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Thursday, September 26, 2019

No Holds Barred: Professor Mo on 52 Blocks Self-Defense System 


On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with martial artist Mahaliel Bethea AKA Professor Mo AKA Sensei Mo.

Our main topic was the urban self-defense system known as 52 Blocks.

We spoke with him by phone Wednesday.

52 Blocks, he said, is an "urban self-defense system, because it's not a traditional martial art. Some people connect it with prison, and the researchers really connect it all the way from Africa. And because of mass incarceration obviously, prison becomes a breeding ground, a kind of gladiator, where people are able to try out their skills in the 52 Blocks.

"And the 52 Blocks evolved. It evolved from the Virginia Shuffle," he continued. "The slaves came into Virginia, so obviously Virginia was the first port. And it's called the Virginia Shuffle. And then later on it became wall fighting. And then it became stato. And then some people called it Jailhouse Rock. And now it's called the 52. And the 52, because there's a little more playing with the cards, and the 52 cards in the deck.

"So that's why the 52 Blocks became popular."

Because of its history as a grassroots and underground self-defense fighting system, mainly centered in the African-American community and under incredibly brutal and oppressive conditions, 52 Blocks has lacked any common curriculum or organization.

That also is starting to change, as Professor Mo will be hosting a 52 Blocks certification seminar in Harlem, New York, on Saturday, October 19. While details of how to register will be posted shortly, plans are also in the works for a 52 Blocks Federation.

But, as he stressed, 52 Blocks is a self-defense system and not the same as a sport. Even with a more developed curriculum, however, it still will largely be an "improvisational art".

The 52 Blocks curriculum will include defense against weapons, including sticks, knives, and guns, and also against dogs.

We also discussed more on the plans for the October 19 seminar, how his Fight Back MMA school in Harlem is the only one in New York instructing people in 52 Blocks, more on the self-defense techniques of 52 Blocks, how 52 Blocks is related to boxing, how instruction in the 52 Blocks is expanding to more places in the U.S., recent coverage of 52 Blocks and an interview with Professor Mo in Black Belt magazine, and much, much more.

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