The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

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The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Taste of Death on Fri Jul 16, 2021 12:04 pm

From the late 1980s, a cluster of related African-American vernacular fighting styles became a focus of contention among martial artists. Over the next twenty years, evidence drawn from popular culture, social science, and sport validated the existence of vernacular styles such as Jailhouse Rock and the 52s. This paper examines the recent ‘re-framing’ of the 52s as a heritage art, a uniquely African-American expression for cultivating health, fitness, and ethnic pride, as well as the development of a structured, culturally-based curriculum which began in order to ensure its embodied preservation.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2c67/ce9beb45754528b99463880134423ca09ce1.pdf
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Taste of Death on Fri Jul 16, 2021 12:07 pm

"It was already late. Night stood murkily over people, and no one else pronounced words; all that could be heard was a dog barking in some alien village---just as in olden times, as if it existed in a constant eternity." Andrey Platonov
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby yeniseri on Fri Jul 16, 2021 3:42 pm

Some great insights with resistance against "cultural and social history". The New Media is bringing truth but as usual the pleasant lie is valued more than purposeful truth ???
If the media didn't talk about it or profile it, it never existed or not worth mentioning and that is how people get their information, or lack of reporting has the perception of it didn't happen.
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby GrahamB on Sat Jul 17, 2021 1:41 am

Yep, really interesting.
I could be wrong.
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Trip on Sat Jul 17, 2021 2:29 pm

Greetings TOD,

After going through all the links
I got that the Black community really loves & supports Kung fu films and culture
Okay...

But I feel like I'm missing out on something more important that you're trying to say

Could you summarize what I'm missing?
or, what is the deeper relevance?
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Taste of Death on Sat Jul 17, 2021 6:54 pm

I am more interested in the 52 Blocks as an American fighting style and what other arts there are to document, like they do with folklore wrestling traditions around the world. I added the other links because RSF is a CIMA forum and there is a point where Black culture and Chinese culture merge. We can thank Bruce Lee for that.

And it continues...

https://youtu.be/KnDZuGzEM2E
Last edited by Taste of Death on Sat Jul 17, 2021 10:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Trip on Sat Jul 17, 2021 9:52 pm

Taste of Death wrote:I am more interested in the 52 Blocks as an American fighting style...


Aha! :D
Understood
Thank you for explaining

It's appreciated :)

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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Steve James on Sun Jul 18, 2021 10:04 am

Yeah, it was an interesting essay. I think the connections he makes between the 5%, the FOI (the Black Muslim bodyguards), and karate are right. I don't think he mentioned that Moses Powell was a student of Professor Vee, who taught Arnis Vee Jitsu --so there are elements of that in Powell's Sanuces Ryu.

There's no doubt that 52 blocks, which I remember being called 52 elbows, is a folk practice that emerged out of the NE US penal system. I'm not sure I'd call it African-American, aopt American, because it has so many sources and influences, including Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino. But, more importantly, it's not something that most or many African Americans have learned or practice. This is not a criticism of or dispute with the research. I have a slight problem with thinking of it as a way of retrieving or supporting an African heritage. At the same time, I believe that there's a long history of "vernacular" martial arts practiced by people of African descent in the Americas. Capoeira is just one. There's one in every country there was a plantation.

And, that's another thing. 52 blocks originated from specific needs due to specific conditions. But, how did the Hispanics cope? Did they have a style? Or did they do the same thing? The Jamaicans were the ones famous for the "head butt," but that can be traced to an African art called Testa. The writer also mentioned calenda/kalinda, which is famous in Trinidad.

The part where he was talking with a granddad was funny. African Americans were famously portrayed as being fond of using razors. The story about dropping a quarter and getting the blade out and back before it hit the ground is true. It could also be done with a "K-9" (if you're old enough to remember them). :)
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby yeniseri on Sun Jul 18, 2021 10:53 am

Steve James wrote:Yeah, it was an interesting essay. I think the connections he makes between the 5%, the FOI (the Black Muslim bodyguards), and karate are right. I don't think he mentioned that Moses Powell was a student of Professor Vee, who taught Arnis Vee Jitsu --so there are elements of that in Powell's Sanuces Ryu.

There's no doubt that 52 blocks, which I remember being called 52 elbows, is a folk practice that emerged out of the NE US penal system. I'm not sure I'd call it African-American, aopt American, because it has so many sources and influences, including Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino. But, more importantly, it's not something that most or many African Americans have learned or practice. This is not a criticism of or dispute with the research. I have a slight problem with thinking of it as a way of retrieving or supporting an African heritage. At the same time, I believe that there's a long history of "vernacular" martial arts practiced by people of African descent in the Americas. Capoeira is just one. There's one in every country there was a plantation.

And, that's another thing. 52 blocks originated from specific needs due to specific conditions. But, how did the Hispanics cope? Did they have a style? Or did they do the same thing? The Jamaicans were the ones famous for the "head butt," but that can be traced to an African art called Testa. The writer also mentioned calenda/kalinda, which is famous in Trinidad.

The part where he was talking with a granddad was funny. African Americans were famously portrayed as being fond of using razors. The story about dropping a quarter and getting the blade out and back before it hit the ground is true. It could also be done with a "K-9" (if you're old enough to remember them). :)


For me and my experience, these arts refleact an origin that is often ignored, or at best, not profiled so they do not exist.
I talked with a few of my majority US American friends and they stated that they had no idea wrestling of any kind was part of African culture ??? That right there is now media or its lack can confuse the viewer on many levels.

I know that Afrodescendants in the Americans have always had a tradition of resistance against their oppressors beginning with Haiti throwing off the French yoke but they have had to pay reparations (Get It) ??? and still do to the French state because the French Oppressors were defeated and they lost revenue, hence the reparations. It works one way but not the other ;D
For Trinidad, the majority of those who practiced kalinda/calinda were migrants from the French Caribbean (Haiti, St Lucia, Guadeloupe, etc) and those who fled south to Trinidad were granded special status to stay from the Spanish Crown (at the time). Being part of that Central African origin, that cultural expression persisted to the present and changed within that process. Even what we know as capoeira, began as something called ngolo ???, a dance ritual that became weapopnized in the face of oppression and war,
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Steve James on Sun Jul 18, 2021 11:23 am

Even what we know as capoeira, began as something called ngolo ???, a dance ritual that became weapopnized in the face of oppression and war,


Yeah, I'd have to read the original Portuguese to argue whether what we call capoeira today originated with "Ngolo." It sounds to much like Ngola, and you know that "Capoeira Angola" is the style distinguished from Capoeira Regionao --which has more jumps and gymnastics. I think more than one Kongo/Ngolan people had similar rituals, but an outsider would just say they were the same.

The "ring shout" tradition in the US is often attributed to the "Gullah" people --and researchers suggest the name Gullah is a corruption of aNgola.
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby yeniseri on Sun Jul 18, 2021 8:43 pm

Excellent points!
I came across an excellent book on capoeira and it is one of the better documented (in that sphere only) supporting its 'revelations' on origins of capoeira.

There is really no distinction between Capoeira Angola y Capoeira Regional except that the former is played slower (skill is masked by the concept of malicia) appearing slovenly but stinging like a bee, was/is practiced by mostly the tribal Africans (de nacion) vs the latter, whose participants were more gymnastic in technique, outwardly visual in glorification and practiced by the mesticos (mestizos, mulatos (mixed ancestry Brazilians), middle class, etc) but they were stated to be the same since Regional shared some teachers who were of Angola background.

Regarding origin of the Gullah people, their origin is around Sierra Leone, Ghana while the capoeiristas origin in what we know as Angola today. Keep in mind that it is the more influential tribes who were able to normalize the cultural traditions of others not so well known menaing 'majority influence. In Brasil, although later Hausa-Fulani rituals complemented cultural mixing, Yoruba (as in Yemaja, Ogun, Xango, etc) still had a strong influence with a re-awakening of an African presence in the Americas (Brasil, Cuba, Trinidad, etc)
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Steve James on Mon Jul 19, 2021 7:02 am

Ime, Capoeira Angola is played very differently from Regionao. And, they both have specific lineages; either from Mestre Pastinha or Mestre Bimba. Mestre Joao Grande taught authentic Angola for many years in downtown NYC. I went to a Regionao teacher's class (on Broadway, near Houston, but I can't recall his name), and a jogo turned into a real fight between an Angola practitioner and one of the students. Imo, Angola practitioners look like they're playing until the hit you. Regionao players look like they're trying to hit you, and you don't want that. :)

Regarding origin of the Gullah people, their origin is around Sierra Leone, Ghana while the capoeiristas origin in what we know as Angola today. Keep in mind that it is the more influential tribes who were able to normalize the cultural traditions of others not so well known menaing 'majority influence. In Brasil, although later Hausa-Fulani rituals complemented cultural mixing, Yoruba (as in Yemaja, Ogun, Xango, etc) still had a strong influence with a re-awakening of an African presence in the Americas (Brasil, Cuba, Trinidad, etc)


Um, it's hard to say that the people we call Gullah/Geechee are from any specific contemporary nation. They definitely came from the "Grain Coast," but not from any specific "tribe." They do not speak an African language because they never shared one. But, they were far more isolated when they arrived in the US. You probably know the story. Europeans were trying to grow rice in the Carolinas, but it wasn't working. West Africans had been growing rice for centuries, so their experience was used to start the industry. (Fwiw: https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php ... nt=reviews). Because of the environment --like the Sea Islands-- the Gullah were isolated from people in other regions, so they have a very specific, Africanized culture. I can't understand them, but neither can an African, or even someone who speaks Jamaican patois:. :)

However, the question was why they were called Gullah. The Portuguese were the first to start the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (1400s), and it was through Kongo/Angola --which were kingdoms, not countries. And, they were continuously at war. The Portuguese gave the Kongo kings (Joao 1, Afonso) firearms. Long story, but eventually El Mina (in present day Ghana) became a slave-trading hub through which Africans from many different nations passed. But, most of those who went to Brazil were Ngolans.

I disagree that major tribes influenced what happened in the Americas. They always created new families and relationships based on their common beliefs. Haiti is the best example of an almost total syncretization of African cultures. Voodoo is a combination of many beliefs (Yoruba, Kongo, Mande, Catholicism, and Islam). Africans from Nigeria were often Muslims. The "high priestess" of the Haitian Revolution was Cecile Fatiman. Africans from the Kongo practiced forms of what would be called Palo (palo judeo and palo cristiano). Then there were the Yoruba and the Vodun. In Haiti, these coalesced into "Voodoo" -the religion more hated than Satanism. :) Everywhere there were plantations, this was the case. In Cuba, there were cabildos. In Brazil, scolas (de samba) or nacoes. In the DR and PR, there is also a lot more influences from Taino cultures. There's a specific DR "vudu" --see Anacaona. There has always been a reconstruction of relations depending on the circumstances, and who brought the people together. For ex., were they allowed to have a drum? How much control over their circumstances did they have? (Rhetorical questions).
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby yeniseri on Sun Jul 25, 2021 1:06 am

IPer the Gullah people(s), their basket weaving techniques per anthropological resEARCH elements show an association between the people of Sierra Leone. It may not be true that they were all from the same tribal area but "unifying cultural tradition" solidified all under the Gullah umbrella. IN the Americas, though the Yoruba people were a 'minority', that tradition served as a unifying principle when compared to more numerous tribal entities who did not share that Yoruba ethnic component. It is interesting that in Cuba, it isn't the Congo or Central African (limited) presence (though they present themeslves as shared experienes. My thoughs are "Why does the Yoruba pantheon persist when compared to other tribal groups.

In Brasil, the Hausa were late arrivals ( *Gilbert Freyre: Masters and Slaves) nut Xango (God of Thunder), Yemaya,(La diosa del Mar) Ogun, etc takes the prize as being the face of the culture in that regard while the face of capoeira still belong to the Central Africans (Angola/Mozambique)! Just intuition and insight
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Re: The Fifty-Two Hand Blocks Re-Framed

Postby Steve James on Sun Jul 25, 2021 7:48 am

Well, I think you're mixing a lot of stuff up. For one thing, Sierra Leone is a British empire construction that drew an imaginary line around several African ethnic groups. In fact, using languages as a measure of ethnic identity, West Africa from Senegal to Angola had more languages and ethnic diversity than any other global region. Afa the Gullah/Geechee people, I've done research on them for my Africana Folklore courses:

"Records from slave markets at Charleston indicate that Africans who arrived there in chains came from [present day]:

Angola (39%)
Senegambia (20%)
Windward Coast (Liberia) (17%)
Gold Coast (Ghana) (13%)
Sierra Leone (6%)
Madagascar and Mozambique (5% combined)"

So, you're right. There were different groups who arrived whose cultures coalesced into what was called Gullah/Geechee. My earlier suggestion was that the name Gullah was related to Angola only because Angolans made up a large percentage of Africans who were sold in US slave markets in the Carolinas. It's not true that they came from Sierra Leone.

Btw, Gullah people are famous for "strip quilts" as well as baskets, and both arts are practiced by many other African cultures. And, more related to the discussion of Capoeira, the Gullah do the "ring shouts" similar to many West and Central Africa religious rituals. But, any USAmerican kid who's gone to Summer camp who knows "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore," "Kumbaya, My Lord", or anyone who's heard a Bruh Rabbit story knows some Gullah culture.

Afa Cuba, Santeria gets the most attention, and is the most well-known, but there are at least three primary Afro-Cuban religions. Santeria is the one most syncretized with Catholicism. Yoruba people have had an enormous influence, but are actually a small ethnic group. Anyway, besides Santeria (Las Reglas de Lukumi), there's Palo Monte, and Abakua. Cuba had the most diverse population of Africans than anywhere else in the Americas. They formed "cabildos" where they continued their traditions.

Name of Cabildo African region of origin Ethnic group of origin

Abakuá Nigeria/Cameroon Ekpe
Mandinga Sierra Leone Malinké
Ganga Sierra Leone Malinké
Mina Gold Coast Akan
Lucumi Benin and Nigeria Yoruba
Carabalis Biafra Igbo - Efik
Macauas Mozambique Makua
Congo Angola Bantu

This gets to my primary point. The only things that enslaved Africans could keep when they arrived wherever in the Americas was their culture. Almost all of them were from a Bantu mega-culture, so there were commonalities. The religions were different, but most shared the idea of a supreme being who had helpers on earth who could be contacted. You know, like Catholicism. So, wherever they were allowed --i.e., forced-- to practice that religion, they added parts of their own. You've seen the candles with Los Siete Potencias Africanos, etc. Otoh, it was different in Protestant countries. It's why Harlemites are less Africanized than Haitians.

Africans in the Americas formed new families and cultures. There were always combinations. Gullah is not an African culture; but because of its isolation, the people in that tradition are more "Africanized." For ex., a Krio speaker from Sierra Leone won't necessarily understand a Gullah speaker.

Sorry to rant. Getting back to Capoeira and JHR, they are both examples of folk fighting arts created originally out of necessity, not tradition. I tend to think that looking for a strictly African origin is fine, but the current tradition is created. It's like hip-hop. I remember when "B-boys" started doing handstands and headspins, and it was after Viera started teaching Capoeira in the Bronx (around 1975).
So, did hip hop come from the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Harlem, or Staten Island?

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