Silat Siku Dua Belas from Penang, Malaysia’s first mixed martial art

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In peacetime, Silat is primarily touted as a performance art commonly seen at traditional Malay weddings, but it should be remembered that the combative elements of the art are still widely taught as a form of self-defense within of the Malay community.

In fact, Silat has been tried and tested against many opponents over the years, it is even believed to have been used against the Portuguese when Afonso from Albuquerque Gold, God and Glory made their way into the Sultanate of Malacca.

Silat played a major role in the defense of Malacca during the Portuguese invasion in 1511. Image from: Malaysia Track

It should be noted that there is not a single “true” form of silat; its forms and styles are extremely vast, each differentiated according to lineage, geographic location and the emphasis on certain movements. Thailand and Indonesia have their own forms of silat – Silat Pattani and Silat Pencak, respectively.

But among the many different styles, a little known form of Penang called Siku Dua Belas particularly stands out for its unique accent and interesting history.

It was secretly created to defend against the Japanese

Siku Dua Belas (twelve elbows) was created by an English-trained surveyor named Sheikh Mohamad Ghulam Meah (also known as Dada Meah), a Penangite of Jawi Peranakan, Minang, Arab, Bengali and Pashtun descent. As with most, if not all, martial arts, it arose out of military conflict; the Japanese occupation of Malaysia being the main factor in this case.

Sheikh Mohamed Ghulam Meah alias Dada Meah. Yes, the man was a real cheesecake. Image from: Pinang Press

At the time, the Japanese prohibited the Malays from organizing any form of gathering or practicing martial arts, but Dada Meah realized that the Malaysian community needed a way to defend themselves against Japanese invaders. . Dedicated martial arts instructor of several disciplines, Dada Meah developed the Siku Dua Belas style in incorporating different silat and even western fighting styles he knew – It is even said that Dada Meah’s main influence was the legendary American boxer of the 1920s, William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey (aka “The Manassa Mauler”).

“Actually Siku Dua Belas, as I was to find out, is very different from that (existing forms)… boxing.” – Zainal Abidin & Sutton, “Silat Tua: The Malay Dance of Life”

Jack Dempsey, ‘The Manassa Mauler’. Image from: Our Community Now

Siku Dua Belas teaches dua belas how to use your #mindblown siku

Recognizing the need for the Malaysian martial arts to evolve with new and modern threats while maintaining the traditional aspect, Dada Meah has incorporated elements of other martial arts and movement such as various forms of silat, Muay Thai, judo, jiujitsu, kenjutsu, silambam, yoga, and taichi to name a few.

Dada Meah during a training session. Image from: maahoomedia

And so, similar to the way Bruce Lee created the Jeet Kune Do, the most effective elements of these various arts have been compiled into a new system, featuring three programs emphasizing strikes, “soft but fast” movements (or “bunga” in terms of silat) and concluding with weapons training. Being an old school strongman himself, Dada Meah also focused on endurance training in the form of lifting weights, push-ups and other bodily exercises.

The three programs were conceived as phases for the gradual evolution of a student of Siku Dua Belas in the deepening of his knowledge of the art. The first of these is the elbow exercise phase, which familiarizes the student with the basics of elbow combat. The second, the drilling component, trains the student to retain the information learned from the first phase by practicing the movements with a drilling partner; while the third component, fight, tests the student’s ability to practice combat live.

While the first and second phase are expected to last an average of 2-3 years, we say that the third phase is a state of lifelong learning, a common philosophy often taught in Japanese martial arts.

A scene from ‘The Last Samurai’ depicting kenjutsu, one of the many styles incorporated into Siku Dua Belas. Image from: Ninja State

From surface observation, it looks a lot like Muay Thai. Due to the limited range of the nudges, practitioners of Siku Dua Belas continuously reduce the distance with constant forward movements; with other Muay Thai elements such as offensive circular kicks and defensive pushing kicks, as we can see in the video below (there is even a guy who says it looks like Tomoi / Muay Thai):

On the other hand, the armed component of Siku Dua Belas seems to draw heavily on Silambam, the traditional Indian martial art of stick fighting.

To avoid getting into trouble with the Japanese, Dada Meah and his followers first started with practice this hybrid silat style in secret but it quickly gained ground among the locals, and soon many Penangites, from schoolchildren to the elderly, were training at Siku Dua Belas.

Sadly, Siku Dua Belas is now a dying art

While the idea of ​​the first “mixed” martial art is generally attributed to Bruce lee, it is remarkable to think that a penangite surveyor had thought about it first, even before Bruce Lee came out of the cradle. But unlike Jeet Kune Do, there are several reasons why you are only hearing about it for the first time.

The first is that Dada Meah asked his disciples not to start teaching until they had mastered Siku Dua Belas themselves, which is a bit difficult since the third phase is considered to be that of lifelong learning. The second is simply that there hasn’t been enough media attention to the style, other than a brief highlight or mention in articles for Silat enthusiasts – which makes it perhaps. be even more secret than it was during the Japanese occupation.

But the art is still taught today (mainly in Penang) by the descendants of Dada Meah and his followers, still honoring Dada Meah’s wish for the younger generations of not worshiping foreign cultures while belittling theirs. and do “Penang, Master of Martial Arts of the World”.

Bonus: Check out this demo of silat in Germany by Maul Mornie, the last known living instructor of Silat Suffian.

Thanks to Awis Alqarni Mohd Yusoff for providing research for this article.





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