In my last post published several days ago, I shared my experiences with undertaking a traditional Cimande ceremony. One of the elements of that was the sprinkling of water in the eyes. This got me thinking about the cleansing power of water. Writing that blog reminded me about another ritual that I undertook in which water was central. I dug out the old footage and cut the video that you can see above.
Paying The Price
If you have followed my writing in the past, you will know that my 2005 trip to West Java was an important one. I was there for a bit over two months. Spending the bulk of that time in Bandung, traveling every day by motorcycle to train in the Usik Mahmud style, had its challenges. A couple of weeks before, London had experienced a series of deadly terrorist attacks, so it was a sensitive time. I wanted to make sure I was staying focused on why I was there to get the best out of it. Usik Mahmud was a silat style that I didn’t know much about. It was old, rare, and known as an aliran or original stream.
Cleansing Power of Water
Friends had arranged for me to train with an old master, Aki Jumhi, and I understood he was profoundly religious. The training would include a simple water ritual called Mandi Kembang at the start of some sessions. Mandi Kembang literally means flower bath. Some use the word Siraman meaning shower, in place of mandi. Another term describing this act is called Dimandian. Essentially, they mean the same thing with the intention of cleansing and empowering the recipient. If a teacher had a dream that you might get into a fight, he would call you to damandian. I heard a story about an Usik Mahmud student who got into a big fight at school. His teacher knew this would happen ahead of time and performed the Mandi Kembang. The lad was outnumbered but won quite easily. By the end of his unfair battle, he wasn’t tired and still full of power.
Personally speaking, I didn’t get any sense of supernatural abilities. However, in saying that, Aki was impressed by how fast I was picking up his jurus. So who knows, maybe the cleansing power of water took effect in me. Many of these beliefs are rooted in faith and, as such, can perform deep work in mind spirit. Ablutions, fasting, prayer, and meditation are integral in many martial arts. Going to a distant land and immersing yourself in its culture and practices can only enhance your worldview and life. I will cherish those memories of being blasted with that cold water before training with the humble old Aki. He has long since passed away, but his teachings and lessons live on through his family and students.