The Jakarta Post
Thanks to his high-wattage fighting scene in The Raid 2 and his cameo in blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens, silat master Cecep Arif Rahman has become an action star.
Amid his growing popularity, silat master Cecep Arif Rahman maintains his unflagging dedication as a teacher. Between his filming activities in Jakarta and abroad, Cecep still allocates time to teach at a middle school in his hometown of Garut, West Java.
Cecep is very busy these days to the point that he did not have the chance to watch the much-anticipated Star Wars movie during its Jakarta premier in the middle of December.
Before the film premiere, he addressed a press conference about his participation in the film, where he ' along with the Raid actors, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian ' appeared as notorious intergalactic criminals the Kanjiklub Gang.
As the press conference ended, he rushed to the filming of an unspecified movie.
'Attending the press conference was important, while watching the movie was a personal activity that I could do with other people later on,' Cecep said.
The 43-year-old Cecep first amazed action movie lovers with his role as karambit-wielding assassin in Gareth Evans' The Raid 2.
He went on to star in several local films, such as Anggy Umbara's 3 (Alif Lam Mim) and Skakmat (Checkmate), before appearing in the seventh episode of the Star Wars saga. The week-long filming of his Star Wars scenes in the UK brought new experiences for Cecep. He chatted with Harrison Ford on the set and did the stunts using slings all the time, which he is not accustomed to.
'I usually do action moves naturally, without slings. There, we were obliged to use slings. I was okay being thrown everywhere because my slings were held by a sturdy crew,' he said.
Cecep and The Raid friends were fasting during the filming as it took place during the Ramadhan holy month.
'We were fasting for around 19 hours. The crew gave us a chance to break our fast at around 10 p.m. However, there were a few days where we skipped the fasting,' Cecep admitted, smiling.
Some of the trio's scenes did not make the final cut of the movie. Cecep's appearance is brief and perhaps passes unnoticed by many moviegoers. But Cecep has something else to be grateful for. His character, Crokind Shand, has been immortalized in a Lego mini-figurine that features a moustache and beard that resemble those of Cecep.
In real life, Cecep hardly looks like a lethal fighter. His stature is small even compared to most Indonesians. Most of the time his muscles are hidden within long sleeves, Cecep smiles a lot and talks in a calm and friendly tone with a strong Sundanese accent. Yet, he has more than enough prowess to beat his opponents within seconds.
Cecep has won national silat competitions and toured Europe to teach pencak silat. He has served as the leader of Himpunan Pencak Silat Panglipur, a decades-old silat school based in Garut.
In early 2000, Cecep started teaching silat as an extracurricular activity at a state primary school, SD 3 Tegal Panjang, Garut. He ended up teaching more subjects and was promoted to become a civil servant in his fifth year of service.
Later on, Cecep moved to teach at the Islamic middle school SMP IT Nurul Islam, which was founded by his parents.
'Up until now, I try to give a class every Monday and Tuesday. Every time I complete filming, I immediately go to Garut so that I can teach the next morning,' he said.
Cecep has found sanctuary in Garut, where most of his neighbors and friends see him simply as a teacher and silat master because they haven't watched his movies.
'There is no movie theater in Garut,' Cecep giggled. 'Only young people who love to browse the internet know about me.'
More and more Garut residents do recognize him, however, after pirated copies of The Raid 2 have become available at local stores.
'My students learned that I starred in the movie and commented 'Oh you're the bad guy. You are cool!''
It appears Cecep may skip some classes in the following months. The teacher will be involved in a handful of projects, most notably the science-fiction action movie Foxtrot Six.
Hollywood producer Mario Kassar, who was behind blockbusters Rambo and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, has allocated an estimated US$10 million for the project, around 10 times the budget of an Indonesian movie.
Cecep and Yayan reportedly will be the fight choreographers for the film, which will be set in Indonesia and the US.
Cecep is glad to find that more producers and directors are interested in including silat in their movies.
'Back then, I was a fan of Bruce Lee. I filled my bedroom with his posters. I dreamed that silat could be introduced through film, just like kung fu. Now, my dream is coming true.'
As his movie career continues its rapid ascent, Cecep vows that he will not leave the school behind.
'It would be hard to maintain our true self if we leave our roots. If I let go the teaching job, my personality will gradually change. I don't want to be like that kind of person.'
' JP/Yuliasri Perdani