The Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) are upon us again! This year, over 400 athletes are representing Singapore in Indonesia. Last week, Youth.SG managed to speak to one of them, Muhd Danial Azlani, who is competing in the doubles and team categories for artistic silat.
First things first, what is artistic silat?
Unlike combat silat, which is a physical competition between two combatants, participants perform a set routine in artistic silat. There are three categories: in the singles category, participants have to perform a set of about 100 steps; in the doubles category, they perform a choreographed fight, which may involve highly stylised moves and acrobatics not unlike those you see in martial arts movies; the last category is the team category, where a team of three performs a routine set by the International Silat Federation. In all categories, participants are graded on a combination of skill, aggression and aesthetic value.
We spoke to Danial to find out more about him and how he feels about his SEA Games debut!
Y: Tell us more about yourself.
D: I’m Danial, 17, and I just graduated from Singapore Sports School (SSS). I started learning silat in primary two, so it has been about eight or nine years. (After I joined), I grew more interested in the sport so I kept training and got into the youth development program at the Singapore Silat Federation. When I was in primary six, I went for the trial to enter the SSS, and was selected (for admission).
Y: What are your other interests?
D: I’m also into acting - when I was primary six, I auditioned and got a role in a production by Suria. I’m not quite sure (if I have any plans) to pursue that interest though.
Y: So what made you pick up Silat?
D: I’m not quite sure. I guess, as a child, I just wanted to try something new. Being Malay, silat is part of my heritage and culture. I grew up watching action movies, and I wanted to (emulate their) actions (and) I guess silat allowed me to be like an action star. I actually pestered my mum to let me join a silat club!
Y: Then how did you get into artistic silat?
D: (During my time in) SSS, they trained us in both forms of silat (combat and artistic). I found that I was better in artistic silat. In our fifth year, we had to choose a specialisation and I naturally picked artistic silat.
(Danial’s forte is in the doubles category, where his small size and agility allows him to perform elaborate acrobatics. Just like an action star!)
Y: How do you feel going into the SEA games?
D: The SEA games is one of the major platforms for competitive silat and it is exciting! At the same time, I’m a little nervous because I want to perform my best on match day. It’s an odd feeling, but I guess I’m used to it because I’ve taken part in a number of competitions in sports school.
Y: What is next after the SEA Games?
D: I’ll be studying for a Diploma in integrated events management at Republic Polytechnic (RP), through the through-train programme by the sports school.
(The SSS offers a through-train programme to RP, which bypasses the ‘O’ levels. This allows student-athletes to focus more on their sports as their education is planned around their training and competitions. While he was at SSS, Danial only missed one competition!)
Y: What do you do in your free time then?
D: Silat usually takes up about four to five hours a day on weekdays, so I have more free time during the weekends. I like hanging out with my friends, just to relax or catch a movie. Sometimes, we try out different sports, like bowling or playing at a futsal court in East Coast.
Youth.SG also asked Danial's coach, Shiekh Harun, what he thought of Danial's and the rest of our silat team's medal chances.
Shiekh: Our Singaporean representatives are quite young, about 17, while those from other countries are much older, 27 or 28. Being quite young, our representatives are more prone to buckle under the pressure or be distracted by the crowd cheering at the competition. Danial needs to work on keeping his mind on his synchronisation with his team and the routine, blocking everything else out. In their last major competition, Danial and his teammates came very close to bringing back a medal, coming in fourth. At this SEA Games, the top three countries (from that competition) will also be participating because Silat is prominent is Southeast Asia. This time, we have tightened our training schedule and I believe (Danial and his teammates) stand a good chance of bringing back a medal. Well, that is it, we wish Danial and all our other athletes at the SEA Games all the best! Bring back some gold!
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