Phuket is one of Thailands most popular tourist destinations, and this year it saw over 250 Silat athletes from 37 countries come together for one purpose i.e to win. Easier said than done, the silat world tournament is one of the most difficult tournaments to compete in.
The official commencement of the tournament began on the 7th of January and ended the 17th. All teams and officials were treated to a Welcome Dinner with live entertainment arranged by the Phuket government. In the words of President of the International Pencak Silat Federation at the Opening Ceremony, Mr Prabowo Subianto proclaimed,
"I would like to congratulate you, because this is the largest Pencak Silat championship that has ever taken place... We have 37 participating countries which is a world record for pencak silat... Our next target is becoming a competitive sport at the 2018 ASIAN GAMES, and we are working very hard so that Pencak Silat can enter the Olympics in 2022! ".
South Africa participated in the Silat World Championships for the second time now, the first time being in Jakarta 2010. Muneeb Solomons was our C class fighter, and fought his very first ever proffessional fight against an experienced Malaysian pesilat, Razak Gazali. Although Muneeb done well first time round, his nerves got the better of him, and recalls that he couldn't even hear the screaming crowd. The fight ended in favour of Razak, unfortunately for us. This learning experience has certainly ignited a burning desire for us to return next time stronger, and more prepared, hopefully with a bigger team to compete in other areas and categories of the tournament.
Silat fights last 3 rounds, each round being 2 minutes long, but the entire match could last more or less 15 mins depending on what happens during the fight, as the time keeper stops the watch each time the referee calls out "Ti!" meaning STOP. When the referee says "Mulai", the fight begins again. Although silat fights utilizes a points system, this doesn't require any less athletic ability. In fact, silat teams would prepare 6 months ahead of the tournament, and Malaysian athletes would have to train 6 hours per day at least 6 days per week. One point is awarded for a clear punch to the target area, and 2 points for a kick, 3 for a dropping technique etc.
There are 4 categories of participation in International Silat events. Besides the match category, participants can also enter Jurus Tunggal, Jurus Beregu, or Ganda categories. Pictured left is a woman performing Jurus tunggal, or solo performance. The Tunggal consists of a series of 100 movements of defence, attack, and artistic stances in a 14 set series. The first set is done empty handed, while the second and third set is done using a Golok/machette and a long staff respectively.
The Jurus regu is a synchronised jurus of also 100 movements, performed empty handed by 3 people. The Ganda performance is done by two pesilats showing off their martial arts ability in a realistic way, but also more like a choreographed movie fight scene. Pesilats have to display their warrior spirit in the 3 minute performance, and woo the crowds with their technique, speed, agility and sometimes acrobatics as well. These artistic categories aim to preserve the culture and tradition of pencak silat in the competitive arena.
The overall winning country was Indonesia, and the next world championship will be held in Australia in 2017. The following videos about the world tournament was prepared by USA team member Abdul Malik.
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