The “Asian-ness” of the martial arts

A year or so ago I journeyed to Madison, Wisconsin to purchase a book from Dr. Edward Powe. The book was entitled, “Combat Games of Northern Nigeria“. My interest was to learn more about the combat traditions of the Hausa people. The Hausa have one of the most rich martial cultures that I know of on the continent with traditions of boxing, wrestling, blade-fighting and stick-fighting.

In truth, I only recently learned of their stick-fighting through a friend, Da’Mon Stith. This was very enlightening and increased my interest in the combat traditions of the Hausa. Interestingly, while I did locate videos of this art online, they were curiously labled as “Karate”. This is what I mean by the “Asian-ness” of the martial arts. Not that there are no African martial arts, but that the concept of “martial arts” as a kind of social activity is generally dominated by Asian representations. This can be attributed to the film industry (beginning in the 1970s), the formalization of the arts (beginning perhaps with Jigoro Kano in the early 20th Century), and their commercialization (primarily in 20th Century) in places like Hong Kong, the US, and Europe. As a consequence of these developments, for many of our people, “martial arts” inherently refer to Asian combat traditions, so much so that many Black fighting traditions are sometimes not perceived as such. This is true throughout the African world.

Ancestral guidance on speaking truth

Throughout my life I have seen many people hide behind ideals and beliefs of “truth” as a way to justify abusive behavior. In fact, they may use their supposedly superior claims to truth as a way of explain away their actions as something other than abuse.

I think that we should all be concerned with truth. We find that truth was held as one of the highest concerns of our ancestors. However, I also know that our ancestors gave us a great deal of guidance pertaining to our speech. They told us to use 𓌃𓄤 (mdw nfr) “good speech”, to practice ìwà pẹ̀lẹ́ (gentle character) with our loved ones. There was a reason for this. Harsh words can create enmity where love once dwelled. Intemperate speech erodes respect where esteem once stood. Our ancestors knew this from observing reality. They did not say speak falsely. They said “𓆓𓂧𓁦”, (Djed Maat), “Speak truth”. They also said that speech should be “measured”. I think that they knew what they were talking about.

So one should and must “Speak truth”. But one must also be mindful of how one’s character is formed and expressed by one’s speech. “Truth” cannot be used to justify suban bɔne (bad character).


Good morning everyone. Rapacious capitalism’s endgame is still mass extinction. Racism has invigorated America’s latent authoritarian tendencies eroding the vaunted strength of democracy.

I am reminded of the Yorùbá wisdom that tells us to “struggle to increase good in the world and not to let any good be lost.” Such an audacity to struggle is a key part of what it means to be Enìyàn (human) in the Yorùbá worldview. It is by confronting such challenges that our humanity gains its full expression. As Segun Gbadegesin writes, “This is the normative dimension of the concept of Enìyàn. The crown of personal life is to be useful to one’s community. The meaning of one’s life is therefore measured by one’s commitment to social ideals and communal existence.”

Welcome to a new day and a new opportunity to be one’s best self.

Sovereignty is the goal

Many enjoy appropriating the symbolism of the UNIA flag without having any corresponding commitment to the goal to which Marcus Garvey aspired. The goal was not reform, but sovereignty; not an appeal to European morality, but to African agency.