Embodying the Elements within Nature through the traditional Malay art of Silat Tua


  • Lian Sutton LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore




Tropics, Silat Tua, Nusantara, Martial Arts, The Four Elements, Nature, Environment


The paper introduces Silat Tua, a traditional Malay martial art, and its relationship to the tropics of the Malaysian Peninsula and Singapore through the imagery work of the four Elements: Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind. In a world of increasing disconnect between Humans and Nature, the Silat Tua practice is a traditional martial art for bringing harmony and healing, as well as an understanding of how the building blocks of Nature can harmonise, complement and resonate with the natural resources of the human mind, body and spirit. Through recounting the legend of the art’s origin, the first proponent of Silat Tua is shown to have gained inspiration and lessons from the inhabited environment. Examples of how a Silat exponent may explore and come to understand the Elements are discussed before venturing into the practical application of the Elements in cultivating mindfulness and influencing behaviour. The physical environment thus, is not only a source of inspiration for movement but indeed an impetus for leading a harmonious and virtuous life. The paper concludes with the connection and implications of the Elements training in Singapore and its potential in navigating oneself through the constant changes inevitable in life.

Author Biography

Lian Sutton, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore

Lian Sutton hails from Penang, Malaysia and is a graduate of the BA (Hons) Acting program at LASALLE College of the Arts. A trained martial artist from an early age, Lian constantly seeks to merge his talents to tell stories in varied and engaging ways. He is currently a core member of theatre collective, Dark Matter Theatrics. Lian is now at LASALLE, undergoing his Masters in Arts Pedagogy and Practice, and is researching the pre-performance rituals of professional actors in Singapore.


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How to Cite

Sutton, L. (2018). Embodying the Elements within Nature through the traditional Malay art of Silat Tua. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 17(2). https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.17.2.2018.3652