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Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Although as a youth he had a background in both wrestling and amateur boxing - his father was a boxer - Kilindi Iyi soon became attracted to the martial arts. This coincided with the rise of the Black Power movement, and growing up in the oft-rebellious Detroit area, he began to study the origins of the martial arts. He learned that the best evidence we have today shows that the martial arts originated in Africa, so he began to devote himself not only to preserving that history, but also spreading interest in what he calls the African fighting sciences.
"No one actually knows where martial arts started. It could have been St. Louis, Missouri, for all we know. But as far as the recorded evidence that we have today, because somebody may come along tomorrow and find out some other recorded evidence, the oldest fighting systems that we have come from the African continent," he said in this interview, which was recorded by phone Monday.
Since "the oldest records of human beings are located, in bone and in stone," in Africa, he concluded that we can then glean that "the oldest systems that we have record of now are the African fighting sciences."
He also understood that the martial arts require "well-rounded" training, in striking, grappling, and weapons. He has traveled to Africa many times, and studied everything from Senegalese wrestling and the numerous styles of wrestling in Africa, to the warrior societies such as of the Maasai in Tanzania, and just about everything in-between.
As for MMA, he coached Tai Bowden at UFC 9 in May 1996 in Detroit, well before the current rules were in place. He said that many of the elite fighters from the traditional martial arts did not participate in those early UFCs. We discussed the experience of those early UFCs, and also MMA today.
For Kilindi Iyi, however, the main thing about martial arts is not who wins or loses a fight. Key for the practitioners are "the reasons why you fight, and the reasons why you don't fight." Martial arts to him aim to teach people "how you live your life," and not simply fighting techniques.
We also discussed how the martial arts have actually been hurt by getting included in the Olympics or trying to get included; the long decline of Detroit and the roots of its present declaration of financial bankruptcy; how many martial arts today are still racially segregated; what we should and should not conclude about the life of Bruce Lee; sometimes-forgotten Jeet Kune Do fighters such as Carlton James and Larry Hartsell; why young people seeking training in martial arts should choose a school which emphasizes character and etiquette rather than choosing mainly on style; and much more.
In addition, we also discussed the Warrior Retreat, which will be held August 30-September 1 in Williamstown, New Jersey, where he will be one of the many instructors.
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