When I was younger, Martial Arts was a term used when parents wanted to carve discipline onto the minds of their children. It was an activity for people to pursue to come to an inner peace. In essence, it achieved much of the same as Yoga does today for many. Growing up I always wanted to learn a form of Martial Arts but my family never had the money to pay for something so costly and time-consuming.
So now that I’m studying abroad and working on building my spirituality and religion, I felt it important to also work on my physical. Especially since all my fellow seekers of the sacred sciences tend to gain a bit of weight during this path. Luckily for me, Cairo is filled with Indonesian and Malaysian students that are masters of the martial art form called Silat. Now I’m not going to get into what Silat is, here’s a video you can view. It’s an ancient martial art form that has been adopted now by the primarily Muslim country and as such has aspects of Islam now built into it. It’s beautiful and like my memorization of Quran and studies have taught me, it takes a lot of patience.
The first thing one should note is that it is an art form that heavily relies on its footwork. This is the case with many martial arts, but after a precursory look, Silat takes the cake. And since it relies on so much footwork, one has to memorize all of the various steps, some people even create mats that help them memorize their footwork.
Sometimes I would go home and not practice for a few days and I found that when I went to class the following week I was doing something incorrectly. A bit like Quran, if I went to class and did everything I was supposed to do, but then didn’t review for a few days, then I would become rusty.
Then there is the aspect of beauty. Today many people are more concerned with efficiency and power when it comes to their Martial arts. They are rarely concerned with the beauty of movements, their fluid motions, and the state of mind that one should be in when practicing. Silat gives attention to all of that, everything down to the sound, “Ahs” that is uttered when beginning to practice which comes from the Islamic term, “Assalamu Alaykum” (May Peace be with you). The latest set of lessons I’ve learned are movements that beautify the foundational 8 lessons, they look like majestic dance movements. The point here is that once the foundation has been set, and after months of practice, you will arrive at a destination where you can begin to build. But to build from day one without foundation, to immediately try to jump into that which is above you, it’s dangerous. In honesty, I saw some students become frustrated, always wanting to move to the next set of movements, ready to punch, kick, spar from day one. But that isn’t how our Guru taught us. It’s all about patience, you will have your moment to spar but for now it is all about creating that foundation.
It reminds me of one of my Tajweed teachers here. We were discussing methods of how to memorize the Quran when he told me the following,
“It is like a forest. At first, it is filled with trees and brush that make it almost difficult to traverse through. You start walking through and get lost often. Eventually, if you decide to not give up, you make it to the other side. Some people may never make it. As time goes on, you begin to use that path more and more. You may even get lost the first 10-15 times, but as you go through it more and more you’ll start to see signs that remind you of where you’re going. Eventually, an actual path will begin to form and soon enough you’ll have a path that is clear of forestry and easy enough to go to and fro. That is Quran, in the beginning it will be difficult, you may not finish it, you may give up. But if you continue to work at it, to memorize it, to read it and ponder its words, it will open itself up to you. And you will begin to traverse through the word of God like a path that was cut out specifically for you.”
I’ve learned to take this lesson to everything. My studies, my Quran, my martial arts. Bit by bit. I’m not in a rush, rather, I want to soak it all in and never forget it. I want to perfect and be the best at it all. I suppose that’s why I recently received my first belt and was awarded as one of the top students. Meanwhile, some of the other more eager students (who were there much longer than I) didn’t make it as high. It’s not all about who finishes first, but rather that you finish and bring others along on the way as well. It’s not always about efficiency, beauty counts for something as well.
And this is a reminder… for those who believe.