Jumaat, 27 September 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Bonding over an ancient art


A father wants his family to learn silat because it is not only a form of martial arts, but steeped in the Malay traditions of adab (respect) and adat (customs).

EPIDEMIOLOGIST Dr Mustafa Bakri's fascination with silat started from watching old Malay films from the 1960s such as Anak Buluh Betong and Dharma Kesuma.

"I was fascinated by how silat invoked the spirit of heroism and justice. But after being introduced to different silat techniques such as silat lintau and silat panji alam in secondary school, I realised martial arts acts in movies were choreographed, be it in Malay, European, Hollywood or Japanese movies.

"Silat teaches the core art of martial arts, minus the fancy moves seen on the big screen. In a real fight, the scenario is entirely different. Silat is thus far one of the best and most practical," shares Dr Mustafa, 57, who works at the Seremban district health office.

Young exponents: It's good for children to learn silat as it instills discipline in them.

Young exponents: It's good for children to learn silat as it instils discipline in them. 

The Perak-born doctor attends Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 lessons which he considers one of the most practical self-defence tactics.

"It is one of the few silat systems where students (beginners included) are encouraged to use the keris in both armed and unarmed combat. Silat exponents can use simple yet effective movements to counter attack the opponent.

"To me, Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 is the most practical silat by far as it combines skill and rigorous exercise. It requires minimal running, pumping or punching unlike other silat forms that I have seen, making it a perfect martial arts form-cum-exercise for me," he said.

Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9 is an old system in Silat Melayu that can be traced back to the Malacca Sultanate and it is believed Malay warriors used it to fight Portuguese invaders.

The modern version of this form of martial arts was developed by silat exponent Prof Dr Azlan Ghanie, who had learnt it from his father Abdul Ghanie Abu Bakar, who inherited it from his grandfather Abang Salleh Datu Patinggi Borhassan.

Dr Mustafa, who has been learning silat since 2007, is one of Azlan's students. He was so enthusiastic about silat that he has persuaded his wife Noraishah Mohamed, 49, and his sons Muhammad Syahridwan, 13 and Muhammad Syahriezlan, 11, to participate in Azlan's classes.

Silat master Dr Azlan Ghani training his students. RAYMOND OOI / The Star Aug 31, 2013.

Hidden in the palm: Students learn to use anak badik, a weapon used by women in self-defence. 

"Since my wife and sons do not do much physical activities, the classes help to keep them active," said Dr Mustafa who has six children.

Noraishah, a homemaker, was inspired to join silat classes due to its simplicity and practicality. "We learn self-defense tips for women, be it in public spaces or at home. It is especially useful as I am a housewife and I am home alone most of the time," said Noraishah, who has been a silat student for two years.

Quick and fast moves: Dr Mustafa Bakri, 57, and wife Noraishah Mohamed, 49, testing their sparring skills during silat class.

Quick and fast moves: Dr Mustafa Bakri and wife Noraishah Mohamed testing their sparring skills during silat class.

Muhammad Syahridwan's interest was sparked by his father's enthusiasm. "My parents have been silat enthusiasts and their interest rubbed off on us. I enjoy my silat lessons as they build confidence and discipline. It is also a good form of exercise," said the secondary school student. Dr Mustafa works in Seremban but travels back to be with his family in Rawang during weekends. Every Saturday, his family travels from Rawang to Setapak, Kuala Lumpur for their silat lessons.

Students start their classes with Senaman Melayu Tua, an ancient form of physical exercise that focuses on breathing techniques, stretches and movements to strengthen the body. After the warming up session, students learn different forms of loks (a Malay term for the curve on the blade of the keris).

Exciting: Audience members were captivated by the martial arts performance by Silat Sendeng Betawi Malaysia.

Exciting: Audience members were captivated by the martial arts performance by Silat Sendeng Betawi Malaysia. 

There are five loks (numbered one, three, five, seven and nine) to be learned to complete the basic syllabus. Learning the loks is the key to the principles of fighting in armed and empty hand combat. The basic syllabus takes two years of regular training to complete.

Dr Mustafa adds that besides an art of self defence, silat also places emphasis on adab (respect) and adat (customs). Traditional Malay values are maintained throughout classes where students are taught how to respect their elders and each other. Students are also taught how to confront danger (with or without weapons) which is useful for different age groups and gender.

"Silat practitioners are taught to respect our opponents and training tools. Before each session, we have to bow a little to shake hands with partners and kiss our weapon as a sign of respect. This traditional martial arts form teach us to avoid trouble and protect ourselves from danger. Being able to handle the keris during practice has helped boost my sons' self confidence," explained Dr Mustafa, adding that plastic or wooden knives are also used during sparring sessions.

Traditionally, the keris is regarded more than just a weapon and the adab (manners/ rules of behaviour) surrounding this art is extremely important. The keris is a symbol of the ancient Malay culture and must be respected, and those who own a keris carry heavy responsibilities. Learning the customs and traditions associated with the keris is an integral part of the syllabus.

Another benefit of learning silat is that it is good for health as its practitioners learn how to regulate their breathing. "Some silat students with asthma and shortness of breath are now more aware of proper breathing techniques. Learning how to improve breathing is among the core essentials of silat," said Azlan, who charges RM50 monthly for his silat classes.

Azlan has also further developed Senaman Tua – a traditional exercise system based on the movements found in Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9. He had turned to this exercise form after he suffering from a stroke at 32, which left him partially paralysed.

"Although I sought all sorts of treatments ranging from modern to traditional, I didn't show signs of improvement. I eventually started to practise various techniques of Senaman Tua (which I had learnt from my father) and my health gradually improved," recounted Azlan, who is the founder and editor of Seni Beladiri, a monthly magazine dedicated to the Malaysian martial arts scene.

Dr Mustafa hopes more youngsters will learn silat as it is a self-defense art passed down from the warriors of the olden days. "Sadly, some feel that silat is out of fashion and not a necessity. Hopefully more students will sign up for classes as it is a powerful martial arts form that stresses on team spirit and confidence."

*For more details on Silat Melayu Keris Lok 9, go to senibeladiri.com.my.

Related story:

Silat: Quick facts

Turning pebbles into backyard monsters


Humanise a handful of pebbles? Why not?

LAST year, we shared a column on anthropomorphism, which refers to the attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects, animals or natural phenomena. In the world of crafts, what it basically means is that you can bring life to still life by simply giving a "face" to otherwise faceless things.

Some good examples? The Japanese are rather famous for humanising their milk cartons, bag o'chips and kitchen sponges.

The accompanying tutorial shares how you can add appeal to a handful of backyard pebbles. Turn them into scary or friendly backyard monsters with the help of googly doll's eyes and some strategically placed foam sheet teeth.

If time is on your hands, try glazing the pebbles with bright acrylic paint to give each monster a colourful personality. Line them up on your desk, or have them guard your paper stacks.

Pebble pals

Skill level: Easy               

Time required: 10 minutes       

Stuff you'll need: Pebbles, googly doll's eyes, scissors, foam sheets in green and yellow, glue tape, black marker and pink Sharpie.

1. Remove the seals from the back of the doll's eyes and glue them onto the pebbles. Arrange them in monster fashion: each monster can have multiple eyes, or it can look like the one-eyed Cyclops.

2. Use a black marker to draw on the lips.

3. Roll glue tape onto a small area of each foam sheet. Cut small "teeth" out from this part and smooth them onto the pebbles.

4. Draw on eyebrows, eyelashes and add a pop of pink Sharpie blush.

Nanny Jo Frost knows best


When the kids are bratty and the tantrums are loud, who you gonna call?

YOU may or may not have come across Jo Frost.

That is, unless you are an exhausted, bedraggled parent not above Googling for help during times of desperation.

In which case you might be quite familiar with the name.

Frost shot to fame as Supernanny back in 2004, when she won the role over hundreds of other applicants. The British reality TV series had her traipsing across both sides of the Atlantic fixing family troubles, in response to SOS calls from struggling parents. And after a seven-series run for both the British and the United States versions of her show, it's safe to say that she's emblazoned herself as a household name across both continents.

Not bad for someone with no formal training.

She did have 15 years of nannying experience under her belt when she responded to that ad 10 years ago that led to Supernanny. Since then, Frost has found herself in a unique position compared to other nannies. Instead of sorting out the parenting problems of just one or two families over an extended period of time, she's had the chance to really hone her expertise, having counselled an extraordinary number of families, and across different cultures too.

Since her early successes, Frost has come out with bestselling books on parental guidance, and another series called Extreme Parental Guidance, which is currently airing on Lifetime (Astro Channel 709).

In it, she tackles 21st century problems like body image, ADHD, and how this digital age is eating into traditional family time. This time, the show brings in experts too. So while Frost solves the behavioural side of things, viewers get a professional take on issues like eating disorders and what computer games are doing to our young brains.

But the core message as always is that fixing the seemingly unfixable – tantrums, incessant bickering or getting your children to eat right – is about consistency. Frost's stern techniques may seem conservative to some, but the advice always seems to work, eventually.

Despite the repetitious nature of it, seeing family after family drilled with the importance of following through on actions like the "naughty step" (at the foot of the stairs where Frost would send misbehaving children for a time out during the show), never seems to get boring.

Maybe it's because every family is different. Every family is a little bit like us, in some way or another. And to see someone make things work is cathartic, because it makes us feel like we all have a chance.

"Everything is real. I am helping real families, with real issues, and there are no short cuts, everything is about looking at the long term," says Frost during a recent phone interview.

Now, you may be sceptical about how every single episode that's aired always seems to turn out all fine and dandy. But rest assured, a lot of work goes into getting the right outcome. As Frost points out, "You have to recognise, I spend over 200 hours with these families, a very long time. What you see is probably 42 to 48 minutes."

Specifically, what we see is 45 minutes of the key moments and turning points, breakthrough moments that best summarise a long hard journey of consistent parenting.

In fact, Frost prides herself on knowing that whatever happens on her show is real: "On the show, you may see one particular outburst, whereas in reality, there will often have been three or four."

Doing the show is incredibly draining, she says. Shooting often takes Frost from solving one family crisis after another, back to back, sometimes requiring her to travel from one side of the country (whether Britain or America) to the next.

"I've spent seven years mostly travelling and living out of a suitcase from one state to the next. I'd leave a family, get on an air plane and travel for six hours, and then wake up at four in the morning to start working again."

Despite the marathon, however, Frost says seeing the show's success and how it's become a staple for people made her feel all the more committed. She simply learned how to cope with the hectic lifestyle during shooting season, and says the key is to be disciplined. In a way, her doing the show only emphasised the importance of practising what she preaches.

"You have to understand the importance of being able to look after yourself, in order to help the families. You need to find a balance between work and yourself, in order to maintain that level of performance."

While Frost does not have children herself, according to a recent Daily Mail article the 41-year-old is considering adoption, having recently established a home with her partner, Darrin Jackson, in California (Why Super Nanny is considering adoption: With a new book, TV series and man, Jo Frost says she's too busy to have a baby, March 1, Mail Online).

Enough of the mushy stuff. The truth is, Frost isn't just good at dealing with parental issues. She's perfect for reality TV. She comes across as open and sincere, but she's also one of those people you don't want to mess with. She has a wide-set frame, a South London accent, and a brand of no-nonsense that sometimes, when things get really heated, borders on brashness. But maybe the point is that in times of desperation, we need people like that.

Incidentally, desperation makes for great reality TV, and there are plenty of desperate families out there.

We certainly see it in Extreme Parental Guidance, where Frost deals with computer addiction, children who won't eat, obesity, ADHD, and all the problems that stem from this brave new digital age of social networking and materialism that seems to have everyone worrying whether our children are being forced to grow up too fast.

But don't worry. Because the message seems to be that if you keep your head screwed on and follow a few simple rules for guidance, and, of course, be consistent, there's no need to panic just yet. Or else, you could always just make an SOS call to Frost.

*Catch Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance on Wednesdays at 8pm on Lifetime (Astro Ch 709).

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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