Silat: S'pore fans to get a taste of the martial art's new rules at SEA C'ships here in February

The competition is traditionally seen as a tune-up for the biennial SEA Games, with the 2022 edition in Hanoi in May. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SILAT FEDERATION

SINGAPORE - Up to 300 fully vaccinated spectators will be allowed to catch the action at the eighth edition of the South-east Asia (SEA) Pencak Silat Championships at OCBC Arena Hall One from Feb 25-27.

The competition is traditionally seen as a tune-up for the biennial SEA Games, with the 2022 edition in Hanoi in May.

Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi) chief executive officer Sheik Alau'ddin told The Straits Times on Monday (Feb 7) that the championship will be split into two sessions - afternoon and evening - on each of the three days. The cap of 300 fans applies to each session.

Admission is free, but spectators have to pre-register their interest on a portal that will be shared closer to the competition.

Sheik said he was excited by the prospect of the return of competition - the last time the Republic hosted a major silat meet was the World Championships in December 2018 - but equally nervous at making sure all Covid-19 protocols are adhered to.

He added that the Persisi management committee and staff were determined to pull off hosting the SEA Championships this year.

"We don't know if the Covid situation will get better, worse, or if it will even end, but we have to try (to move forward)," he said.

Singapore's exponents will be able to pit themselves against their rivals from silat powerhouses Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Some 135 athletes - 107 of them foreign - are set to take part. They will have to follow a controlled itinerary similar to the ones for mixed martial arts exponents at One Championship events over the past 18 months, and for footballers at December's AFF Suzuki Cup.

They can move only from their assigned hotels to training and match venues, and are not allowed to travel anywhere or take part in activities beyond the itinerary.

Four other nations were initially keen to take part but dropped out after being told of the Covid-19 protocols and costs, said Sheik.

He added that a change in rules in the tanding (match) category of pencak silat, passed last February, could make the action more exciting for fans.

The new rules allow exponents more leniency on tugging at the opponents' uniforms as they look to land punches and kicks to score points. There are also fewer stoppages in each match.

"I feel the new rule-set can change the dynamics of fights and maybe equalise the playing field a little bit. Now, the more aggressive fighter will benefit," said Sheik, adding that the SEA Championships will be a good platform for athletes and referees to test and adapt to the new rules.

Hazim Yusli, 20, who was named Sportsboy of the Year in 2019 after winning the Class B (50-55kg) world title in 2018, is excited about the championships as it has been a long time since they had competed against their regional rivals in a major competition.

"Finally I can see how I perform under the new rules. I'm a bit nervous, but I'm also very much looking forward to it," he said.

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