Syarat Berguru

(Conditions Of Acceptance As A Student)


I have been rather fortunate that in the last 18 years or so, I managed to make the acquaintance of people who have extensive and practical experience in Silat as well as other martial arts. Most of them were Indonesians whom I met while studying at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Western Australia.

They were in many respects, adventurers. One of them on hearing that his girlfriend, who was then studying in Perth was being harassed by a man, simply jumped onto a ship and stowed onboard to Australia from the Indonesian island of Celebes. Once in Perth, he 'persuaded' the man that it was not healthy for him to continue his advances. He then stayed on until he became a permanent resident in Perth. I met him a few years after that and managed to learn his system which I will describe in another article. He called his system "Permainan Kontan". This system is not Silat but came from his sifu, an Indonesian of chinese descent called Bapak Kim. How he managed to learn this system is in itself an interesting story which I will relate in the next article. This will not be about Silat but Indonesian Kuntau.

That was the general attitude that was prevalent among my friends. They were very competent martial artists. They had to be, in order to survive. More than one of them had the extensive experience in using their skills in dire circumstances, for example in the communist revolution that happened in Indonesia during the reign of President Sukarno or in the seedier areas of Jakarta and Sulawesi. I preferred learning from them as it gave me a practical perspective.

What influenced me the most was not just the techniques that they had to offer, but also their attitude and outlook in life. They never let doubt or fear get in ther way and certainly they are used to new and challenging environments.

Another friend I knew came to Australia as an illegal immigrant. When he arrived, he knew practically no english at all. Somehow he managed to get a job in a steel factory. The foreman was a very unfriendly fellow who did little to intruct. This friend then simply began operating the equipment he was told to operate even though he didn't really know how. He wasn't going to let a little matter like that stop him. He of course made a mess of things. The foreman was about to berate him when he stared at the foreman's eyes and in Indonesian admonished the foreman for not teaching him what to do. Amazingly, the foreman stopped and did not fire him but retained him. He worked in that factory for quite a number of years after that until gaining amnesty and became a permanent resident.

Many people admit defeat before they start. What these friends demonstrated was that it is our own fear is that which defeats us. This can be seen by the broad range of skills and techniques that each have mastered. They will think of nothing of approaching a guru Silat and for 40 days do nothing but clean the guru's toilet in order to earn the trust of the guru. From them I learned spirit and persistence, characteristics that later became useful to me as a salesman and later a manager in Fuji Xerox.

This brings us to one characteristic of the Pendekar. For him to become what he is, he must first be a good student. All human beings begin life in ignorance. Enlightment comes through each person's own efforts to lift himself above that ignorance. A Pendekar demonstrates personal mastery of his inner and outer self and has the character that will earn his teacher's trust. Once trust is earned, only then will the secrets of the art will be revealed to the sudent. In fact the Pendekar is not only trusted but loved as a student and favoured over others. This is repeated over many guru's in the Pendekar's quest for knowledge.

What makes a good student then? What is it that will earn the trust and love of the guru so that he will teach that student the secrets of his art? This is very important as it is applicable not just to the martial arts but to any form of learning. The martial arts involves knowledge that if misused, can cause maim and hurt even to the teacher himself should the student turn against the guru himself.(The malay word for this act is "derhaka" meaning an act of treason or treachery. For example an act of "derhaka" to one's parents invites damnation in the muslim religion.)

In ancient times, it was not as easy as it is today in order to learn the secrets of any martial arts. Firstly, to find a guru was not easy. One and to travel and go through termendous difficulties just to find a guru. And when a guru can be found, each guru imposes strict conditions and criteria that must be met before he accepts someone as his student. For the guru, he does not want a student with these characteristics. They are:-

  1. A student who is seeking vengance.
  2. A student who only wants to try out the guru's art or knowledge.
  3. A students who only wishes to know a system without full commitment to that system (the curious).
  4. A student who studies the martial arts only because his peers are doing it.
  5. A student who wishes to test the knowledge of the guru.

For these type of students, the guru feels he is wasting his time. A true guru will in a sense impart a part of himself to his student. This requries sacrifice in terms of time and effort on his behalf for that student. The guru wishes for the student to reach his full potential and whom he can leave behind his legacy for future generations. A good student is almost like a son to the guru and he must be sure that the student is worthy.

There are 5 types of students who do qualify, they are:-

  1. Someone who is weak and fearful.
  2. A wealthy person who seeks to protect his wealth from marauders.
  3. Someone who wishes to defend his family's honour.
  4. Someone who genuinely has great thirst and love for martial arts knowledge.
  5. An 'ulama' or muslim missionary who faces hostility in conveying his message.

To understand and know which category of person a student belongs to, many gurus will test prospective students to find out. A friend of mine once arrived at a gurus house in a hilly area which was very cold and had to sleep at the doorstep for a few nights before the guru invited him in. Obviously the guru was impressed by his patience and determination. These 2 qualities are often looked for as patience signify that the student is not likely to succumb to anger and impetousness. Determination is important as as Silat training can be long and ardous.

Upon completion of his students training(tamat), one guru of SILAT TUA STRALAK had this advice to give:-

  1. Love another person as you love yourself.
  2. Let your knowledge (of Silat) mould you into a person of noble and meritorious character.
  3. Do not use your Silat if your opponent does not really hurt you (for example if your opponent shouts abuse at you or even slaps you).
  4. Let calmness dictate the use of your knowledge.
  5. Use your Silat as a means of self control.

As we can see, the Pendekar has the quality that will endear himself to his teachers. If we think about it, any form of knowledge is disseminated from one person to another. If the two parties are not trusting then this process is slower or non existent. If the two parties have mutual trust and have formed a bond as in the case of the Pendekar and his Guru, then the flow of knowledge from one to the other is fast and, the knowledge of both grows and begin to complement one another. This happens when the student gains mastery and is able to conduct an intelligent discourse between himself, his peers and most importantly, his guru.

How many times in a lifetime do we actually use our martial arts skill? For most of us, not many. However, how many times do we have to face in the course of our everyday life, situations that require determination, strength of character, patience, will, integrity, dilligence and last but not least the ability to learn continously over a lifetime? I think I won't be exagerating if I said everyday.

Yet these are the same very same attributes that one aquires in the process of learning the martial arts. These are the qualities that become the seeds of success in today's challenging business environment. Today we need very much workers who have a sense of mission and purpose, an intrinsic vision of personal excellence, the attitude of a life long learner and strength of character to do what is right. Aren't these the very same qualities of the PENDEKAR?


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