Thursday, November 20, 2008

Training in Abir: Part 1

So you may have been wondering where I have been, or maybe you haven't. In any case I have been training more in the self-defense/fighting style I have mentioned on this blog before called Abir. Abir is a Jewish martial art that was preserved by the Jews of Habban in southern Yemen. I have been fortunate to learn Abir from the Aluf Abir - Grandmaster Yehoshua Sofer, and I have also been teaching Abir to a kid at my synagogue here in Maale Adummim.

I have also been working on some videos for Abir, and here is my first offering. I am hoping to do about 4 or 5 in total. This video also provides sources from Jewish texts concerning Abir. All of the sources are in Hebrew, but anyone who wants a translation let me know.

You can read more about my experience with Abir in the following posts.

So What's Nu?

The Way of the Israeli Warrior


הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Wow. Very interesting. I've never heard of any of this stuff, though I did always wonder about the Habbani Jews.. I just read the Wikipedia article on them (not overly informative). Right now I'm going through the origional August post with comments (I suppose I'll have to check out that "" if I want to really find out about it).

That's a very overlooked (t'shuva from the) Rambam quoted in the video by the way, I love how down to earth it is. ..though I'm not sure hand-to-hand fighting will 'save us' today...(not that it should be overlooked: I hated how that Ashkenazi Rabbi was barely looking at Rabbi Sofer while talking to him in that pic. in the video).

Ehav Ever said...

Thanks for checking out my blog. Yeah, I wrote some of the information on the Habbanim on Wikipedia. I decided not to do much with it because of the rules about uploading photos.

The information about the Habbanim is a bit sparse because they lost a lot of their records and such. There were only 450 Jews in Habban. There is a good book, which I used for most of that article called Judaism of Habban by Ma'atuf Sa'adya ben Yitzhaq. He talks about how for the research for his book he had to talk to a lot of people because the records were somewhat sparse. His book is REALLY hard to find because he wrote it as a master's thesis in 1984. I have a copy and it is an interesting read.

I can tell you that much of the information about Abir, in English especially, is unreliable. There are a number of articles that were written about that were not correct. Even the current web-site was put up by someone and not written correctly. We are going to be working on that soon. For the moment I am working on videos that will explain it more clearly and correct some of the misinformation about Abir.

It is not a matter of simply hand to hand = victory. In Abir we learn more than just that. We learn Torah, hand to hand, foot to face, hand to ribs, etc. lol In seriousness it is only a part of a bigger picture. There are situations where we Jews do need to know how to defend ourselves with hand to hand. Especially, knowing how to do so based on Torah and Halakhah. There have been a number of times here in Israel when Arabs have tried to kidnap Jews, and said Jews had no weapons.

concerning the picture of the Rabbi that the Aluf Abir is speaking with, from what I understand it was a debate about Abir. The rabbi wrote the Aluf Abir a letter concerning Abir. Sometimes photos are not the same as video. If a person looks away for a moment and a picture is snapped it may give the wrong impression sometimes.

Rachel said...

I pity the man who tries to kidnap you, Ehav. ;)

In 3:11 and 4:25... why does it look like a semi-belly dance before the "attack"? (Can you do that move in 4:25? I think I re-viewed that part over three times.)

Ehav Ever said...

Hey Rachel,

I am not that dangerious.........yet. lol

At 3:11 what is being done is an exercise. That portion of the video is made up of exercises that come from the dances. All of the movements in Abir are circular, and many of them require a looseness of the body. In order to obtain that we do exercises that help get a person flexible. Also, some of our moves are from Jewish dances (Yemenite and Habbani) which preserved the movement. Often this is caled a Tavnit Tanuah or a Tzurat. It is like a person who learns ballet in order to improve their jumps in basketball. At 4:25 this is half Tavnit Tanuah and half actual technique. It is similar to when you see a Jambiya dance. A Jambiya dance is based on an actual way of attacking, but now it is dance. Part of it is called Ta'ad Habbani or Dum Tak.

In terms of can I do the moves of 4.25. I can do parts of it. I am at the moment working on my form in unarmed combat, as compared to weaponized combat. I do know a few things in sword play, but not that what is in the video. I am one of those people who tries to learn a thing like this slowly. Some people think they can pick up something like this over night. Successful martial artitist are those who train for years, they train a lot and they train harder.

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Yeah, take it slow with the 'sword dancing' man; if you don't know what you're doing when trying that sword dance move displayed in the end of the video (which was pretty neat by the way) can seriously cut your head off by accident, so...

Ehav Ever said...

Actually, sword maneuvers aren't done in most fighting styles until a person has mastered the techniques of hand to hand. You can actually have the same problem in regular hand to hand techniques. For example, if you are practicing hitting punching bag and you hit it the wrong way you can either break something or tear a muscle. That is why a person who is serious takes things step by step. You learn the movements, work up endurance, and then as time goes on work on power and speed. After a person a accomplishes that a person progresses into different phases of weaponized combat. This could take YEARS of training. It is not something that weekend warriors train in. That is why people train in martial arts for a short time normally don't know how to use weapons.

When a person begins to train with weapons, normally they start off with simulation weapons such as wooden swords or wooden staffs. Different weapons require different types of attacks. For example, the Katana is more of a slashing sword and one trains with it in a certain way. The Flyssa is more of a stabbing sword. Trying to use a particular sword the way another sword is used is dangerous. I had a Katana as a kid, and I know how that was to be used. I am now in simulation made with a bamboo short staff. The type of sword that I am learning now is for a longer Jambiya. So I am having to relearn the movements.

In fact there is a good article about the differences in how swords are used here.

Anonymous said...

Nice little video. I consider myself just a student of fighting. I will learn anything anyone has to teach me. That is if they are someone worth learning from.

By the way sorry it took so long to get over here. I am still healing. Legs are like jello right now. I have been dipping into the wine a little extra these past couple days. ; )

Some of this video reminds me slightly of what the Russian Spetsnaz used to train their commandos knife fighting with. It wouldn't surprise me if the two were related distantly. I mean Russia and Israel aren't all that far away from eachother.

I really don't care for the Katana even though I am in Japan. There is a prejudice here about it being the "Greatest sword ever made" All I keep thinking is that "If I had a good Falcata you wouldn't be so quick to talk trash" Even a Gladius is on par to the ever so precious japanese katana. Sorry I am ranting. LOL

Anyways, Rock On. I think it would be fun to come out to Israel to train with you guys for a while.

Yochanan said...

I'm glad Yehoshua'Sofer chose this as his calling and not something like a mafia goon 'cuz he looks like someone you don't wanna f-with.

beverly adams baptiste said...

Greetings, Ehav Ever

I am very pleased with the youtube video of what you are learning about ABIR so far. I really like the soundtrack for the video also. Do you know the name of the artist and/or where I could find that soundtrack please-it's so beautiful and healing.

Might I also add that you and my late father's sister's son could pass for twin brothers, with all due respect, the facial resemblance is very strong.

Eternal blessings to you and thank you for the information.

Beverly Adams Baptiste

Ehav Ever said...

Greetings Beverly,

Thank you for checking out my blog. The song in the video is by Shalom Tzabari. The song is called Ya Ayin Sheni. You can find the CD here.