Here’s the dope on Muhammad Faizul M Nasir:
• He’s 29.
• Won gold at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore (55kg Class B).
• Was accidentally kicked in the groin in the third bout of the Men’s Tanding Class B below 55kg category by Nanthachai of Thailand. Faizul was leading 5-0, and awarded the gold after Nanthachai was disqualified. It was Faizul’s first win over Nanthachai. He had lost to him in two semi-finals at the Asian Indoor Championships in Hanoi in 2009 and the Kejohanan Pencak Silat Dunia kali ke-16 in Phuket, Thailand (2015).
• Won gold at the Belgium International Competition in Pencak Silat.
• Was crowned Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) Best 2014 Male Athlete.
His interest in silat was piqued when he was 13. He was into athletics and action movies—Jackie Chan! He’s also a big fan of Undisputed III: Redemption for its realistic fight choreography and movements.
He initially tried to learn martial arts by reading up on it! Then he realised he could travel around the world if he went for national trials.
He’s been planning his silat moves since 2006, while representing Selangor in the Sukma Games. His coach gave him an option: athletics or silat. “Saya ingin nak fighting, then saya let go athletics, saya pergi dekat silat (I wanted to get into fighting, so let my athletics dreams go and went with silat).”
Once in, he told himself: “Focus betul-betul, sebab kita sudah tahu platform itu untuk apa (Stay focused, because you know what you’re using the silat platform for).” The targets, in sequence: national team, SEA Games (gold), World Championship (so far, “just a bronze”).
What attracted him to silat: Discipline, the conscious inculcation of noble values; respect, self-defence, which, for him, must be learned before thinking of silat as a sport.
Silat for him is more about jati diri (integrity). It encompasses your whole career and isn’t merely for sport or self-defence.
Once the seed has been planted, silat is universal, he says. “Bukan untuk seorang (not just for the individual)” but the collective.
He plans to retire as a silat athlete when he hits 35. He then hopes to be a coach.
The Southeast Asian Games will take place between 19th and 30th August, 2017. The ASEAN Para Games will be held from 17th to 23rd September, 2017. This article was first published in Esquire Malaysia, August 2017.