“WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION” Crazy Eddie Stories part 2
I first met Penchak Silat instructor Suryadi “Eddie” Jafri in June of 1978. He had come to watch a Philippine Independence Day festival in lower Manhattan because he had heard good things about Filipino martial arts and wanted to see if some would be demonstrated at the event.
Tuhon Leo Gaje and his students were there and after our demo, Eddie came up to him, introduced himself and the two started to talk. The two hit it off and this led to Eddie being invited to teach a Penchak class at Leo’s school.
Tuhon Gaje told us that he had studied Mustika Kwitang Silat during his travels as a young man and was familiar with the ideas of Silat. “Out of this world techniques” is how Leo would describe Silat and we soon learned what Leo meant by this.
Here are two stories that may illustrate why Eddie's nickname among us was“Crazy Eddie” and help illustrate the culture that Eddie and Silat came from.
Eddie grew up in Panian village in western Sumatra, where his father owned a small grocery store. Eddie had heard stories of Penchak Silat among his relatives, but his parents did not want him to train in the art, because one of his uncles had won a tournament and was later poisoned by the loosing side. (Eddie eventually started his training by sneaking off after school at the age of 13).
Life was not so safe at home though, even without Silat tournaments, as there were tigers that you had to be wary of when traveling between villages and poisonous snakes such as cobras, which would come into the village at night looking for prey. Even play among the children of the village was not without its dangers.
Here’s an example:
I would bet that many of you reading this had some type of water pistol as a kid. My guess is that if I asked you what you put in that water pistol, you would answer “water.” Well, Eddie and his friends would put vinegar in their water pistols. But this stuff was not the same kind as you buy in your local supermarket. Eddie told me that the vinegar they had back then was home made and so strong that if you put it on your skin it would raise a welt. But that was not good enough for the kids of Eddie’s village. They would take hot chillies, crush them and soak them in the vinegar for a few days, then strain out the chillies and put that infernal liquid into their water pistols. They would then run through the village, shooting each other, burning each other’s skin and having a great old time. Eddie said that they had to stop using that mixture when he accidentally hit his best friend in the eyes with the vinegar spray. The poor kid fell to the ground screaming. Eddie thought he had permanently blinded his friend, especially after his eyes swelled up “as big as a hard boiled egg!” was how Eddie described it. His friend eventually healed and regained his vision, but that was just how they played as a child in a village in Indonesia in the early 1960s.
Eddie told us that he had left Indonesia and got to the US by getting a job abroad a cargo ship as a cook and basically “jumping ship” after shore leave when it docked in New York. He had some experience on ships prior to this though.
I remember a conversion several of us young guys had with Eddie one day before class.
We were sitting around talking about what jobs we would get during summer vacation and talked about the jobs you would expect high school kids to have in 1970s New York; working at a grocery store, neighborhood pizzeria, etc.
“Hey Eddie” we asked, “Did you have a summer job when you were in High School.”
“Yes, I was a pirate” said Eddie, mater-of-factly.
“Oh come on Eddie, you were not a pirate.” we replied, thinking he was joking.
“Well, our gang had a small boat and some machine guns and we used to go and stop small cargo boats running between islands and steal their coffee, sugar and tobacco and sell this on the black market.”
“Eddie, you really were a pirate!”
“Yeah, I was a pirate.”
More stories to follow. In the meantime, here is a drill from Cimande Silat that Eddie taught us.
Our warm up each class with Eddie consisted of 100 body weight squats and 100 Cimande punches. The video shows some details on this punching drill.
Train Hard, but Train Smart (and don’t be a pirate!),
Tuhon Bill McGrath