HHCF

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 .

FULL DOWNLOAD: Street Games Vol. 1

CLICK LINK BELOW THE COVER ART 

 

HHCF Street Games Vol. 1  FULL DOWNLOAD HERE 

HHCF Street Games Vol. 1 FULL DOWNLOAD HERE 

HHCF Philosophy of The Chess Clock

 

HHCF Philosophy of The Chess Clock

By: Adisa Banjoko, Founder Hip-Hop Chess Federation

Walking lost in the hood, like what are you looking for?/'Cause when you got a second to live, you want a second more- Quadir Lateef feat. Jasiri X, Chess Clock

The first HHCF event was held February 23rd, 2007 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, CA. A lot of really amazing people from the Hip-Hop and the chess and martial arts world were on hand. Some among them include then IM now GM Vinay Bhat, rapper Casual from Hieroglyphics, filmmaker Kevin Epps, and jiu jitsu fighters Paul Schreiner , Alan “Gumby” Marques and Denny “300” Prokopos.

One of the things that I recall most vividly (outside of the moment we all got kicked out for making so much noise- I love it!) was DJ QBert and Yogafrog walked in. QBert has a chess clock in hand and was like “This is the only way I like to play!” At that time, I had never really played on a clock , but I knew it turned up the pressure on the players. Later in the afternoon Vinay and Q were playing a series of games. At the close of one of them Vinay and Q were locked in a frantic focus and as he checkmated QBert and slapped the button there was one solitary second on the clock. Qbert was laughing almost in extacy holding the clock “Look!!! One second man, this is amazing!’” We were all in a balance of shock and awe. It was then that I realized the importance of bughouse and speed chess. It altered my cultural understanding of chess in America and the world.

For me chess is about fun more than anything. From the fun and the joy, everything else can evolve. But if you try to enforce kids to live and die by the checkmate in the beginning, kids burn out. I’ve seen parents grind their kids  through the chess tournament circuit in just a few years. Its like the kid was cursed for having a skill. For having a deep love for the pieces, their young minds were imprisoned on 64 squares. No philosophical angles can thrive when this happens. It is a tough line to walk on how hard and when to push your kids through the eras they want to quit any given sport (especially if they show promise).  As a spectator sport, chess games that go on for more than ten minutes lose the attention of all but the most hardcore lovers. While there is an authentic long term wisdom and straegy in the traditional longer games, in a fast food, smartphone, instant message America- most lose interest and in turn lose the wisdom and power of those games.

But almost all of us love a good game on the chess clock. It turns up the heat on our ideas. It forces us to show and prove our skills in 20, 15, 10, 5, 3, 2 minutes. Even the greatest classically trained chess players melt under the rays of the clocks heat. Its as equally beautiful as it is ominous. The clock reveals us. Time reveals all. The dedication you claim to whatever you say you are about will all be played out in time. Time ruins religious hoaxters and political jokesters. It reveals frauds in finance and faith. Nobody can escape its effect, but many try.

    Essentially, in the HHCF methodology, the clock represents the finite reality of time. It symbolizes the reality of death. When we are young, it is so hard to imagine the frailty of life.  We are running around the earth at warp speeds. We get injured quick and heal quicker. Food is fast, information bombards us in nanoseconds and its hard to make sense of it all. The planet is in a deep series of transitions. Our current rampant wars sparked over land, religion, political, racial and social ideologies are a clash of old and new ideas initializing a ripple effect of separation I believe will lead to a new unity. Our individual lives are a beautiful moment to soak in the beauty of infinity.

    On the chessboard, eventually even if you have the best idea on the planet- once time is up it does not matter!! Your best ideas can no longer be actualized. Its over. How tragic to see the clock is done and see the potential victory of the next moment knowing it will forever remain unrealized.

Real life is like that. Many of us, myself included, abuse, misuse and lose time tricking ourselves about what tomorrow we will do. Hours, months, years, decades go by and we find ourselves still talking about the same things we have not yet done. This is a game we only play in our own mind. Look at the graves near you. We all have a day to be born and a day to die. Time is REAL. More real than your egos illusions of what it is capable of. Once your time is up, nothing can bring you back.

       I don’t say this to be morbid or negative. I tell you this because I hope to inspire you not to be afraid of death. But not to waste time with your life either. Have fun. Feel the suns rays on your body. Laugh under the clouds. Enjoy the rain on your skin. But know that you must balance your time relaxing with consistent days, months and years of deep focus. Take  the enlightenment of your brain and the physical  building of your body seriously. If you have an idea about a business, an artistic project, a musical masterpiece, an accomplishment of any kind you want to see happen get on it now. Tomorrow may come, but it may not. Not just for you, but for anyone.

Trust in the power of now. Don’t let fear of failure, an unsupportive family, or fear of success get in your way. Beat the clock. The only way you beat the clock is to not waste your time. Even if you can’t hear it- its ticking right now. Its your move.   

Adisa Banjoko is founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) and author of the upcoming book Live The Game. The HHCF will drop its new Street Games Vol. 1 Mixtape Nov. 15th  2013. For more information visit the HHCF Facebook page.

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Adisa Banjoko & Mike Relm @ The World Chess Hall of Fame May 8th!

Live the Game: National Experts Convene in St. Louis

to Highlight the Powerful Fusion of Chess, Hip Hop, and Martial Arts

March 4, 2013 (St. Louis, MO) -- Look closely and you’ll see it at the beginning of the new Justin Timberlake video featuring Jay-Z. Read the lyrics of “General Principles” by GZA. Check out the album cover for Pawns in the Game, the 1990 album by Public Enemy emcee Professor Griff. It also shows up with RZA in scenes featuring hip hop characters on the hit TV show Californication.

It’s chess. And at first glance, it doesn't appear to have a link to hip hop. Throw martial arts into the mix and you really have to have your finger on the pulse of popular culture to know about the connection.

A group of national experts who really do know do “have their finger on the pulse” – and know the impact that this combination can have on young people – will meet in St. Louis on May 8 to present to students of the Innovative Concept Academy. A second session with local leaders will be held at the Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

“These presentations will illustrate how chess and martial arts have been woven into the history of hip hop. Further, it will show how the blending of art, logic, and physical fitness guide young people to self-discovery, self-mastery, and nonviolence,” said Adisa Banjoko, journalist and founder of the Hip Hop Chess Federation.

Banjoko, who has been tapped to present at institutions like Harvard University and Brown University, assembled the group and will moderate discussions. Panelists include Dr. James Peterson (founder of Hip Hop Scholars, LLC, and director of Africana studies at Lehigh University), Mike Relm Youtube video remix icon and co-founder of Bishop Chronicles podcast show, Asheru (Peabody Award-winning journalist, creator of The Boondocks theme song, educator, and youth activist), and Alan "Gumby" Marques (Black belt in jiu-jitu and founder of Heroes Martial Arts).

The presentations are sponsored and coordinated by The World Chess Hall of Fame.

“Our focus at the World Chess Hall of Fame is to show how the game of chess has an impact on society. The work of Adisa and the other panelists has been life-changing for many people. The examples they will share will show how this change can happen in St. Louis as well,” said Susan Barrett, executive director of the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Details

Date: May 8, 2013

Presentation 1: 10 am, Innovative Concept Academy

Presentation 2: 3:30 pm, Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

About Adisa Banjoko

Adisa Banjoko is a respected journalist, lecturer and the founder of the Hip Hop Chess Federation. His organization has appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and Vibe magazine. He’s also been a guest on NPR and Good Morning America.

About Dr. James Peterson

Dr. James Braxton Peterson (Duke ’93, UPENN 2003) is the Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University. He has been a visiting lecturer and preceptor in African American Studies at Princeton University and the Media Coordinator for the Harvard University Hip Hop Archive. He is also the founder of Hip Hop Scholars, LLC, an association of Hip Hop generational scholars dedicated to researching and developing the cultural and educational potential of Hip Hop, urban, and youth cultures.

About Mike Relm

Mike Relm is a pioneer video remix artist who has toured with The Blue Man Group, Tony Hawk and rocked stages at Coachella, Bonnaroo and The House of Blues. He has more than 13 million hits on Youtube. Notable remixes include Iron Man 2Old SpiceScott Pilgrim Vs. The World,Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. His Punisher/Spirit/Transporter remix won the 2009 Webby Award for Best Mashup/Remix.

About Asheru

Asheru, born Gabriel Benn, is a hip hop artist, educator, and youth activist. He is widely known for performing the opening and closing themes for the popular TV series, The Boondocks, as well as his pioneering and innovative efforts to forward the Hip Hop Education movement.

About Alan “Gumby” Marques

Gumby is a second degree black belt in Jiu Jutsu and is best know as the co-founder of OTM, one of the world’s leading sources for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He is an author, commentator, coach, referee, and instructor.

About the World Chess Hall of Fame

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The World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) is a nonprofit organization committed to building awareness for the cultural and artistic significance of chess. It opened on September 9, 2011, in St. Louis’s Central West End after moving from previous locations in New York and Miami.

The WCHOF is housed in an historic 15,900 square-foot building that includes three floors of galleries, the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame, and the stylish Q Boutique. It provides visitors with a unique opportunity to use chess as a platform for learning, exploring, and seeing their world in entirely new ways.

It is the only cultural institution of its kind in the world and the only solely chess-focused collecting institution in the U.S.

For more information, visit www.worldchesshof.org

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...

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.