I started to find bits of information about the origins of martial arts in Africa in different books in the USC library.
The first solid clue that I found that Africa was the birthplace of the martial arts came from a 1942 edition of National Geographic, which showed drawings from an Egyptian tomb depicting Africans doing martial arts more than 3,800 years ago.
I later discovered that not only were all those figures originally painted by and about Africans, but castles and battleships appeared on a larger wall that was not shown in the magazine. More than 500 individual pairs of figures illustrating wrestling techniques appeared in two additional tombs.
I started my research in 1983. I would choose a subject and simply go through every book on the shelf. I had to go through literally hundreds of books to find clues that led to a larger picture. The more I dug, the more I uncovered.
For example, the earliest writings to identify the bow-and-arrow technology as a military or martial weapon come from the northern part of lower Nubia, what is now Sudan. The earliest name for Nubia was “Ta-Seti” or “Land of the Bow.” The discovery covers a period 2,500 years before the first Egyptian dynasty.
I came to the conclusion the Nuba practiced a form of martial arts wrestling over 2,800 years before Christ. I am convinced Nuba wrestling is the original martial art that spread throughout Africa, Asia and Europe.
African origins of the martial arts predated Buddha’s visit to China from India around 520 A.D. It also predates the Olympic Games, which began in honor of Zeus in 776 B.C. and the predominantly African rule in the Hsia Dynasty in China 2205 B.C.
Considering the martial arts began in Africa and developed in Asia, it’s unfortunate that the true innovators and masters from Africa and Asia are not seen in martial arts films and given their due respect.
I look at people like actors Jackie Chan and Jet Lee, whom I consider phenomenal martial artists, and realize that they will never become known among the general public, particularly to Africans, Asians and Chicanos in this country.
Many teen-agers today go into adulthood without the discipline needed to create families and support those families effectively. If the true moral values of the martial arts were introduced and spread through African American culture, it would begin to affect the youth in a positive way.
Many traditional practices in the martial arts, such as the rites of passage, would help to bring a clearer perspective on life to many young African Americans.
The rites of passage is an ancient African ritual designed to bring young men into adulthood. The adolescent males of the community are taken to a camp by elders for an extended period of spiritual and philosophical teachings. The males are also counseled on their responsibilities as an adult and a guardian of the community. Martial arts and wrestling forms part of the education of the Nuba people.
I hope people will discover some of the benefits of the martial arts in developing a strong spiritual and moral outlook.
I believe the correct knowledge and use of any form of self-defense is essential. Lasting growth and prosperity of a culture is possible only when its members are able to define, develop and then defend what their ancestors have established.