I started training in Silat with Jak Othman in 1983 while he was at Surrey University. Training with Richard DeBords in some form of “Harimau Minangkabau”, started soon after. I did Jak’s instructor training program for Pancasila Gayong Harimau, and then started teaching when he was deported. I completed a black belt grading with deBords in ’87. I trained with a couple of other silat guys in the UK but didn’t like their style. In 1987 The British Silat Association was invited to the World Championships in Kuala Lumpur to represent Great Britain.
While I was in Malaysia I had planned to stay on after the competition and train with Jak, but he had other things to do, so instead he left me with some guys I’d just met, and that was my introduction to Silat Lincah.
I had become friends with the Australian Silat team, and in 1989 David Jennings, their coach, told me of a man in Holland called Pa Flohr.
In 1992 Maha Guru Lincah had appointed me as his Wakil, a very important title, and Ketua Jurulatih (Chief instructor) for Britain and Europe, so I felt obligated to teach and promote that over the other things I was doing. He told me that his Guru had foretold that he would meet a person of Asian descent from the West who would spread Lincah around the world, and this is what I promised him I would do! I also was given permission by Pa Flohr to incorporate Pukulan into what I do, to use the name and the style.
In 1993 I was awarded a full Instructor grade in Lightning Scientific Arnis (LSAI), Awarded by Master Shaun Porter, and certified by the founder of the style Mang Ben- Benjamin Luna Lema.
In 2015, I returned to Malaysia to see the Maha Guru, and he awarded me the title of Paduka- a Royal title; with my assistant in Europe Chris Bogaerts appointed Timbalan Paduka. This ranks as one of the highest honours in my life!
There are people that want to create their own style of Silat before even learning any. It makes it very difficult for people out there who want to learn an honest effective art to know who to train with. A Silat guru is supposed to have integrity, dignity and the character of a fighter/ martial artist. We teach people humility, brotherhood, loyalty, honour, respect, dignity and friendship.
I have a motto that reads “whom no-one could overcome either with gold or steel”, and I take that to heart.
Various people have tried to buy me but I’m not for sale, so they tried to threaten and bully me into quitting. However I am not prepared to do that either. In Lincah we salute differently to all the other Silat styles, and the principle is that we bend the knee to no man. When I discussed the threats with my father, he said that if I give in then the bigots win. We have to stand strong against that. Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing”. I strongly believe in that. My students are amazingly supportive and encouraging. The senior instructors, under whom I have trained, have also been those who have supported me through some difficult times.
What was it like to train with Pa Flohr?
It was really tough physically. One of their philosophies was “the more I like you the harder I hit you!”. They found, and I have found since, that if you hit people hard and you don’t know them they can build resentments towards you. So if there are new people in the club be gentle with them till they understand that I have to hit you hard if I respect you,
to allow you to train the techniques properly. It’s a fighting art and in reality no-one will come at you slowly or softly. If I hit you hard I respect you.. so I took some beatings from them, cos they liked me!
On a different level training with Pa and Rudi Luiken was amazing. They had all the time in the world for you. They explained things in detail with patience and a lot of consideration. There was a lot of laughing and banter in the class- it was a happy place to train. I have found Silat generally to be happy schools with people who love what they do, having a laugh hanging with friends- the places I have stayed anyway.
You have spent a lot of time in Malaysia, what was that like?
I have been there 15 or 16 times. The cultural difference was one of the main problems to overcome. The language barrier was an issue sometimes because many of them don’t speak English and my Malay even at its best wasn’t up to a technical interrogation about Silat. It is just as well that a lot of Malaysian Silat training is “monkey see monkey do”. There is a lot of learning by rote, and then the understanding comes with doing it and feeling it. There is a lot of difference with learning in the West, where people want to understand it and analyse and dissect it before they decide if they want to do it. In Asia there is more “just do it”!. One of my favourite things is that training was often followed by food!!