THE FINISHING LINE
A Family Affair
WATCHING THEIR SIBLINGS AND RELATIVES COMPETE INSPIRED THESE TWO SEA GAMES ATHLETES TO TAKE UP SILAT.
04-Dec-2019

It may have happened almost 10 years ago but Nurzuhairah Binte Mohd Yazid vividly remembers the day she first went for a silat class. “I was actually not into sports as a kid but my mum encouraged me to go for the class to build my self-esteem,” Zuhairah, now 21, tells Here to Play. Her fellow Team Singapore athlete, Nurul Suhaila Binte Mohd Saiful, has a similar story about her journey with silat. “It was at the Punggol Community Centre, where my brother had already been taking classes,” recalls Suhaila, 24. “I remember being the smallest person in class so I was very scared for the first few times.”

Their families may have pushed them to take up silat — an umbrella term that encompasses a number of indigenous martial artforms from the Indonesian archipelago — but as the athletes shared, they have also found a welcoming family in the local silat community. This community travelled to Manila in November 2019 for the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. This was the fourth SEA Games outing for Suhaila — a fact that sometimes surprises her. “I never thought I would be a professional athlete. When I was younger, I wanted to be an author,” she says with a chuckle.

The SEA Games also presented an opportunity for Zuhairah to recreate the magic of her 2017 experience. Despite that edition being her first major global competition, she picked up the top prize in the seni (artistic) women’s singles category. When asked about her preparation for the SEA Games, she shared that the entire team trains twice a day. “But I also have to remind myself to stay calm and just enjoy the moment.”

TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT

  • Pesilat: A person who practises silat.

  • Pasang kuda-kuda: Stances that allow the pesilat to attack and defend effectively.

  • Bunga-bunga: Hand movements that are executed some distance away from the opponent. These add grace and an air of mystery to his/her move.