Scarf Techniques from Bruneian Silat

Arab keffiyyeh

I just completed a three day martial arts training camp in Southern California. The instructor was Guru Maul Mornie, who is from Brunei and lives in the UK. He teaches a traditional style of Bruneian Silat that has been handed down through his family for generations. It’s called Silat Suffian Bela Diri (SSBD).

Maul is a fascinating guy. You might examine his thick, powerful frame and think he relies on strength or muscle power to defeat his opponents. You would be wrong. He moves with the speed of a cat, unbalancing his opponent by using subtle body mechanics, and demolishing him with a series of rapid and precisely placed strikes. Many of these are set-up strikes, intended to generate a predictable response and position the opponent for a devastating finish. That finish might be a strike, stomp, choke or even a neck break. There are no submissions in Silat, as Maul is fond of saying.

SSBD scarf technique

Students practicing scarf techniques at an SSBD seminar in Germany.

I always come away from a Maul Mornie seminar with new ideas. The volume of material presented is enough to take home and work on for years; besides that, I experience many small “aha!” moments where Maul clarifies something I’ve been struggling with, or shows me how to improve something that I thought I already knew. It’s an invaluable experience.

This particular weekend we worked on knife against knife, empty hand against knife, and scarf against knife. The scarf techniques were new to me and quite fascinating.

The particular scarf we employed was an Arab-style shamagh or keffiyyeh (the checkered and tasseled scarf made famous by Yasser Arafat) but the techniques can be applied with any scarf. Maul explained that the Bruneian fisherman would tie pebbles or broken seashells into the tassels. The scarf could then be snapped at an enemy, cutting his hand or eyes, for example.

Sans pebbles, the scarf can still be used to disarm a knife, choke and even throw. For me, coming from a Hapkido and Jujutsu background, it’s obvious that the same principles can be applied with a standard martial arts belt.

Maul has lately been increasing his presence in the United States. He’s gone from teaching one annual seminar in New York City to teaching five or six U.S. seminars per year in various cities. I plan to make it a point to attend at least one of these every year. If you are interested in martial arts I encourage you to do the same.

1 Comment

  1. Ever since that seminar I’ve been working on learning more scarf techniques. My students find them fascinating as well.

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