited to attend events organised by the National Silat Federation.
Expressing his gratitude to the late Sotin Md Ali who founded Silat Hulubalang (warrior silat) — one of the many forms of silat — Norazman said he would not have become a world champion if not for his master’s guidance and knowledge.

He had not expected to win the title because he had only been practising the art for about three years before participating in the championship that year. “But the ‘langkah kemas tapak tujuh’ (seven-step movement) taught by Pak Sotin helped me a lot to score the highest points,” he told Bernama.

Not something to crow about
For the last two years, Norazman has been acing his cooking skills at his stall — aptly named ‘Warung Mi Bodo 2 x’ — located at Padang Temu, about eight kilometres from here.

Talking to this writer at his stall, Norazman, who used to teach silat during the 1990s, said currently it was hard for him to be committed to the martial art as he has to operate his stall, which was his main source of income.

Recalling the past, he said he and fellow students of Pak Sotin would attend classes at their master’s house thrice a week.

“We would congregate for our prayers first before the class began. Besides silat movements and steps, Pak Sotin also taught us about our religion and character development. He would also advise us that we should not boast about our knowledge of silat,” he said.

This interview was interrupted several times as Norazman had to attend to his customers’ orders. Each time the clanking of the frying ladle reverberated around the area, this writer could imagine Norazman drifting into the past and casting his mind back to the days when he wielded the keris during his silat performances.

Silat Champion, Norazman Naim, better known as Man Putra helps to teach silat at the Silat Hulubalang arena at Padang Temu, Melaka. Photos: Bernama

Keep the art alive
Norazman is, however, concerned about the fate of silat as he feels that the young generation these days seem to have a preference for other forms of martial arts such as taekwondo, kick boxing and ninjutsu.

“I feel heartbroken whenever I think about the future of silat. Many of our Malay youths seem to be losing their identity,” he lamented, adding that they should be given the encouragement and space to learn the ancient martial art to prevent it from dying out.

Norzaman, who has also learned taekwondo, said silat was closer to his heart because it not only incorporated self-defence but also religious upliftment and helped shape one’s character.

Any form of silat exhorts its followers to be good and to steer clear of unhealthy and illegal activities.

Norazman has had an interest in silat since he was a child and learned it when he was in his 20s, his enthusiasm for the art fuelled by a string of Malay silat movies he had watched while growing up.

“Youths used to flock to silat arenas between the 1970s and 1990s as they were inspired by movies like ‘Pendekar’ that was released in 1977, ‘Serampang Tiga’ (1981) and ‘Pendekar Kundur’ (1991), as well as the drama series titled ‘Keris Hitam Bersapuh Emas’ (1990s up to 2002),” he said.

These days, however, silat-themed films are rarely made, he noted, adding that the production of such movies should be revived in order to nurture the audience’s interest in the Malay art of self-defence.

At the arena
This writer, meanwhile, also visited the Silat Hulubalang arena at Padang Temu, where Norazman sometimes stops by to help the trainers there to teach silat to their students.

At the arena, two groups of students and their trainers were in the midst of a training session.

Six-year-old Muhammad Shoutul Tafhim Shaharim, one of the youngest students there, said he enjoyed watching the silat exponents dressed in their traditional black ‘baju Melayu’ because “they look great”.

The boy, whose father Shaharim Sulong, 42, had earlier enrolled him in taekwondo classes to enable him to defend himself against bullies, said: “I like the ‘baju’ silat because it can be worn anywhere. But I feel shy to wear the white taekwondo uniform when I go out.”

Shaharim said his son started to take an interest in silat after accompanying him to the Silat Hulubalang arena, located not far from their house, to watch the training sessions there.

Like little Muhammad Shoutul Tafhim, other youngsters too will be captivated by the ancient Malay martial art and inspired to pick it up if they are constantly exposed to silat, either through movies or other means. – Bernama