An uncle of mine used to jog the two kilometres to his favourite nasi lemak stall, wash two ‘bungkus’ of nasi lemak down with teh tarik, then telephone his son to fetch him home, in the car. That was his ‘morning exercise’.
My friends promptly pay their monthly gym fees, but have yet to attend their fitness class. This is after new purchases of track suit, trainers, headband and other accessories to look good.
The above are classic examples of ‘keep-fit’ Malaysian style.
I am just as bad. At my first ‘free trial’ in the gym, all went well, until the instructor showing me how the gym equipment worked, asked me to do abdominal crunches on the exercise mat. The thought of wallowing in someone else’s salty and sticky sweat, on the glistening, smelly and damp mat, prompted a hurried exit. I never returned.
Soon after, I joined my children in their martial-arts class. It seemed pointless dropping them off and picking them up after an hour. So, I killed two birds with one stone, killed time and killed the urge to snack whilst waiting. I was happy; they were not. However, the possibility of sparring with me and kicking my butt seemed attractive. They reluctantly acquiesced.
I wasn’t alone. Another mother joined because her children were in the class. An older lady, a grandmother, in her late sixties, also enrolled.
Anyone would think the instructor had difficulty controlling the younger children. No. He had trouble with the older women. We had an opinion about everything….from recipes, the children, work related issues, husbands, boy-friends, mutual friends….anything! It was fun – like being back at school.
“Sir”, our young instructor, probably felt uncomfortable admonishing us. He warned the class, that we would do 10 push-ups and 10 laps around the training area, each time anyone chatted.
It worked. Everyone suffered and we became unpopular. But being older, we were the first to tire from the punishment. We quickly emerged as model, quiet, students.
Training with a wide age range, is stimulating, encouraging and a good way to keep fit whilst learning something new – the art of self-defence.
It is also good discipline and as I progressed, the mental and spiritual focus helped me free my mind of outside influences, helped me achieve my goals, relieve stress and manage anxiety. Most important was that I found a renewed confidence.
We trained in Sir’s garden. The grass suffered but it was nice in the open air, with the surrounding trees and the backdrop of Ipoh’s blue-green hills.
Best of all, we persevered and completed our successive gradings. Several months later, we received our certificates and belts.
We made “Sir” proud. His words of advice still ring in our ears, “The greatest warrior is the one who need never unsheathe his blade.”
He told us that our hands and feet were our weapons and that we were never to use them to ‘show off’ or to get into a fight.
When faced with a confrontational situation, he told us to simply walk away. It is as Sun Tzu said in the ‘Art of War’: “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the greatest skill.” It is about courtesy, courage and self-control.
Soon after, we all parted company.
Recently, I was told that “Sir” had opened two martial-arts outlets: A taekwondo academy in Bandar Baru Medan and a muay thai academy in Tambun. We have yet to locate him and offer our congratulations.
Who is “Sir”?
He is none other than Bernard Radin, a Sarawakian of German-Iban parentage who has made Ipoh his home. He was once a problem child picking fights with his peers. The commando instructors in Ulu Kinta became his mentors and confidantes. They moulded him into a martial arts success. He is a Malaysian champion, with medals and trophies from his triumphs, worldwide.
“Sir” may be grateful to the commandos for giving him his self-respect. The community is grateful to “Sir” for helping ‘troubled’ children gain dignity and discipline through martial-arts. We are grateful to “Sir” for his sense of humour, his patience and placing his trust in us.