ALOR STAR: Yahya Bakhit is a young man from Uganda who has become enamoured by the beauty of Silat Garuda.
The Albukhary International University (AiU) foundation student was introduced to the Malay martial art when his roommate signed up for Silat Garuda training last December.
"I followed my roommate to one of his training sessions.
"Next thing I knew, I was a member of the Kedah-based Malay martial art troupe," he said.
What struck the 21-year-old was the combination of style and power in the moves of Silat Garuda.
"When I first saw it, I thought to myself that I must sign up to learn silat, and I am glad I did.
"It is a fun and healthy way to spend my free time," said Yahya.
He is one of 25 foreign students to join AiU's Pencak Silat Club. The foreign students are from Fiji, Somalia, Kosova and Sri Lanka, among other countries.
Training is from 9pm to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays at the club.
As a kickboxer, Yahya has little trouble picking up the moves and sticking to the strict training regime for Silat Garuda exponents.
In fact, he won the silver medal in the Silat Combat Festival in Penang last December -- just a few weeks into training.
He lost in the tough battle against a silat exponent from Universiti Pertahanan Malaysia in the finals.
"Silat Garuda has been very good for me. I hope to introduce it in my country after I have completed my studies here," he said.
Yahya's coursemate, Mohammad Yazid Razali, 21, who is from Acheh, Indonesia, said it was patriotism that drove him to sign up for silat training.
"Indonesia's national coat of arms is the 'Garuda Pancasila'.
"By learning Silat Garuda, I feel that I am upholding the pride of my country," he said.
Yazid said there was a martial art with the same name in Indonesia.
"I wanted to know if there were similarities between the two.
"On top of that, I have also made many friends among my silat partners," he said.
Yazid has participated in four silat tournaments, and won a bronze medal in one.
Coach Norhayatudin Othman, 45, described his foreign trainees as very hardworking.
Silat Garuda, founded by Datuk Abdul Raof Hussain in Kampung Pegawai, here, in 1962, is a combination of Silat Minangkabau, Silat Kuntau Jawa and Silat Sadang -- all of Indonesian origin -- as well as tomoi, the Malaysian form of the Thai martial art.
It has about 30,000 members in Kedah, Penang, Pahang, Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Terengganu.
Source: New Straits Times