Saturday, 13 October 2007

A plug for a worthy book

Fighting for Honor
The History of African Martial Arts Traditions in the Atlantic World
T. J. Desch Obi
A groundbreaking investigation into the migration of martial arts
techniques across continents and centuries
6 x 9, 376 pages, 45 illus.
cloth, $34.95s
ISBN 978-1-57003- 718-4
The Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World
David Gleeson, Simon Lewis, and W. Scott Poole, series editors

The presence of African influence and tradition in the Americas has
long been recognized in art, music, language, agriculture, and
religion. T. J. Desch Obi explores another cultural continuity that
is as old as eighteenth-century slave settlements in South America
and as contemporary as hip-hop culture. In this thorough survey of
the history of African martial arts techniques, Obi maps the
translation of numerous physical combat techniques across three
continents and several centuries to illustrate how these practices
evolved over time and are still recognizable in American culture
today. Some of these art traditions were part of African military
training while others were for self-defense and spiritual
Grounded in historical and cultural anthropological methodologies,
Obi's investigation traces the influence of well-delineated African
traditions on long-observed but misunderstood African and African
American cultural activities in North America, Brazil, and the
Caribbean. He links the Brazilian martial art capoeira to reports of
slave activities recorded in colonial and antebellum North America.
Likewise Obi connects images of the kalenda African stick-fighting
techniques to the Haitian Revolution. Throughout the study Obi
examines the ties between physical mastery of these arts and
changing perceptions of honor. Including forty-five illustrations,
this rich history of the arrival and dissemination of African
martial arts in the Atlantic world offers a new vantage for
furthering our understanding of the powerful influence of enslaved
populations on our collective social history.

T. J. Desch Obi received his doctorate in African history from the
University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on
historical ethnography, which he explores through the lens of
African and African diaspora martial arts. He is currently an
assistant professor of African and African diaspora history at the
City University of New York's Baruch College.