Adisa Banjoko

The Chinese Connection: Hip-Hop and Martial Arts

The HHCF’s fusion of Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts has always been about the blending of art, science and subcultures. A lot of people laughed at us in the beginning. But after hosting the biggest opening exhibit at the World Chess Hall of Fame this October with RZA, our impact was undeniable. In the streets, juvenile halls and colleges, our method is working and the demand is growing across the planet.

 

As our organization got on the radar of various news and education outlets, our calls to promote STEAM over STEM began to gain a following. My obsession with these three arts and sports were built on a previous foundation.

The two most influential people on my approach to writing are Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Joseph Campbell. Dr. Clarke was great at being able to say in a sentence, what many folks need paragraphs to write. Joseph Campbell taught “perennial philosophies.” It is defined as “a perspective in the philosophy of religion which views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth on which foundation all religious knowledge and doctrine has grown.” While my work to date has not been as concise as Clarke or expansive as Campbell, this is my ultimate intent. The goal of this piece is meant to show how the Asian Kung-fu Cinema impacted African-American culture deeper than other minority groups.

Bruce Lee’s logo for his innovative art, Jeet Kune Do

August 17th 1973, Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon opened in NYC. On November 12th 1973 a gang leader from The Bronx unified the street arts of rap, DJ’ing, graffiti and various forms of dance as Hip-Hop. He founded the Universal Zulu Nation that year to preserve and maintain the subculture on a global scale. A year before, Brooklyn’s Bobby Fischer beat Russia's Boris Spassky in a game of global importance. In September, a new film called Pawn Sacrifice will drop about that chess match and everything that was at stake culturally and politically. These three moments of the early 1970’s impacted American chess, martial arts and Hip-Hop in ways none of us understood at the time. Today we are still discovering its impact. Unveiling these connections are still a beautiful work in progress.


 

he original logo of Mixmaster Mike (of the Beastie Boys) was based on Bruce Lee’s logo for Jeet Kune Do

While exciting entertainment to many, for African American males, Asian Kung-Fu Cinema opened a new door to the Black mind and spirit. Having had our warrior culture removed from us during the transatlantic slave trade though our experience in America, these films gave Black people new ideas and a new ways to reclaim what had been lost 400 years before. Outside of Bruce Lee’s movies films like Shogun Assassin, 36 Chambers of Shaolin, Master of the Flying Guillotine, Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang, and Drunken Master had immense impact. The David Carradine show Kung-Fu (while riddled with many racist elements) also gave weekly wisdom in prime time to those who were smart enough to pay attention.

It is hard to say how many of the African-American’s embracing these films really understood the cultural differences between Chinese and Japanese culture. Obviously on some level this surface understanding could lead to huge generalizations. On the other, this lack of cultural clarity created a space where all of it was taken in, accepted and appreciated. Those that were sincere, took the time to learn the truth. Over time those numbers grew.  


 

Though many of the movies by Bruce Lee and the Shaw Brothers were not of the highest production quality, the wisdom shared was on point. Despite whatever flaws may have been in the overdubbed voices or the corny outfits at times, these films became an obsession in Black America. It appears the ancient wisdom, the discipline and the quest for universal truth all filled a hollow space in many African American hearts, minds and bodies. It is hard to imagine the rise in Blacks practicing Buddhism, the number of Blacks doing yoga and all of the Taoist references in Hip-Hop without Kung-Fu films. It is also hard to envision the rise of the vegan movement in Black America without the rise of Kung-Fu films. These movies changed minds, bodies and spirits. Rappers, DJ’s, Bboys and graffiti writers were all affected and reflected the wisdom in their artistic expression.
 

I don’t think anyone at the time, knew what a benefit these movies would be to Black America. It’s hard to say if Black America itself knew what was taking place and why they were drawn to the films so deeply.
 

RZA, actor and rapper of the iconic Wu-Tang Clan explained the NY scene in the early 1970’s “In Manhattan on 42nd street they had movies. They had a whole slew of shows. We would watch them every weekend. That was around the age of nine. By the time I was twelve or thirteen I started getting fascinated. I would go into Chinatown buying everything. Kung-fu books, slippers [the flat black shoes made famous by Bruce Lee). You name it, I was on a mission.”

 

RZA of Wu-Tang Clan AKA The Man With The Iron Fist with Adisa Banjoko

Reflecting on the impact of the films he says “The good thing for me was growing up in America, there wasn’t much history, outside of the 400 years that I was taught. The only thing they told us back to was Greek mythology, the colonial days, or cowboys and Indians. But I had a chance to watch the martial arts films.  You get to see stuff from the Tang Dynasty, Sung Dynasty, you are seeing 1500 years of history. It kinda opened my mind to a whole new world.... It kinda changed my whole philosophy on life. I started buying books on Buddhism and Taoism. Plus I was studying Christianity, and Islam at the same time. It all translated into my music.”

In the early era of Hip-Hop the teens and young adults gave themselves titles like Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster D and so on. It is still unclear if these were names that were inspired more by Kung-Fu films, or chess, but something new was happening. Rap crews named themselves the Wu-Tang Clan and DJ’s like Mixmaster Ice (of U.T.F.O. towering on stage above the rappers in a ninja outfit. It was all very hard to ignore, and hypnotic to almost anyone who saw it. Other Hip-Hop artists out there notable for showing an influence of martial arts philosophy and culture include Andre Nickatina, Jeru The Damaja, Afu-Ra, DJ Q-Bert and Beastie Boys DJ Mixmaster Mike.

 

Rap crew U.T.F.O. with Mixmaster Ice in front rocking a ninja suit, 1985.

Chess, first and foremost in many people's minds is about strategy. The word strategy comes from the Latin root word strategos meaning “leader of the army”.

The logo for revolutionary rap group dead prez is the I-Ching. The I-Ching (The Book of Changes)  is an ancient divination text going back to 1000 BC. It is  a book of various symbols that have rich meaning and various interpretations. The Dead Prez logo is of  hexagram, shi, meaning “Leader” or “the army”. Each hexagram is composed of “inner” and “outer” trigrams. The inner trigram represents water and the outer represents earth.

This idea of being grounded like earth, but flow like water was made popular in America by Bruce Lee. Within the world of jiu-jitsu, they have positions known as closed guards and open guards. In chess, there are positional developments known as open and closed games. In both arts, one must be clear about the differences and understand the importance of how and where to be strong and how and where to flow. These are continuous themes within martial arts and chess.

In part two, we will look more into this relationship between Hip-Hop and martial arts.  We have much more to explore.


Adisa Banjoko is Founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF). The HHCF is the world's first non-profit 501(c)3 to promote music, chess and martial arts to teach nonviolence at-risk youth. RZA is the organization's HHCF Chess Champion and Director of Outreach. For more information visit www.hiphopchess.com .

Hip-Hop Chess Feature in Black Enterprise

Every once in a while a really cool thing unfolds and it feels great. When I was a kid, my parents used to have Black Enterprise in our house since I was about 11 or 12. As you can imagine it was a big deal to my parents. So, my dad was pretty pumped when he saw this. The HHCF was recently featured in BE and its pretty cool. Much respect and thanks to BIG CED, my NY connection to all things amazing :

You have to wonder what the person who thought of combining peanut butter and jelly was thinking when they did so. Did they know that many years later, it would be a winning combination that is still enjoyed today?

Maybe journalist/author Adisa Banjoko has the same thought process. Well, of course, not in terms of combining food, but in blending not two, but three passions that intertwine in his world. Each one can be and has been uplifting, not only to him, but to a legion of people who, in some form or fashion, has incorporated it into their every day lives.

Years ago, it may have seemed unlikely that hip hop, martial arts and chess would be a merger, but then again, why not? To some, the principles, logic and technique in each one, typically makes the participant better balanced. The art form and annals of each, has a substantial history that lessons can and are learned from.

READ FULL BLACK ENTERPRISE INTERVIEW HERE!

Photo by Eric K. Arnold (one of the coldest to ever hold a camera)

Photo by Eric K. Arnold (one of the coldest to ever hold a camera)

Shot of Adisa Banjoko at Harvard

Adisa Banjoko shortly after addressing Harvard University. He stays repping the West. 

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My talk on Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts at AOCC event at Harvard was amazing. Shout out to JP and Sam, Rich, Brian and Margo and the Brazilian grilled meat spot that fed us all afterwards! The HHCF will be aggressively delivering our methodologies to a city near you soon. I love Boston.

I had to leave the next morning to shoot some stuff with Mike Relm in Area 51 just outside of LA. Much respect to Henny, Gumby, Rakaa, Rener, Pete and Emile...that sushi was mad real after....Then me, Gumby and his lovely wife shot up the 5 and got back to The Bay.

I woke up (tweaked off that no sleep) and was immediately working on submitting proposals for HHCF and navigating upcoming press events. Tune into the next episode of Bishop Chronicles next week to learn more about what appears to be a perfect storm for those trying to spread peace to the planet. . I will have a very special interview with  Rener Gracie and Rakaa Iriscience about the difference between jiu jitsu and MMA on a practical and philosophical level. I can't wait for you to hear it...there is so much more to it...Be strong and lets talk soon. I'm addicted to Twitter so hit me @hiphopchess in between time...

HHCF Joins T-KASH in Oakland Marathon Run for Peace

Rapper T-KASH Runs Marathon at Oakland Running Festival for the Cause of

Non-violence & Education

March 6th 2013, Oakland, CA- The Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) is proud to announce that it is sponsoring rapper T-KASH as he runs for a second time. T-KASH is well known as an Oakland based rapper respected globally for his aggressive rhymes about street life and violence. In recent years T-KASH expanded his physical skills by losing almost 100 lbs and becoming a marathon runner and certified fitness instructor. On March 24th he will participate in the Oakland Running Festival for a second time to promote non-violence, health and education.  

People can donate to his mile match campaign HERE

“T-KASH was one of the first rappers to join the HHCF in our mission” said HHCF Founder Adisa Banjoko. “I watched him transform his own mind and body. He went from about 240 lbs  to a 180 lbs Marathon runner in a little over a year. Its funny because I inspired him to get serious about healthy living, now he’s inspiring me with his dedication to nonviolence and education. There has never been a better time for Oakland and America to choose peace as the way to healing all communities.”

" The culture of gun violence in Oakland can't be addressed before we address the history of the culture of gun violence itself” stated T-KASH. “This can only be done to a certain degree if we just make songs about it. I felt the need to expand the means by which we make this issue visible. That's why I run."

" As a member of the Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention , and an African American/Asian-Pacific Islander student at UC Berkeley, I believe we need to continue bring awareness to the fact that the diversity demographic at UC Berkeley is too small to ignore or attribute to random circumstances."

To fully illustrate his point, T-KASH dropped the MP3 I Run The Bay feat. Adisa Banjoko. The rap is a powerful testament to his lyrical skill and empowering perspective on the importance of having mind and body balance.

In related news, Adisa Banjoko just returned from Harvard University last week hosting a workshop on how music, chess and martial arts promote unity, strategy and non-violence to American youth.

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T-KASH after last years Oakland Running Festival Marathon 

Look cooler than the person next you

Its true on the chessboard, on the mat, on the mic, on the turntables, on the dance floor...

Its true on the chessboard, on the mat, on the mic, on the turntables, on the dance floor...

Let 'em know you love the Bishop Chronicles !! I want to  thank CTRL Industries and Grypp Styles for collaborating with us on this shirt. 

Let 'em know you love the Bishop Chronicles !! I want to  thank CTRL Industries and Grypp Styles for collaborating with us on this shirt. 

OK, so check out this new shirt that represents the HHCF positive balance between logic and physical fitness. A portion of the sales will directly benefit the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. We thank you in advance for your support. http://ctrlindustries.bigcartel.com/product/technique-is-king

RZA Flies HHCF Founder to Harvard March 1st

RZA and Adisa in SF....

RZA and Adisa in SF....

RZA from Wu-Tang Clan Flies Hip-Hop Chess Federation Founder to Harvard University to Speak on Hip-Hop, Chess and Nonviolence

Feb 5th 2013, San Francisco, CA-The Hip-Hop Chess Federation(HHCF) is proud to announce its founder, Adisa Banjoko  will be speaking at The 11th Annual Alumni of Color Conference  at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  On March 1, 2013 from 3:00-4:30 PM  Adisa Banjoko will present a multimedia interactive workshop, “Living The Game: The Powerful Fusion of Hip-Hop & Chess.”

“This presentation will explain in great detail the interwoven histories of Hip-Hop, chess and martial arts” stated Adisa Banjoko. “Further, it will show how the blending of art, logic and physical fitness guide young people to self-discovery, self-mastery and nonviolence.”

Shortly before getting the invite to present at Harvard, his family car was struck from behind while stopped on the freeway. “Between the loss of the car, getting my family seen by the Dr., and dealing with the insurance companies- I was stuck.”

After he got the invite to Harvard he sent an email to RZA (who serves at the HHCF Director of Outreach) explaining the situation. RZA, who is respected for being a man of action but few words sent an email stating “I think I can help.”

A few days later Adisa got an email confirming his flight to Boston. “It was shocking beyond words. RZA has supported the HHCF in many ways, but this was truly unexpected. RZA told me ‘

I'm helping you achieve this vision because on one hand as a comrade you came to me, and I think this can be fruitful for you and your family. On another hand,  I think the young people in our colleges can benefit from analytic minds such as yours. So it's a gift to them as well. Lastly these youths are to become the potential leaders of our country. So in the long run we help all.’”

ABOUT HHCF: The Hip-Hop Chess Federation is the first nonprofit 501(c)3 to fuse music, chess and martial arts, to promote unity, strategy and nonviolence. They host celebrity chess tournaments, youth camps and offer anti-bullying workshops to raise the grade point averages and self esteem of at-risk youth.