The recognition of silat as an intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) has elevated the country’s art of self-defence into the international arena.
National Heritage Department director-general Mesran Mohd Yusop said the recognition by Unesco in 2019 has helped in promoting the finesse of the Malay martial art to the world.
“As a result, silat, the national art of self-defence, which reflects the fineness of Malay art, culture and heritage, is gaining popularity in Europe and in fact several silat organisations have even been set up there.
“There are silat organisations established in European countries and the United States,” Mesran said.
Nonetheless, he said, the silat practised abroad is not linked with the teaching and discipline as in Malaysia.
“It has certainly given a positive impact for silat to continue to be known and practised not only in the Nusantara but also throughout the world, so that our art heritage can stand tall among the art of self-defence of other countries,” he said.
Asked about the lack of acceptance and participation in silat among youths, Mesran conceded the younger generation is more inclined towards foreign culture.
However, he said, the group of silat enthusiasts in the country has a large base with more than 500 active silat associations, organisations and groups.
“Not all types of silat are known or heard as some are only found in certain areas. Among the popular ones are Silat Seni Gayong, Seni Cekak, Seni Lincah, Seni Gayung Fatani and Buah Pukul Mersing.
“To maintain the recognition by Unesco, we have to fulfil certain criteria, among others, to submit a report on the aspect of visibility and safeguarding the art.
“Hence, we are looking at organising programmes related to silat and events, such as the OneSilat Championship, involving the participation of 17 countries, he added.