Upon first impression, silat (or pencak silat) seems like a spartan regime. It physically demands its practitioner to push beyond their physical limitations to conquer opponents, and to be proficient means near-perfect technique and physical strength.
For the petite Nurin Insyirah binte Mohamed Aidil though, it is her burning desire and courage that allows her to take down her opponents.
Having picked up silat at the tender age of eight, Nurin, now 19, faced many trials and tribulations in her training before emerging victorious in competitions. While rigorous, the journey never stopped her from continuing the martial art, leading her to eventually win her first gold medal in the 20th Tertiary Pencak Silat Championship 2023 (TSC).
Currently the RP Selatra (Seni Silat) Interest Group’s (IG) captain, the second-year Diploma in Biomedical Science student has proven that she has fully come into herself and her prowess in silat. It may have been a decade in the making, but she has come far in her silat training and competition achievements.
Back in her kindergarten days, Nurin used to watch renowned martial artists like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan often on the television. This later sprouted her interest in martial arts and its various styles like Wushu, Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do.
Despite her interest, it took a few years before her parents decided to sign her up for martial arts, of which they eventually relented in order for Nurin to learn self-defence and hold her ground against primary school bullies.
After much consideration, they allowed her to pick up silat – a Southeast Asian martial art form practised primarily in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. It was here where she joined a silat club called Seni Silat Gayong Perwanit, which she regularly trained under since 2013.
In Nurin’s eyes, being in the club and practising the martial art form really changed her life as she learned not just defence skills,but also how to improve her discipline. The latter in particular was especially helpful in and out of training, such as when she was studying for her GCE ‘N’ Levels or when she was applying to RP Selatra for the first time.
“For me, building up my mental strength is more important than that of physical strength. Especially during competitions because being a student athlete is draining at times. We have to learn how to manage and prevent ourselves from burning out,” shared Nurin.
Seeing how headstrong and determined Nurin is towards silat, she was soon selected to be her IG’s captain, leading both the IG’s artistic and fighting divisions.
One can spot her giving motivational pep talks with her fellow IG members during training sessions, which in turn invokes courage within them to give silat their best shot and live up to one of RP Selatra’s slogans: fight till your last breath.
“Whenever in training, she’s always at 110% and will always fight the best she can, no mercy,” Muhammad Fauzan, one of RP Selatra members, vouched when asked how Nurin was during training.
While she often lends a helping hand to her teammates, they were also the reason why she was able to exceed set expectations of herself and push forward in silat competitions. Her hardest challenge was yet to come, an unexpected hurdle for the TSC 2023.
Against all odds
With all her years of hard work and tough training, Nurin soon felt capable enough to enter silat competitions from 2017 onwards, though her big break only came six years later during her participation in TSC 2023.
This achievement did not come without its challenges, with the first being a shoulder injury that had barely started healing mere days before her competition day.
Having needed to partake in a Tunggal solo routine and a Tanding match against competitive opponents from other tertiary institutions, Nurin showed no sign of weakness and took several precautions to avoid worsening her injury throughout the three days. These involved using remedies like painkillers, salonpas, kinesiology tapes and dumbbell exercises as advised by Nurin’s coaches.
On top of that, she also tried using silat techniques that did not overexert her shoulder, as well as hardening her mentality when practising silat. Past injuries on her pinky finger and wrists were also haunting her mind yet her determination was unbreakable.
“We need to have a strong mental attitude in addition to being physically strong,” shared Nurin. “If you’re too scared to fight, you’ve already lost the fight.”
With all of her preparations combined, she entered the silat battlefield and emerged victorious with not just one but two gold medals.
Pillars of support
Like fuel to a car, sources of motivation may prove to be significant in one’s life. For Nurin’s case, she has not just her perseverance but also her family, coaches and friends to thank for helping her get this far. While she constantly challenges herself and pushes herself to the best of her abilities during the competition, she acknowledges and greatly appreciates her “fiery” pillars of support.
One of her most cherished pillars of support, her family, drove her towards the motivation of winning all the titles she has won up till today. Her family, together on the same road as her and being a supporting and loving backbone during her competitions, helped motivate Nurin to give out the best in her and make her family proud of what she has achieved.
“Their emotional support is my sanctuary in the stormy sea of life. It goes beyond just overcoming obstacles and I am prepared to face any challenges and seize every opportunity thanks to their confidence in me,” Nurin said.
“Their love acts like my anchor, keeping me grounded while still allowing me to soar.”
Aside from her family, Nurin also owes part of the reason she won her TSC gold medals to her RP Selatra teammates and coaches.
When news came in that her TSC 2023 artistic final match was starting just 10 minutes after she had just finished an earlier semi-final match, feelings of tension and anticipation suddenly ran high. Doubt began to grow as she was concerned of not having enough strength or energy to compete in another match almost immediately after the previous.
Fortunately, her entire team and coaches were around to comfort Nurin. In her moment of doubt, they established complete faith in her and provided her with all their insights to overthrow her opponents.
Nurin highlighted one of her coaches, Fahmy Fareed, when recounting this story: “Coach Fahmy reached me from my phone for motivational support, knowing that I could get that gold and letting me know that the entire team – including the alumni – were there for me, supporting me at their loudest.”
When the final bell rang and Nurin prevailed, he proudly signalled his support by smiling and signing a heart at her.
To Nurin, winning her two first gold medals for RP Selatra is the first step to a brighter future for her silat journey.
Sticking to values like “Be the best version of yourself”, “It’s you against you.”, “Do not compare yourself to others”, and “Trust in God’s plan”, she worked hard and persevered despite the roadblocks. These in turn eventually paid off through her winnings.
When asked about her future aspirations, Nurin spoke of her desire to go beyond and expand her limits. She hopes to represent Singapore one day as a national athlete at the South East Asian Games in the near future. In the meantime, she intends to gain as much experience as possible and chase for more gold medals.
“It’s okay to fall. You either win or learn. Never compare yourself to others because it’s always you against you. We have our own journey, our own pace, and our own time. We have our own impeccable timing. Trust the process and give yourself the credit you deserve.”