Bokaap, previously known as the Malay Quarter as was previously home to many descendants of the Indonesian slaves and exiles from the Dutch Colonial era. The first mosque Masjid Awal (est 1794) is stuated in Dorp street, which was initially a warehouse donated by Saartjie Van De kaap to the Muslim slaves as a venue for Islamic education. This masjid and madrassah (islamic school) was established by the great Tuan Guru Imam Abdullah bin Qadhi Abdussalam, a freedom fighter, political exile and Prince from Tidore Island in Indonesia.
The Bokaap area today is home to people from all races, religion and cultures. Seni Silat martial arts unfortunately did not thrive through the colonial times, because malay slaves were prohibited from practicing any form of martial art (for obvious reasons). According to some historians, importing malay slaves decreased heavily due to the fact that the malays were fighters and Dutch slave owners has the risk of malay men running "amok". Having said that, the spirit of the malays still strives until today, as an increasing amount of Cape malays are now reconnecting and revisiting their cultural ancestry and heritage.
Silat activty was re-introduced to Bo-kaap in 1995 when Guru Mokhtar Yahya from Malaysia visited Cape town along with his group of Silat Warriors. The efforts of Tuan Gielmie Hartley soon came to fruition when the first silat school (persatuan seni silat pukulan melaka) openened in Bo-kaap, at Boorhaanoel Centre. Silat activity slowed down after many students stopped training due to personal commitments. However a handful of students kept the art alive in their private capacity until it was decided to respond to the Call of Duty and spread Silat in Cape Town once again. Today, after many quiet years of silat activity, Silat is relived in word and deed.
Following an enquiry about silat training this morning, a seni Silat enthusiast (I would refer to him as Chris in this article) agreed to meet me at the Park for an introduction to Silat. In my opnion, as I explained to him, Silat is better understood when it is practiced. Chris showed up on time, and ready to learn, while I wore my Tengkolok, as well as batik cloth around my waist, as well as Seluar (silat training pants). A few onlookers watched while we revived the Semangat (fighting spirit) of the Pendekars (warriors).
We started with the basic fundamentals i.e; kuda-kuda (taking a stance), Langkah (Footwork), and pernafasan (breathing). Chris was very welcoming and open to the idea of reciting the Fatihah (opening chapter of the Holy Quran) and lifted his hands with me as we employed the blessings of God on our training. He was looking for a martial art which has a rich cultural heritage, and in the same time give him the opportuinity to increase his fitness and health.
Silat is not used for showing off martial prowess, but rather for the preservation of Life. The Hormat (signature greeting of Pukulan melaka) sybolises the relationship between yourself, fellow man, and God. In the same breath, i explained that Silat can provide him with all that he is looking for, spiriuality, art & culture, self defense as well as Sport. He was surprised to know that in South Africa, only two official Silat schools operate. Alazhar Seni Beladiri (ASBD) in Joburg, and Pukulan melaka in Cape Town. this situation provides us with a perfect opportunity to train silat athletes for participation on a national and international level.
Chris left with all his questions answered, but "The little you now know about Silat is only 0.00001% of what you will learn when you eventually meet the real Guru's (Haji Mokhtar and Guru Azlan)", I reminded him. Soon he will join silat classes at one of our venues listed on the Training venues page.
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