In the Service of our Ancestors and African Love,
Listen Seeker, I come in peace,
“On the subject of the Origins of indigenous fighting systems, the best researchers in that field to find out about their thoughts and facts are Kilindi Iyi, Abraham Hardy, Oso Tayari, Professor [Scott] Carroll, and Baba Faesegun.” — Jonathan Bynoe
Despite the claim to African athletic prowess (basketball, baseball, football, kwk), under Western culture African people have been almost entirely disassociated from traditions of self-defense. No sport aside from boxing has any warrior benefit; and boxing, though effective at offense, is deficient in defense and incomplete in offense (grappling and weaponry are excluded). While I would love to write an article on the Montu Arts (Montu being the deity of KMT for whom Mars was named) unlike Jonathan Bynoe I am not a full-fledged Montu Artist. Granted, I can win some fights, but it stands to reason that I will defer to other researchers of which Bynoe is qualified.
This field is vast, and I encourage many other articles on this aspect of Manhood and Masculinity. For those who wish to do research, I suggest the following terms: ‘Kupigana Ngumi’ (an umbrella term for African Montu Arts), Montu Arts, African Martial Arts, Pan Kau Ra Shen (Defeating your enemies with the force of Ra), Nuba Traditional Wrestling, and/or the researchers above or suggested resources below.
Origins of Martial Arts: The Real History
By Jonathan Bynoe
There had been much controversy throughout the History of mankind on the Origins of human combative systems. My seven years of Martial Arts studies lead me to ask many questions and have suspicions of what is fact and what is myth. It all started when I first started training in Karate. Although, the History of the system I train in seemed accurate, the origins of the Martial Arts as a whole has questionable authenticity. I have been taught that the origin of Martial Arts had been invented in one particular country, by one particular man. Then the arts went over to China, and then it spread to Japan and the world. I took it for what it is. I can even say this off the top of my head, but deep down inside me, that the history I have been taught is vague and has at least half fact and half myth.
I have been taught that the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma (Chinese name Da-Mo) is considered the originator of the Martial Arts; he traveled from India to China and taught the Shaolin Monks in Honan province and taught the monks meditation. He noticed that the monks were falling asleep and physically out of shape and constantly being attacked and robbed by bandits. Then Da-mo taught them Zen Buddhism, breathing exercises and Martial Arts and the monks became physically healthy. I gradually didn’t believe in the story because this supposed event happened during the 6th century AD. In between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Islam/Moorish Empire, in which Historians call this era the Dark Ages. So I was privately been going around questioning the Bodhidharma Legend. I began to be disillusioned about how the History of the Martial Arts was presented to me. How in the world can every combative system of grappling, boxing and the use of weapons can come from one man and spread throughout the world? So I branched out to find the answers myself. The Bodhidharma Legend has been all over the net, been mentioned in quite a few Asian Martial Arts books I have read, and portrayed in a number of Martial Arts documentaries such as Fight Science and Human Weapon when the subject is on Chinese Martial Arts. How can China have no combative techniques until the 6th century AD? I asked myself. China has a long rich Martial Art History that even predates Bodhidharma’s arrival. I remember reading somewhere on the net that there are no records in India or Persia about Bodhidharma except in the Himalayas and Honan province and throughout China. So Indians never claimed that the Martial Arts started in their own country.
Three years ago I started a topic in the now defunct Black Belt magazine Forum about the History of Martial Arts. Many forum members I have interacted with say that Bodhidharma never invented the Martial Arts but contributed to the fighting system in China at that time. Another person that said, (I believe his name is Bryan, and he trains the Korean Martial Arts and a researcher of Medieval Combat) that there is no way that the Martial Arts can start in one country, by one man and then spread throughout other countries overtime. I will never forget for what he said, “The human body is universal, the arm can break in Asia exactly the same way as it is in Europe.”
My former Sensei, Mike Coombs, Koryu-Uchinadi practitioner said, “Every civilization started and developed their own combative system.” I do remember him saying that. Although I was still wasn’t sure about what to believe in. All the while a Forum member told me that “why worry about investigating all of this? Studying the Martial Arts is about making history not finding out all of this.” I didn’t reply. I didn’t take heed to his message, I stubbornly wanted to know. Why not question? We need to question in order to understand our own roots.
The Origin of the Martial Arts has quite few theories:
1) The Martial Arts originated in India by Da-Mo
2) Martial Arts originated in East Asia, particularly China
3) All Civilizations developed their own system of combative systems
4) The origins of Martial Arts originated in the Middle Eastern Kingdoms
5) The Martial Arts started in Greece (the art of Wrestling, Boxing and Pankration)
6) The Martial Arts originated in Africa
I came to the conclusion that if those that say that all indigenous fighting systems developed from all civilizations, then these fighting disciplines have its roots where mankind began, I theorized that they have started in the middle-east and Northern Africa. Before training in the Martial Arts, I was just an ordinary fan of it that haven’t tried it out at the time. Like many people, at least those that never donned on a gi or any type of traditional uniform and try the type of discipline out, these people believed that the Martial Arts are only from East Asia. When you here the term Martial Art the first thing that comes out of people’s mind is Karate, Kung fu, Judo, Taekwondo, disciplines out East Asia and most of them are modified for civilian self-defense and sport instead of the use for the battlefield against someone who is equally skillful as you. If you Google search “The Definition of Martial Arts” the result you will get is anything that is related to unarmed combat, anything that is from East Asia. The result you will get is that the fighting systems out of Africa, Europe, Australia, and Native Americas are completely forgotten. For the new generation coming up, many people would think that the fighting arts outside East Asia are never even thought of.
If you put a lot of thought into it, Bruce Lee, the founder of Jeet Kune Do studied a variety of Martial Arts to form his own system. He had a foundational base in Wing Chun Kung fu, and then he branched out into studying a variety of disciplines based on Asian Martial Sciences, and also in European fighting arts such as Fencing, Boxing, Wrestling, and Savate. Anybody would say, “Oh, wait a minute, Fencing, boxing, wrestling, Sambo and Savate are not classified as Martial Arts because they are not Asian, they don’t have a belt ranking system, they have no spiritual/philosophical background, they don’t perform high fancy kicks,” whatever the excuse that these people have. I suggest for those who are of European descent to go out there and discover your roots through your fighting disciplines. Now I mostly say discipline and system mostly instead of styles because we have to get out of the narrow minded mentality for individuals that study and teach the Classical Martial Arts. Bruce Lee said something about getting out the “Convoluted, Classical mess.” Another thing is that Bruce Lee said, “There is no such thing as style, all of the arts are very similar. If you have a man who has two heads, four arms, and four legs; we have a completely different style.” Fast forward years later, we have my friend Bryan say, “The Human body is universal, the arm can break in Asia exactly the same way in Europe.”
I remember back in the Black Belt mag. Forum, when I started a discussion on the best Martial Arts movies of all time. I began say movies such as Troy, Braveheart, King Arthur, The Scorpion King etc. The thing is that these movies I have mentioned are movies that are overlooked as Martial Arts movies. I can go on and say Alexander the Great, The 300 Spartans, and Rocky are sadly overlooked to be classified as Martial Arts movies. I said this before and Bryan agreed to what I said. No disrespect to East Asia with their rich History of their Martial Arts. But does Martial Art movies always have to be related to Asian Martial Arts with flashy, aerial moves? No.
A year ago, I have finally been able to find the answer I have been looking for 5 years of research. Where human civilization began was in Africa, so the fighting combative systems originated in Africa by the earliest tribes of the Kemites and the Nubians. Before any civilization and human recorded history existed outside of Africa, there exist a number of hieroglyphics on many tombs and temples of my ancestors performing forms of unarmed combat such as grappling, boxing, and weaponry such as the spear, bow and arrow in Kemet (modern-day Egypt), and these fighting disciplines spread throughout Africa. The earliest weapons were the spear, bow and arrow, Club and Mace, including other weapons such as the Boomerang. I first thought that the Boomerang originated in Australia, and I there is no doubt that many others have. There is a statue in Egypt of Prince Punt carrying a boomerang. This projectile weapon had been exported to Southeast India, being called the Valari, and to Australia being called the Boomerang. I have looked up a variety of sources from videos and articles of legitimate researchers, lecturers and professors of African Studies. The Africans were the first ones to build civilizations, introduce, Science, Astrology, Medicine (Pharmacology), Music and Mathematics. The thing is that my brother told me that our ancestors taught the world these things I have mentioned. My mother told me months ago that our ancestors built early civilizations throughout the world. Pyramids were built by Africans and not by Extraterrestrial Aliens. The oldest Martial Art Discipline is Nubian Wrestling. Many people believed that it was the Indian Martial Art Kalripayyatu. Kalaripayattu haven’t been formed since the post Medieval Crusader period 12th and 13th century AD. Nubian Wrestling became an influential grappling system treated as a sport and used for the battlefield. It is the actual ancestor art of many disciplines that we know of today such as Greek Wrestling, Kampfringen, Lancanshire Wrestling, Vajramushti, Judo, Jujutsu, Sambo, Mongolian Wrestling Shuai-Chaio Tegumi etc. Grappling and submission techniques of Nubian wrestling reflects those of other native disciplines mentioned. I have also heard that Da-Mo invented the imitation of animal movements, but in fact it goes all the way back to the Kemites and Nubians. When they perform unarmed combat, they imitated the various animals of their native villages. Nubian Wrestling have the wrestlers imitate the monkey. In China, imitations of animal movements existed at least a few centuries before Da-Mo’s arrival to Honan province. Other systems of combat was Kuta translated as defender of the Pharaoh. It’s an unarmed and armed combat system practiced by the bodyguards of the Pharaohs. The stick fighting art out of Kemet is called Tahteeb, and it is the influential stick fighting system to many African stick fighting arts such as Zulu Impi, and Kali/Arnis/Escrima of the Philippines.
We see the most popular Martial Art sport on TV called Mixed Martial Arts. We consider Bruce Lee the father of MMA, but the ancestor of modern MMA goes back to the land Kush (modern-day Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya) called Pan Kau Ra Shen translated as Fighting with the Spirit of Ra. Ra is Egypt’s deity, God of the Sun. The Greeks were the first Europeans to encounter the Africans and learned the system from the Kushites and brought it back to Greece and renamed the Pankration (all force, all powers), and they took with them Kemet’s and Kush’s deities and renamed them Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Ares, Apollo, Dionysus, Aphrodite etc. So Pan Kau Ra Shen is the actual original Mixed Martial Art and the Kushites are the forefathers of MMA. I would also give credit for Bruce Lee for revitalizing the importance of being a well-rounded Martial Artist and never limiting yourself to one style/art/discipline. There are many Martial Artists that say, “Oh, nobody has done cross-training since the time of EW Barton-Wright and Bruce Lee, and these men had broken sacred tradition of the Martial Arts.” They are dead wrong. I will never forget what Iain Abernethy said in his Podcasts and writings, “Cross-training was nothing new.” There had been many Karate masters that have crossed trained and learned the art by a variety of teachers with different combative backgrounds such as Sokon Matsumura, Choki Motobu, Gichin Funakoshi, Chojun Miyagi, Kenwa Mabuni, Hironori Ohtsuka, Kanryo Higaonna, Shoshin Nagamine, Chotoku Kyan and the Kojo family descendants of the 36 families to name a few. To further explain this, cross-training in many types of combative formats began since the beginning of time. Kemet was the first world power and they took over many nations at the time. The world was opened to trade of many resources, that being the Martial Arts. And this was centuries before Da-Mo’s arrival to the Shaolin temple on Honan province. Therefore, all civilizations had foreign influence from one another in the combative arts. So the concept of Traditional Martial Arts has always been a natural transmission of cross-training, staying update and relevant. Cross-training is no doubt traditional and so many Martial Arts Instructors today had failed to understand the concept. The African people’s intention was to spread out and share their knowledge, to teach the world to be mind open minded and willing to share their wisdom. The true way of the warrior is to keep on learning, keep on expanding. I see Martial Artist that brought great influence for the African-American community such as Karriem Abdallah, Kilindi Iyi, Mohommad Ali, Jim Kelly, Wesley Snipes, and Michael Jai White and say they are following in the footsteps of their warrior ancestors. African war heroes should never be forgotten, but unfortunately hardly talked about in the History books are Shaka Zulu, an innovator of military strategy, and Hannibal Barca, considered by most scholars as “The father of military strategy”. Luckily that are mentioned in the book called 100 Great Military Leaders by Nigel Cawthorne, which I consider being a Martial Art book of mini-biographies of War Heroes of the past. Each time I train and each time I head to the dojo, I say to myself, “Man, I am truly blessed to be a scholar of the Martial Arts and have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors.
There is a Japanese word called Shuhari. Now the word and the teaching of the Shuhari doctrine is hardly ever taught in traditional and sport based dojos across North America. As far as I know, Iain Abernethy and Hanshi McCarthy teaches that doctrine. The translation of Shuhari can be broken down easily. Shu means to hold (hold on to the traditional system of which the masters passed down), Ha, means to break (break away from what the masters taught and be innovative) and Ri means to leave (To break away from what the teachers taught you and find your own martial path, to innovate, and create something new and be a pioneer). This is where most Martial Arts instructors frown upon. I remember reading an essay that my old internet friend Bryan written called Martial Arts Monogamy. He revealed the truth that many instructors, including his own are narrow minded and not allowing their students to train in other disciplines. So the concept is Shu, shu, shu instead of the Shuhari concept. If you want more information on Shurhari go to www.iainabernethy.co.uk, then go to Podcast and find the Podcast titled Styles: Are they killing Karate? If most instructors don’t want students to expand their knowledge they mostly think of the thought of the “my style is better than your style” concept. The early African tribes never thought of that notion. They thought that being efficient in grappling, boxing, and weaponry can make the individual a well rounded warrior, therefore it all depends on how skillful that warrior is. Also certain techniques may or may not work for all people depending on body type. If I teach my students a 540 kick, many students wouldn’t get it perfectly like I do, because it can be lack of flexibility, age, or body-type, so everyone has to adapt instead of me selfishly saying, if this move works for me, it can work for you.
The Martial Arts has its origins in Kemet and Kush of Africa, and not India or China, and I’m not saying this, Professors, Martial Artists, and field researchers are saying this. If it is hard to take in I would say that the information is out there, go find the right sources. I thank these individuals for bringing out this information in order to preserve History.
Suggested Resources: http://jonathan-bynoe.blogspot.com/ (More articles by Jonathan)
http://maathouseofptah.com/?page_id=764 (A video collection of African Montu Arts)
http://iamcourage.webs.com/aboutcourage.htm (An African oriented Montu Arts Organization)
http://rbgsurvival.wordpress.com/ (Kushite Prince’s page on African Survival)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1mGVmxEGew (Ashra Kwesi shows the ‘writing on the wall’ of African Montu Arts in KMT, Nubia and traditional Africa)
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kilindi-Iyis-Tamerrian-Institute/110418935650315 (Kilindi Iyi’s Montu Arts Institution in Detroit)
https://www.facebook.com/teanisjr/posts/661705913901548?notif_t=mention (A few resources on Pan Kau Ra Shen)
http://wysinger.homestead.com/nubiansport.html (An article on Nuba Wrestling)
See also Mfundishi Jhutyms Ka n Heru Hassn K Sali and Kupigana Ngami
And much more (suggest more below)