Arts

By now, you've probably heard all about 52 Blocks — especially because we featured the martial art and its most visible proponent Professor Mo, aka Mahaliel Bethea, on the cover of our magazine last year. Just in case you haven't, know that 52 Blocks is a self-defense system that was spread in American prisons but that actually originated in Africa, according to Professor Mo. That's the reason we titled our June/July 2019 cover story with him "Art of Africa, Not Art of Incarceration."

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Some years ago, one of our experts, an experienced SWAT officer, asked for a drill to control and reduce stress (specifically, the kind that that arises on a dangerous mission like a hostage rescue or raid on a terrorist safehouse). He received a simple drill on rhythmic breathing and visualization. Its essence was to inhale, stop, and exhale in four-second increments for each segment, while paying special attention to the moment when the air flow changes direction. This drill should be done during the preparation period before the stress-inducing action begins, and also on a daily basis.

The next time we met, the officer told me, "This drill changed my life." It enabled him to control his mind and the stress during missions, be more focused, and function much better.

Imagine, after over 15 years in the unit, a simple breathing exercise changed his life.

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As women, we are fierce creatures by nature. While women tend to be more stereotypically associated with being nurturers, we are all born with the ability to flip a switch and transform from caring, gentle and benevolent beings into terrifying forces to be reckoned with in order to protect ourselves and our family.

In the wild, the most dangerous thing you can stumble upon is a mother protecting her young. The lioness can be more terrifying even than the larger male lion. This is because her ferocity is driven by her protective instincts and love for her cubs, whereas male lions usually fight for dominance or territory (in human terms, they're fighting for ego). The force driving the "why" behind the fighting spirit is more powerful than the physical attributes.

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Get Ready — the African Martial ArtsAre About to Hit the World Stage!

It's well-documented that martial arts and combat sports have existed in Africa for millennia. Perhaps the most famous evidence of this facet of human history are the 4,000-year-old tomb paintings of wrestlers and other martial artists at an Egyptian site called Beni Hasan.


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How Jeff Smith Became a Kickboxing Champion —and One of the Most Respected Instructors in the World!

In the early 1960s, when Americans were first hearing about The Beatles, Jhoon Rhee operated four martial arts schools in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. The man who would become known as the father of taekwondo in America also regularly traveled around the country to a dozen clubs, where he tested students trained by his black belts. One such club was located on the campus of Texas A&M University, where Jeff Smith's mother worked and Jeff, then a teenager, delivered newspapers.

"One day on my route, I noticed a sign for a karate demonstration at the student-union ballroom," Smith recalls. "I went and wanted to enroll [in the club], but it was for college students only. I talked to my mother, she talked to the dean, and they decided to let me and several other of the faculty kids in.


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