This story is one part of a large effort by MixedMartialArts.com to understand what really works in martial arts. Too occasionally the focus is on what fails. If you enjoyed it, check out the library on:
•Martial Arts on The Street
•Style vs. Style
Today, anyone wanting to demonstrate that their martial art is effective can prove it, by fighting exponents of other styles. However, for generations, martial arts instructors "proved" the effectiveness of their style mainly via two means - demonstration and argumentation.
The arguments were endless. Their art was internal or external, whichever, both were superior. Their art was linear or circular, whichever, both were superior. Their art was ancient or modern, whichever, both were superior. Throw in a few references to deadly street fighting Navy SEALs from Asia, and the public was sold. Buttressing the stupid arguments were stupid demonstrations.
Boards would be broken, techniques would be executed rapid fire on complaints students, and again, people found that compelling. It's the equivalent of someone shadowboxing well, and then declaring that demonstrates they can fight. It was all silly.
And when it failed, it was funny:
•Boards do hit back;
•Bricks fail to break; and,
•Hapless grandmaster flops around from No Touch Chi Ball.
However, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Sometimes worthless martial arts demos cause injury to the willing if gullible students, like when a ninja sword cuts a zucchini, and the student under it. And that's child's play compared to this 1980 demonstration of Silat.
What is Silat?
Silat, also called Pencak Silat, or Penjak Silat, is an umbrella term for a group of related indigenous martial arts from Indonesia and the surrounding geo-cultural areas in Southeast Asia, notably Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Southern Vietnam. The term encompasses hundreds of different styles, that can have both unarmed and weapons training. For the latter, techniques often involve striking, takedowns, and joint manipulation.
The art is recognized as a piece of Intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Further, it has a popular sporting aspect.
Since 1987 it has been included in the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games). The sports contest version of the art is divided into Tanding and Tungall. The former is a form of contact sparring; blows are thrown with the hands and feet to a padded vest. The latter is a solo exhibition of skills, similar to kata in Japanese martial arts.
Students of Silat are called Murids, and teachers are Guros. If you have seen The Karate Kid, the concept of good and bad teachers is understood. What follows is a story of a bad guru, not a bad art.
Datuk Haji bin Mauju Omardin, Guru of Silat Lincah, devised unhinged tests of the trust and obedience of his murids, and how much their bodies could take after years of training. Rather than win fights, he had them jump to the ground from a great height. The Guru also distinguished himself by leading his students against a coalition of opposition parties calling for clean and fair elections in Malaysia.
“I cannot guarantee I can control the emotions of my members," said Din. "Because they have been taught to act when faced with opposition."
Given that martial arts are supposed to develop emotional control, the remarks are all the more unfortunate. So, yah, Guru Omardin was a democracy-fighting teacher who talked his students into jumping off three-story buildings. In short, Guru Omardin makes John Kreese look like Mr. Miyagi.
Here is his student's test.
Omardin, who passed away on June 20, 2015, from kidney failure. at just 74 years old, claimed that in order to become a Silat master he had been cut with a sharp weapon, doused with hot oil, and buried alive for two days and two nights. So could be worse, maybe.
His students claimed that the guru jumped off of the fifth or sixth floor. Mysteriously, that never made it on videotape.
Plus, five or six stories is nothing! Another martial arts instructor preying on the hapless, this one based in the US, tops that.
Oom Yung Doe Grandmaster John C. 'Iron' Kim did a flying side kick from the equivalent of an 11-story building in 1970, they say. In 1972 he did it again, from the equivalent of an 8-story building. If that seems a little hard to believe, here is the proof!
The arrow at lower right shows the actual edge of the building, they explain. And you didn't believe it when you first read he had jumped from around 100 feet.
The sad fact is, even jumping off three story building is not the worst martial arts demo of all time. That dishonor would go to the martial arts instructors during The Boxer Rebellion in China in the late 1890s. The adepts were taught that with the right breath-control exercises and martial arts patterns, they would be immune to bullets. Tens of thousands died.
If you want to convey to the public that your approach to unarmed combat is effective, you can do something simple. Don't rub boiling oil on your body, push your finger into a watermelon, or smash rocks on your body with a hammer, swing heavy weights from your nether region, or lay on a bed of nails. Instead, if you want to show that people who study your martial art can fight, then fight.
It's a lot easier than jumping off a three-story building.