Seminar Journals: In Memphis with Maul Mornie

 

This October, Mike Allen and I drove 16 hours to attend the SSBD seminar in Memphis, Tennessee. Silat Suffian Bela Diri, as taught by Cikgu Maul Mornie is more than a brutally effective Bruneian expression of Silat. It is a young warriors journey, to redefine his art and the legacy of a family tradition of martial arts. Living up to his warriors name, ‘dust on the wind’, Maul travels the world sharing his compelling art with those who value its simple and effective movement and wish to develop their ability to move with the efficiency and inevitability of its current protagonist.

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Maul is interested in a few things, training, community and good memories. When he arrives at a seminar, its all smiles, hand shakes and hugs. The warmth fills the room and it is very personal. As things got started, the host thanked the visitors that traveled in from all over the US and Canada introduced Maul, who, to my amusement, when the floor was delivered to him, started directly into the training without any preamble.

Like any great martial arts teacher does, Maul spends time sharing the basic movements and drills of this Bruneian form of Silat. As long time student of the martial arts I was very excited to learn about the Pelampas, the foundational drills or steps. Not to be mistaken for jurus, or forms, it is a series of steps that translates directly to the techniques being taught. I kept thinking how simple it was, like a very short dance, not easy, but directly translatable to the fighting system that Maul so deftly demonstrates.

As the day progressed the material turned to applications, baiting, extended chains of impact, off balancing and crushing joint wrenches. Silat comes to life in these demonstrations and the pressure from the initial interception, is relentless through to the finishing moves, which are fact, every move. This seminar focused on empty hand and scarf-oriented techniques but used the knife to focus the lines used in the system.

In many of the seminars I attend, there are lots of flashy moves, and while this is true of Maul’s offering there is something familiar to it. The organization of the moves is such that by the time you have gone through the first quarter of the day, everything starts to stack tidily together. From one defense to the next, through the myriad follow-ups, there is a simple thread of commonality. So for the novice it might seem like one is being shown thousands of moves, in fact everything comes down to the very simple principles that are taught in the first 30 minutes, but refined continuously throughout the weekend.

As a student of Jeet Kune Do, I seek out arts that bring me close to the source, that educate me about the environment, history and culture that gave rise the art. Maul delivers the history and context with a story telling ability that takes you to the river villages and dark jungle paths of his home. He illustrates the thinking and the perceptions of the people who live and sometimes have fight to protect their villages, and delivers insights as to why the fighting systems of Brunei have their own particular ethics and style. He explains and demonstrates movements and techniques from the noble Kuntau systems, and impresses upon the students how the style is as much about establishing reputation and status as it is about physical self-defense. When you watch the videos and see his movement you might think, it impressive, but when you understand the context and glimpse that culture you will see another depth to the beauty of what is being shared.

While I could spend this entire article talking about how awesome Maul Mornie is at his art, you can see that on YouTube. I want to talk about why it is that I will keep training with him whenever I can. Maul is building a community, there are always instructors coming out to his seminars, and no one is talking smack about any other martial art. It’s a respect for the craft that is implied through the leadership of this group, the way that Maul maintains an open mind about other martial arts, and other instructors. He is still traveling his path, still learning more and more.

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This is the image I keep of the man that I think of now as a new friend, because he chooses to keep his mind open, that he chooses to keep learning even as the world embraces his style of movement and overwhelms his Facebook with friend requests. And more over, he is the kind of person who takes pictures of his friends and students and posts them to you directly, often with perfect timing. More than a few times I have been in the midst of a hard day, and had the turmoil break, because Maul has posted a pic of a group of us out, after a seminar taking in the sights and having a laugh. I am grateful for those days where I wore a grin where a brooding frown had been. I can only assume that the rest of the community also receives this kind of personal touch, because for Maul, it is about the memories, making them, and reliving them.

All of this builds a community, and we spend time together, in fact, I have not had an experience where we didn’t get together before and after the seminars, to share food and stories and maybe a few drinks. There are many really great guys in this group, and like I said, established martial artists. So wherever the SSBD training groups get together, I have come to expect some terrific fun just hanging out and chatting with these guys and gals. I always come away with more value than I expected, more insights into the larger world of martial arts, and so many funny stories to tell…or not to tell. The point is, for those of us who have become part of the SSBD worldwide community, there is tremendous value both personal and professional. If you haven’t checked out this group and this instructor, you really do want to put it on your list of things to do.

-SZ

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