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Art Behind Fighting Arts
>> by K. Leigh Wisotzkey
"The real art to fighting is not to fight at all," explains Professor King Ogun Ali Muhammad, Founder and Chief Instructor of the Universal African Fighting Arts System. But if you’ve ever seen a demonstration of the Universal African Fighting Arts System, you may beg to differ. When Professor King Ogun and his Spiritual Warriors take the stage, draped in traditional African mud cloth, cinched with beaded belts adorned in cowry shells, and accompanied by live drummers playing traditional African rhythms, this martial art becomes a complete artistic experience for spectators. Demonstrating self defense techniques, these spiritual warriors flow with cat-like prowess, using intricate combinations of strikes, kicks, sweeps, locks, and throws. Intensity builds, the pace quickens, and the final warrior dons his weapon of choice - the spear - and displays his agility and expertise - a deadly opponent, indeed!
In the studio, during training, it is obvious that training in this system involves much more than the physical movements. Students develop confidence, respect, and tolerance. "Don’t let me hear that you’re out bullying people at school," Professor Ogun tells his young students. "This art is used to defend yourself or your family, not to go out picking fights." He explains that this system is not only a fighting art, it is a culture - a way of life. Inside the studio, exhibits of African culture are all around - wall hangings, drums, weapons, staffs - you name it.
"They all are from Africa," he says in regards to other martial arts systems, referring to an aged and yellowed 1980 issue of Inside Kung-Fu magazine. He explains that even the Brazilian art of Capoera traces back to Africa, as some of the slaves were taken to South American and the Caribbean. "Capoera was designed to disguise the art from slave masters," remarks Professor Ogun. Developed to be done with the hands bound, this art involves a lot of survival and sacrifice moves (flying through the air) as a means to escape.
In Africa, 14-year-old boys are initiated into manhood by sending them for six months into the wilderness with just a spear and a day’s ration of food. "The African man is the only one who can hunt and fight a lion with a spear," says Professor Ogun, as he explains the origination of the African martial arts. "Asians have the ‘Tiger System,’ he acknowledges, "but they’ve never fought tigers."
Although rooted in Africa, the Universal African Fighting Arts System is truly universal—connected to the entire universe. "In today’s high-tech world, a lot of people are burdened with different problems," says Professor Ogun. "This is when what I call ‘worry-ation’ sets in. More peace and harmony build a defense against what is plaguing the world. I try to grow in a state of peace and love with everything," he says.
"In a spiritual art like this, you never stop learning patience, tolerance," explains Professor Ogun. Students learn to respect other people’s cultures and religions - to stay in harmony with other beliefs. This is just the beginning of coming into harmony with the universe. We all fight a myriad of battles through life, but perhaps one of the most difficult is the fight to control our own thoughts and minds - to keep positive forces stronger than the negative. It is the long-standing opposition of what we call "good and evil." Students of this martial arts system tap into their own energy to control their thoughts. This art is "dealing with the spirit - the inner self," Professor Ogun assures.
For this reason, students of the Universal African Fighting Arts System come in all shapes and sizes. Professor Ogun himself is rather intimidating in stature, yet very peaceful in spirit. At the other end of the spectrum is the three-year-old student, the youngest in the class, whom Professor Ogun affectionately refers to as his little "warrior." He describes his system as a "family art - reaching out to children ages 2 - 82." Most beginners are usually "out of shape," so to speak, says Professor Ogun. The success of the student is not determined by physical state, but whether they have the desire to learn the art. "I judge by will power," he states. "If they believe in themselves, I believe in them."
Since this art is more combat-oriented, students learn to fall and roll. "But even a handicapped person can do this," he offers. "They just need to be taught a different way. Everyone can benefit from learning self-defense." For example, someone confined to a wheelchair can learn parts of the system that could save their life. Also, size and gender make no difference in this art. "Sometimes the smaller people have more of an advantage," Professor Ogun explains during class. The attacker has less time to prepare to fall," he continues as he critiques his students practicing hip throws.
Professor Ogun’s African Universal Fighting Arts System is taught four nights a week, at beginner and advanced levels, and Saturday mornings for advanced students. As Professor Ogun has said, students simply need to come with a desire to learn the art—the universal art—the fighting art built around being in harmony with the universe. After all, "The art to fighting is not to fight at all."
The African Universal Fighting Arts System is taught at Ngozi studio, located at 925 N.3rd Street, Harrisburg. For more information, call 717-232-8803 or 717-571-8508.