A summer camp with a difference for 67 kids


Firdouz (back row, centre) and his fellow instructors join their young charges in a group photo at Studio Berumbak.

KUCHING: Summer camp is not an unfamiliar concept in many Western countries, especially those with four seasons where summer is the longest holiday amongst all.

It is this concept that local martial arts enthusiast Mohamad Firdouz Sazali wants to promote here.

The 36-year-old, who is the founder and operator of Kelab Beladiri Kontemporari Kuching – or more known among his charges as ‘Studio Berumbak’ – had run his own version of summer camp during the just-concluded year-end school holiday.

“I believe that many parents would want their children to spend their school holiday more meaningfully, rather than to waste time by idling around or being glued to their mobile devices.

“As a parent myself, I want this for my children as well,” he told The Borneo Post when met at the studio located at Metrocity here recently.

Firdouz kicked off his inaugural ‘Martial Arts Camp’ on the first weekend of December, where he and his instructors conducted series of martial arts sessions for school-children.

According to him, the programme was an extension of what he taught in his weekly classes at Studio Berumbak.

Firdouz’s charges engage in an Arnis group exercise.

A total of 67 schoolchildren – the youngest is a seven-year-old boy and the oldest is a 16-year-old student – registered for the camp, including Firdouz’s own nine-year-old twin sons.

“The response had been really encouraging. I had many parents asking me why I had not done this before – they had been looking for a programme like this for years,” said Firdouz, who first learned the Hidayah Melayu branch of silat in 1996.

From there, he further explored other martial arts namely Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), muaythai, Silat Betawi and ‘Arnis’ – the national combat sport of the Philippines that is also known as ‘kali’ or ‘eskrima’.

“I share my skills and techniques in these martial arts with my charges, where they get to learn both basic offence and defence aspects of each discipline, and also to manoeuvre these moves either standing up or lying on the ground,” he said.

Firdouz also utilised fully his public-speaking experience as a Toastmaster in making each session straightforward and simple to understand.

“I teach the children the basics. Should they be interested to learn more, I’d be more than happy to absorb them into my weekly classes, or refer them to schools of other disciplines.”

The trainees also attended a free one-hour capoeira session in the final week of the camp. The session was run by several martial artists from the US, Slovenia and Croatia, who were brought in by Studio Berumbak as a special treat for the trainees.

Asked on his plans for the camp, Firdouz said it began in early 2018 when he wanted to inject a new element into Studio Berumbak’s yearly line-up of programmes.

“In 2017, I introduced Arnis here, with the help from Arnis Malaysia (AM), and the reception had been great – our studio has been teaching basic Arnis since.

“For the camp, it took a while to take off due to budget constraints, but fortunately, many individuals and organisations were very supportive, especially the management board and the parent-teacher association (PTA) of SK Agama Datuk Haji Abdul Kadir Hassan – they were gracious enough to let us use their school hall for some of the sessions, on top of providing us with some financial support,” he said.

On the camp’s programme, Firdouz said the main components were basic lessons in silat, BJJ, muaythai dan Arnis. Using his Toastmaster’s skills, he also conducted motivational talks for his charges.

“One issue that I always highlight is bullyism. I want my charges to know that they can always stand up against the bullies.

One of the visiting martial artists shows the camp participants some capoeira moves

“Now don’t get me wrong – I never advocate violence. My intention is for my young charges to gain self-confidence and reinforce their self-esteem through martial arts training, which emphasises discipline, diligence and also respect for comrades and opponents alike. With these qualities, they should be able to face every challenge – including bullies – with dignity and confidence. Countering violence with violence, in my opinion, only makes things worse,” he stressed, adding that his Martial Arts Camp also served to foster closer comradeship among his charges, as well as the spirit of solidarity between them and their instructors.

Adding on, he also expressed appreciation to Petra Jaya MP Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, the board and PTA of SK Agama Datuk Haji Abdul Kadir Hassan, as well as a number of governmental and non-governmental bodies for their financial and moral support.

“Big thanks to my fellow instructors too – they’re just the greatest; they’re willing to sacrifice their time and energy to help me run this programme.

“I also want to record my appreciation to my capoeira buddies for their willingness to come and give a special treat to my trainees.”

Going forward, Firdouz said he looked forward to running the camp in every school-term break.

“Based on the encouraging response and also the given support, I believe that we are able to continue on.

“I do hope that the support from the parents and the PTA, the local community, the government and the corporate sector would be on-going.”