COD Athletes Compete at Martial Arts Championship in Malaysia

Four competitors set off from College of DuPage to compete at the international level, representing the United States in a martial art that isn’t so widely recognized.


By courtesy of United States Sport Silat Association Instagram - @usasportsilat

Photo Provided by United State Silat Association Kyle Keen and Steve Santello – Melaka, Malaysia

Nick Karmia, Sports Writer

Emigrating from Malaysia in 1981, Sheikh “Sam” Shamsuddin came to the United States for education, where he later obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology, and a master’s degree in computer science. After taking on various occupations, Shamsuddin eventually brought his knowledge of martial arts to COD in 2005. 

Teaching Computer and Information Science at COD, Shamsuddin saw the college had martial arts classes but nothing from the Southeast Asia region. Shamsuddin wanted to bring in what he calls “Malay Silat,” and he was able to convince the college’s administration to let him teach this martial art in a combat and classroom setting. 

Staff member Steve Santello, along with students Kyle Keen, John Trygstad and coach Shamsuddin made up the Illinois chapter as they went overseas to compete in a tournament that encompassed 22 other countries from around the globe. 

These four athletes from COD went on to fight in the 2022 World Pencak Silat Championship taking place in Melaka, Malaysia from July 26 to the 31. 

Silat, which is a general word for martial art, is composed of more than 140 unique styles. As time went on, Shamsuddin started seeing quick growth in his new program, creating a team to compete at the national and international level. 

“We have students from COD representing the United States. It’s amazing,” Shamsuddin said. “I’m very proud to have athletes who’ve competed at this level.” 

Shamsuddin is heavily involved in the United States Sport Silat Association, an organization which strives to increase the representation of silat across the country. 

Shamsuddin has been working to bring silat into the Olympic games, and he believes sometime between 2024 and 2028 it may just be brought into the fold. In 2022, the United States was the only western nation to take part in the international championship. 

When silat is welcomed into the Olympic games, Shamsuddin will be ready with a team that is more “robust” and “prepared.” 

Silat being offered as a course across other colleges and universities is very rare, with College of DuPage being only one of two institutions offering the class in the United States. 

“We are the pioneers. We have gone through many obstacles just to make this happen and represent the United States,” Shamsuddin said. “I actually encourage silat practitioners from other states to try to do what I did, offer this course to colleges and universities. A lot of people don’t know silat. Not only do you learn how to defend yourself, I teach the history of it, the concept.” 

Writing the first English textbook about silat in 2015, Shamsuddin holds a pronounced passion for the sport he wishes to spread a larger understanding of. 

“What drives me is that I need to share this knowledge with other people.” Shamsuddin said. “My book will survive. The knowledge [I’ve shared] will survive. The legacy goes on. That’s my goal.” 

Using weapons like the machete and sai, here’s a video of Keen and Santello participating in a category of Silat called Ganda.