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Keynote: Youth and Martial Arts: Post Covid-19 Impact


Jufitri bin Joha


Malaysia Youth Council (MBM)

12 October 2020 / Monday / 9:30 am – 11:00 am

2nd Global Scientific Martial Arts & Cultural Congress

Everly Putrajaya

‘“Martial art” is a modern term for Asian combative practices and the discourses arising from them spanning long centuries of transmission. Martial arts are a whole comprised of philosophy, religion, magic, medicine, and the combat skills needed to defend the self, family, community, religion, and state; as such they are microcosms of culture par excellence’ (D. S. Farrer, 2009, p.3)

I am here to propose the interrelation between the foundations of martial arts and professional youth workers together with youth leaders; in the context of activities for youth association and youth development in Malaysia.  There are a few qualities in martial arts that shares similar values in youth works such as disciplines, manners, respect, identity, teamwork, and resilience.

Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework (new approach in youth development) outlines five Cs (Caring, Character, Competence, Confidence, and Connections) and in Malaysia; the context was extended to additional three Cs namely Considerate, Competitive and Contribution.  Similar foundations were used in the work of Krauss et al. (2012) in UPM on a proposal to explore instruments to measure professionalism among youth workers in Malaysia, a) competency; b) integrity; and c) care and concern. 

Integrating values of martial arts in youth work and youth association

The practice of martial arts is helpful as a branch of activities in youth work and youth associations where it engages the young people from grassroot. As an example, Majlis Belia Rembau, a district youth council in Negeri Sembilan organises silat classes as one of their main activities with youths in their community. Given the feedbacks and young people’s interest, silat received positive response from the young people and adults from the district. This is among the main focuses and approaches of Malaysian Youth Council (MBM), where we emphasise on the role of District Youth Council to engage with young people and collectively implement suitable programmes with young people within their community.

Martial arts like silat are not uncommon among youth associations since it was popular in 1970, as an agent of socialisation for the youths (Wan Mohd Dasuki, 2018). The value of leadership and awareness of social and cultural preferences in the community, is embraced in martial arts practice. This should also be observed by professional youth workers in Malaysia. Professional youth workers and youth leaders, should consider utilising and embracing martial arts as one of the important tools and skills to captivate and educate the younger generations as it possesses precious imbedded values that comes naturally with the art.

Acknowledging the creative and innovative techniques that youth workers and youth leaders employ to deliver effective youth empowerment programmes, the Commonwealth Youth Work Week 2016 celebrates the importance of youth workers with the theme of ‘Empowering young people through sport and arts’. The theme emphasised on the importance of youth associations to keep their options open and integrate similar values in their core activities.

Spiritual aspects in youth work

While many focuses on leadership skills, the spiritual aspect is also a core to the activities in youth organisations because we want to develop an ethical young leader. As mentioned by the second keynote speaker GM. Dr. Mohamad Nizam Mohamed Shapie just now, silat is also for spiritual development. The spiritual element in martial arts emphasises on reflections and relationships with others – that includes understanding one’s connection with God and one’s position among other people in a society.

There are extensive literatures on spiritual elements in martial arts, but today I attempt to relate the spiritual aspect embedded in martial arts should also be implemented in youth works and its governances. The spiritual element plays a role in building ethics and integrity in individuals. Ethics is an integral element in youth-works as youth workers involves healing and helping selflessly.

Furthermore, positive development of young people includes specific knowledge and skills, trust and healthy boundaries. The integrity aspect that comes with the responsibility of a youth worker also incorporates deeper empathy and care.  All these combined, comes under the spiritual aspects which is similar in both youth-works and the practice of martial arts.

Informal learning and activity centre

Youth-works and youth associations are among the avenues for informal learning. We complement the formal learning setting in schools and universities. Young people will benefit tremendously with their involvement in youth associations. Similar to the practice of martial arts; the youth-works open and extend window for learning human values. One of it include competitive; where one learns to compete in a healthy manner and become aware of the rules and law.  I see martial arts training space as one of activity centres for the young people in their community and the gurus are a representation of professional youth worker.

This shows the combination of informal learning through martial arts could be an exemplary to youth work practice. The subject of space is vital in promoting learning. Hence, I humbly suggest to all of you to consider exploring youth work as an important new element to be an integral part of martial arts. So far, I believe there is no such attempt that solidifies between sports and martial arts into youth works, youth associations and youth developments or vice versa. Although, we frequently hear a radical suggestion to have a separating line between sports and youth even in the Ministry of Youth and Sports itself; today, is a significant moment for us to begin to adopt this new suggestion. With the new norm of Covid-19, the space for activities for young people is limited and narrowed down to only selected few. Space is always an important issue in youth development since our young people often request to have their own space. We should view this as a challenge to move forward in revitalising activities for young people while looking at the issues of space, its availability, as well as the aspect of health and safety. With that thought, let’s work hand in hand to realise this vision in nearest future.

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