The traditional Cimande ceremony is an integral part of being accepted as a student in the art of Silat Cimande. In this short post, I share some of my own experiences with this Silat ritual. I also wrote an article in Martial Arts Illustrated about my time with Mang Eem which is on the site and you can read here.
It’s been a little over a decade since I was first introduced to him to continue my journey in the art of Cimande after the passing of Guru Makmur Suradilaga. While I knew of numerous great Cimande teachers I could have studied with, I was looking for someone ‘off the grid’ and in a rural location to focus on training. When I got the call from Guru Edwardo Guci that he had found me a teacher out in the Sundanese countryside, I couldn’t wait to go over to meet him. Six weeks after that call, Ed and I were settled in at the Intan Hotel, on the edge of Purwakarta City, 20 km from Mangs home, ready for the adventure that lay ahead.
Silat in Indonesia
I am no stranger to Indonesia and its customs but it still took me several days to get used to the profoundly different change of atmosphere. Other foods and thus toilet habits and, of course, the constant heat all have a role to play for me when learning Silat natively. I encourage anyone who studies Indonesian Silat to visit and train there at least once in their lifetimes. Especially to experience a Silat ritual if possible. Personally speaking, it has not only increased my skill and understanding of the arts I study but highlights how little I know. I honestly feel I am still scratching the surface of Silat and know there is still so much to discover and learn.
I had already briefly met Mang Eem the day I arrived, more so as an icebreaker and for him to see how he felt about teaching me, a westerner. Luckily, he agreed, and the following day, I went through his traditional Cimande ceremony, which is typical for all to become students. I first took part in this traditional Cimande ceremony in 2002 under Guru Makmur, so I was familiar with its implementation. Mang Eems Cimande was a combination with some other local systems. As such, his ceremony had a couple of additions that were new to me.
In the Youtube video that forms a part of this article, you can see aspects of the actual traditional Cimande ceremony. I began with the Talek Cimande, which is essentially a code of ethics I pledge to observe, along the lines of the ten commandments. Do not kill, steal, be kind and polite, and so on. There is a real sense of reverence when going through these because you realise martial arts becomes entwined with every aspect of life. Mang Eem, while Muslim, also practices elements of local Animism. The surrounding me in smoke and stamping of his foot on the ground three times related to aspects of protection against ‘forces.’ He believes the spirits of the ancestors can help guide and protect during times of trouble. Connected to this idea was sipping twelve different forms of drinks – from tea, coffee, and fruit juices. In doing this, I was essentially communing with the ancestors. I must say that during this time, I felt a strong presence in Mang’s small living room. As though I was plugging into forces beyond this world.
The application of Minyak (oil) Balur to one’s forearms is a universal Silat ritual and act in all forms of Silat Cimande. Teachers prepare it in various ways and often with added ingredients, but the essential preparation is green coconut oil and sugar cane solution. Massaging the viscous solution into the tissues after training speeds up the bruising recovery process. As Mang applied the oil, he said it would be symbolic for helping me to slip away from grabs and holds and give my arms the ability to deliver powerful strikes.
The final part of the Cimande ceremony, called Keceran, was applying some drops of sirih water into my eyes (dipeureh). This action metaphorically makes the eyes sharp and helps you see clearly–making wise choices in life. It shows the commitment of students to remain faithful to the values contained in Talek Cimande. It also signifies the beginning of the inner bond between teacher and student and is a sign of legal and customary recognition of someone as a student of Cimande. Usually, the Guru applies the water with the Sirih leaf (betel). In this instance, Mang had already collected water that had dropped off of his plants. He was telling me there were also potent spells/mantras spoken over this water. While applying it, my eyes began to sting badly for quite a while. Fifteen minutes later, everything felt perfect, and we started training his twelve jurus.
While I don’t necessarily believe everything Mang does, I understand the importance of this Silat ritual. I accept them and enjoy all of the experiences. They are a fundamental part of passing on the arts and help my understanding enormously.