Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Abir Revealed

I didn't want to do this. I was just ridiculing some morons on the Internet, it was all in good fun. But then I had to go and open my big mouth to someone who actually knows Grand Master Jackass Sofer, who told me the secret of Abir.

And that was cool. I could keep it under my ninja spodik. I had self-control.

Until I saw this.

According to Grandmaster Yehoshua Sofer:

My family lived in Israel for 100 generations, since the time of Saraya Sofer—a royal scribe and warrior who served the kingdom of Israel. Both ancient Israelite writing and martial arts traditions, were handed down in my family from generation to generation.[16]

The Sofer family has a tradition that, following the wars of Bar Kokhba, their ancestors lived in Piq'in near Tiberias for one thousand years, and at the time of the Crusades, moved to Hevron, where they lived for another one thousand years, some of them moving back and forth between Israel and Yemen all the while. This is substantiated by two photographs the Abir has: one is that of his uncles in the 1920s, who lived in Hevron, in service of the Khalif of Jordan. The other, from only a few years earlier, is of his grandfather's brother, was in Oman, in service of the son of the Sultan.

Members of the Sofer family moved between Jerusalem and Habban in eastern Aden to cities such as Baidha. "Baidha" means "white" in Yemeni Arabic. While in Israel, Nachman Sofer and his youngest son, Ya`aqov Mosha, Grandmaster Yehoshua Sofer's father, left the region for Jamaica following the Hevron massacres of 1929, in which two of his uncles were murdered. From there they would move to the United States and later back to Israel.

The Abir Concept

...According to the Abir web-site:

The Twelve Tribes Principles and The Ten Emanations (These are very esoteric and intricate educational tools to understand the nature of combined movement and force in an application of the other principles directed into specific points of energy, mass or “targets” as well as the use of telepathy and hypnosis to direct or disable one's adversary)

This science as described in great depth in sources found throughout The Holy Torah are taught to “performers” of Abir, who regardless of their background in Jewish study and Torah Life, commitment/observance (or the lack of these) can begin training in this dance form that houses a deadly form…or formless system of self defense that is as effective today as it was in defeating the ancient military forces of Median, Ai, Eglon, Lah’ish, Canaanim, Khittim, Amorim, Prizim, Yebusim and Girgashim.

An Abir can be viewed as one who defends the palace that houses the Neshama (the soul), the Ruah (spirit), and the Gouf (physical body) within a circumference that is called one's Dalled (four) Amoth (designated spaces used as measurements) as commanded by G-d to defend; because inside a true Abir is housed a living Torah, for through its study the Abir seeks to internalize its wisdom, to become holy, pure, and to exemplify the very virtues that indeed describe the Abir of Israel that comprises the initials of this ancient Hebrew word (Aleph, Bet, Yod, Resh).

The Abir approach is based on a combination of the following elements.

  • Judaic principles found in the Torah
  • The Ancient Hebrew alphabet.
  • Philosophical principles and movements based on symbols surrounding the 12 Tribes of Israel.
  • Techniques passed down by Jewish communities such as the (Habbani Jews and Daghestani Jews)
  • Jewish dances from various exotic or ancient communities, which anciently were a part of the ancient Abir combat system.
AAAGH! Get your fake martial arts HORSE CRAP off Wikipedia!

It gets even worse on the talk page.

...I understand about being skeptical about Abir, I was also based on the same articles. I was very skeptical when I first heard about it, because the web-sites and the articles weren't clear. It wasn't until I actually contacted some Teimanim in Israel about it and I also contacted Grandmaster Sofer concerning proof that I changed my mind about it. As mentioned before I received letters from a Yemenite Rabbi and an Ashkenazi Rabbi who state that Abir is ancient and authentic. In terms of the article, it only reflects what is on the web-site which Grandmaster Sofer states is not completely accurate. Grandmaster Sofer mentioned to me that he is working on getting his website corrected.

My brains, my beautiful brains, they're leaking all over the floor...


Ok, that's it. Sorry to break it to all you Abir fans, but here's the skinny on the "ancient art" and the Abir Master as explained to me by a trusted source who actually knows Senor Sofer.

A- Among friends, the esteemed master Abir Aluf Mori Yehoshua Sofer is affectionately known as "Yehoshuass."

B- This seems to be at least partially related to the fact that Mr. Sofer is an incorrigible practical joker.

C- Mr. Sofer is indeed highly proficient in Kuk Sul Won, a martial art which he studied for years to master. This discipline, which, I should point out, has the extra advantage of actually existing, is, as far as anyone can tell, what Mr. Sofer has spent much of his professional life teaching people.

D- Martial arts enthusiasts have observed that despite Mr. Sofer's many impressive claims to be teaching people an ancient Jewish martial art, complete with Hebrew alphabet-inspired moves and combinations, Abir seems to look remarkably like Kuk Sul Won.

E- Hebrew alphabet enthusiasts have observed that in order to have enough letters to make all of Abir's moves work, Mr. Sofer had to add Rashi script. It has yet to be explained exactly how this medieval Sephardic writing innovation made its way to the Sofers in Israel, but most theories presumably involve Crusaders killing some Jews in Europe and stealing their books, then accidentally dropping them after arriving in the Holy Land, whereupon the Sofers got hold of them and realized, "hey, this will allow us to have more than 27 moves!" Or maybe a Crusader brought a talking severed Jew's head along with him tied to his belt and the Sofers rescued it and made it tell them secrets.

F- Mr. Sofer, inheritor of Yemeni traditions for two thousand years, is actually a New Yorker of Ashkenazi extraction.

G- It is unclear whether Mr. Sofer's many glowing endorsements from rabbis, Internet rebbes (hi, Lazer!) and stupid newspeople and random schmoes are in-jokes, or whether said people are just profoundly stupid. It is also highly likely that some of these rabbis know that Mr. Sofer's backstory is sufficiently ludicrous as to be absurd and go along with it for the sake of getting their chubby yeshiva bochers some much-needed exercise.

H- There is nothing wrong with making up your own (admittedly amusing) cool Jew-Fu backstory to teach Jewish kids Kuk Sul Won. There is also nothing wrong with being up front about your bullshit.

I'm sorry if I ruined Abir for everyone. In the interests of being respectful, I think I'm going to retire the "ridiculing Abir" category from the blog, since, as I'm sure you'll all agree, there's something not quite funny about making fun of someone when they're actually kidding (even if they've managed to convince everyone that they're not).

I hope you'll stick around for the next post, when we say goodbye to Abir forever.

16 comments:

Oyster said...

As far-fetched as Abir sounds, does not your argument against it boil down to "I have trusted friends that tell me that Mr. Sofer is a fraud"? If they are truly his friends, why would they call him a jackass?

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Well my argument against it for a long time was, "This sounds like complete horseshit," particularly the part about him claiming to be Yeminite when he looks white as white can be, and the fact that his various origin stories don't add up at all, like claiming alternately that it's an old family secret passed down from the tribe of Naftali, or that his g.grandfather learned it in the Tsar's army. Also the fact that claiming that secret moves are encoded in the alphabet is supremely moronic.

However, what this guy essentially said was, a) that he was an acquaintance of Sofer's (not a close friend), and b), that he is a huge practical joker, (and apparently all his friends refer to him by said name, which gives one an idea of the credibility level he operates on). He added and that what Sofer is actually known for is Kuk Sul Won.

This source also talked to a student of Sofer's and relayed their conversation back to me- supposedly, all of Sofer's friends are "in on it" and know that their Jew-fu is actually Kuk Sul Won, only now they're calling the moves things like Maneuver Alef instead of "grapple," or "eye gouge." Again, great. I'm all for reinventing interesting cultural practices (though the actual cultural appropriation here is a tad concerning). Call stuff whatever you want. Call it Maneuver Avocado, I don't care. The problem is when people actually start believing his mythical origin story and promoting it over the Internet. It would be like me claiming to have found "Zohar 2.0" in my basement.

As an aside, my source hypothesized that Sofer is probably upfront with the rabbis and other people he goes to for endorsements, and they support him anyway, if only because it helps lower pre-existing barriers between some haredim and the martial arts (due to concerns about the influence of things like Buddhism and Shinto in them).

balabusta in blue jeans said...

The Grandmaster has done at least one huge mitzvah, and I don't mean reintroducing Native Israelite Martial Arts. I was so blue today, and now I am HOWLING.

I can't believe it's on Wikipedia. Well, yes, I CAN believe it, I just don't want to.

After all these years of making fun of people who insist that they're descended from a direct line of witches dating back to the Bronza Age, I have had my comeuppance. Good God.

I especially like the part about how the secret moves are embedded in Jewish dance, unbeknownst to the watcher, or even the dancer.

I have a friend who studies Kuk Sool Wan. She'll love this.

Friar Yid said...

BBJ- Always happy to help. Feel free to direct her here to see the whole series:

http://friaryid.blogspot.com/search/label/Abir
and of course Lazer himself, without whom I would have to scour the internet on my own to be amusing.

Sultan Knish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

BS"D

To friar-yid / ignorant-yid / personality assasin-yid / G-dless yid:

Pardon my bluntness, but you are one of the the most cynical jerks I've seen on the internet. I will answer your pathetic attacks not for your sake, but for the benefit of your innocent viewers.

In the Talmud it's written, "if you want to lie, be sure the witnesses [to the matter] are far away." I and others are witnesses to things that make it impossible for slanderers like you to get away with your squeaking lies about the Aluf Abir's Yemenite heritage, his skin color, and his holy warrior art tradition.

* THE ABIR'S FAMILY:

As a student of Abir, I have repeatedly seen members of his family coming to see visit mori Yehoshua and see our training. They are as Yemenite as can be, and resemble him in the family's distinct traits. (Are you claiming this is staged? Masks and all? Let's see your family--maybe people should start question your Jewish ethnicity, frie-yid.)

* THE ABIR'S ANCESTORS:

A scholar of Abir for two years and dedicated student of Abir, I have had the priviledge to personally view old photographs of the Aluph Abir's ancestors. One of the most precious is on the wikipedia site. (Let's see pictures of your ancestors. Can you prove your pedigree? If you can't, no one else can? Why can you not accept that there are families that preserved these things? I personally know a few.

As a Habbani Yemenite Jew, mori Yehoshua` has a tradition of tying tephillin according to a tradition of hoary age, spelling out G-d's Name in k:thav da`atz (aka "Paleo-Hebrew")--an 'alaph-beth' (alphabet) lost to the rest of Jewry. They also have a sword tradition based on these letters. We know that with the exception of the Leviticus scroll from Qumran, this 'alaph-beth' has been entirely out of use and nearly forgotten by the entire Jewish world until the rise of modern scholarship... So how did the Habbanis know and use these letters, unless they are descended from an relatively isolated clan that preserved them from antiquity? Were they university-trained archaeology buffs back in Habban, 70 years ago?

(Whatever language your ancestors preserved, you use this one [English] to slander and deride a Torah scholar and denigrate a holy ethnic group of my people.)

I have met and questioned a few Yemenite Jews of different backgrounds--none of whom knew about Abir in the slightest--regarding the veracity of the Habbani warrior claims. I found that NON-Habbani Yemenites have traditions about their long-haired, sword-wielding, fearless cousins. I met one such young man, an Israeli Yemenite of Bal`adi ancestry, waiting in a long line together, just two weeks ago: He recounted a living memory of the Habbani's warrior prowess, passed down to him from his grandfather. He told me the Habbanis bore the ancient art of Israelite tribes, "but you should know that it no more. It doesn't exist anymore." (When I asked him, this young Israeli had never even heard about Abir, or mori Yehoshua'. He couldn't know how much his innocent mistake gave a true historical context to the Abir family history.

An elder member of a far branch of the family in Hevron, who had no knowledge of the Aluph Abir, told us a similar story about the family's past, particularly about his great-grandfather. A mighty warrior, who took on a small army of 400 Arabs singlehandedly. Again, having no prior familiarity with the claims of the Aluph Abir, his independent story supports the historical context.

One thing is considered historical fact to anyone who studies the subject: the Habbani Jews were formidable warriors. Another well-known fact is that unlike the other communities, they refused the marks of dhimmi status--openly wearing the full traditional head-dress, and bearing arms. By what other means could they have survived like that--as proud, free (unlike their Yemenite brethren in cities), unemasculated Jews--in one of the most hostile places on earth?

(What stories will your descendents tell about you? That you spread ignorant lies about the Banei Abir of Hadramaut before a world audience?)

* THE TRUTH ABOUT YEMENI COMPLEXION:

The Adenite Habbinis are the lightest colored Yemenites, being mixed with `Iraqi Jews from the North. The Jews of Al Baidha with whom the Jews of Habban frequently married, were particularly fair. Besides that, the Aluph Abir's grandmother of blessed memory was Ukrainian. Just as there are Ashkenazim who are much darker complected than white Sefaradim like myself, the Aluph Abir is a light-skinned Habbani.

(What skin color are you? Does it matter?)

* HIS YEMENI LANGUAGE SKILLS:

The Aluph Abir is fluent in Yemeni Arabic. I've witnessed his fluent conversations with local Arabs, yet his Arabic has a distinct quality to it. This native fluency is not something a non-Yemenite could pretend. Having been born and raised outside of Yemen, he is more naturally and authentically 'Yemenite' than any Israeli Yemenite I've ever met.

* THE KUCK-SOOL WAN JOKE:

Claims that the Abir must have grafted his own art onto a Korean base because he mastered Korean arts are fraudulent.

I will share five unique characteristics of Abir that stand ALONE among the warrior arts:

1) The curved motion of all arm and leg movements. This is especially noticeable in the leg strikes, which are circular in motion. This is UNLIKE ANY FIGHTING SYSTEM THAT EXISTS.

2) The exactly parallel treatment of arms and legs, as opposed to the dichotomous way the upper and lower limbs are viewed in foreign systems. ENTIRELY UNIQUE.

3) The continual, fluid, dance motion in Abir, rooted in a spirit of pure, simple joy and humble surrender of one's will before G-d. As opposed to the arrogant focusing of one's own energy, common in other forms, the Abir warrior strives to become a perfect vessel of Divine Will, and a conduit of the energy of Creation. (SOUND REMOTELY SIMILAR TO KUCK-SOOL? DON'T THINK SO.)

4) A fighting system devised of the distinct shapes of an ancient alphabet. A tradition from time immemorial, the Hebrew warriors fight according to the distinct, sacred shapes of the modern and paleo-Hebrew letters. No other system is comprised of anything like it. (IS KUCK-SOOL ALSO BASED ON THE HEBREW LETTERS?)

5) A received tradition from the Abir's ancestors through the ages is a repeated cry of praise to G-d that punctuates our workout: "Adonenu, Borenu, YoSrenu, Rophenu!" "our Master, our Creator, our Maker, our Healer!" These and other Hebrew call-and-response cries between the Abir trainer and warriors-in-training are entirely unique in the world.

Although I have not studied Korean art forms, I know that Kuck Sool Wan is a modern, more diverse form of Hapkido. A general adaptation of the fighting arts of Northeast Asia (Japan Korea, China), with a Korean approach.

Abir is far softer and internal. Joint locks and throws are done by wrapping of the limbs without use of the hands to grab the opponent. This leaves the Abir's hands free to flow into another expression. More importantly, as an element of the practice of Judaism, it a way of life.

* THE FOOLISHNESS OF THE ABIR-KUKSOOL EQUATION:

Claiming that Abir is built on a Kuk-Sool base is like saying that because Yemenite Arabic was his mother tongue; when the Abir speaks English or Hebrew, he must be grafting those languages onto a base of Arabic grammar... How ridiculous--he is fluent in a few languages!

That being said, know that "Abir" was Grandmaster Sofer's first fighting language and the only one that ever mattered to him.

Your pitiful, snooty comments won't change the truth: He studied those other forms against his will. Groomed and trained in the art of his ancestors from the age of three, he always longed to practice Abir only and make it known. HOWEVER, HIS FATHER AND GRANDFATHER FORBADE HIM TO REVEAL THE ART until he would become at least Dan 7 in one other fighting form, become recognized as expert in several other diverse forms, and reach the age of forty.

As immigrants to West, they understood that the Abir massorah would need to contend with a world of competing martial arts to survive. They wanted to ensure the next torch bearer could adapt the art to the modern world accordingly. Just as Hebrew needed to adapted to fit the needs of the 20th century.

In conclusion, let's look at a likely source of frier-yid's cynicism: DISBELIEF IN HIS OWN PEOPLE'S ABILITY TO PRESERVE SUCH AN AMAZING TRADITION. Another source of his cynicism is unfamiliarity will all the Torah sources--spanning Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, and commentaries that prove the preservation of our fighting traditions throughout the centuries.

However, if a new article reported the discovery of a hidden fighting tradition among the !Kung Bushmen of Namilia that stretched back 10,000 years in time, would 'friar-yid' and his ilk would speak out with such venom? Or is it only Jews that get such treatment by him? In general, given our Western "ethos of the 'noble savage'", half-naked primitives get the benefit of the doubt as to the hoary age of their traditions. Yet, when news of a 3,000+ year fighting tradition is revealed among Jews of a remote Yemenite clan (well-known for their prowess in war) the same people shake their head in disbelief. Jews are only supposed to bear traditions of old languages, books, and Gefilte fish.

Consider the oral tradition of the Jewish People with no practical value, such as the unique conditions at the Mishkan (tabernacle) at Shiloh (see Mishnah ZevaHim, Ch.14 from "ba'u la-Shiloh"). These were committed to writing only 1,200 years after Shiloh was destroyed and abandoned, and the same laws hadn't applied since the First Temple was erected! If such traditions can be accurately preserved, why not a combat art that Jews held on to FOR THEIR VERY SURVIVAL in one of the most hostile places on earth?

You sir, owe the Aluph Abir Yehoshua` Abner bin Awal Sofer al Habbani a public apology, as you do his ethnic community, and the Jewish People.

most sincerely,

Ohev Torath Moshe

P.S. Do not be confused by earlier articles from before five years ago. Abir was only permitted to be revealed five years ago (see above) and not before. If you want to doubt it, that's your choice, but to publicly RIDICULE something because you have no direct experience of it, or because it seems unlikely per your Western upbringing, shows the lowest character.

Goody Jim said...

-- "It has yet to be explained exactly how this medieval Sephardic writing innovation made its way to the Sofers in Israel, but most theories presumably involve Crusaders killing some Jews in Europe and stealing their books, then accidentally dropping them after arriving in the Holy Land, whereupon the Sofers got hold of them and realized, "hey, this will allow us to have more than 27 moves!" Or maybe a Crusader brought a talking severed Jew's head along with him tied to his belt and the Sofers rescued it and made it tell them secrets." --

Rabbi Eliyahu Ba'al Shem of Chelm (16th century) claimed that German Jews lived in Jerusalem prior to the First Crusade. And Halakic questions were sent from Germany to Jerusalem during the second half of the 11th century (Jewish Encyclopedia). It’s possible that someone from Germany could have transported the aleph-bet to Israel. However, I think the Abir system sounds a little too fishy, so I am in no way defending the tale, just throwing out some random info on the Crusades.

Jacob Da Jew said...

I took some instruction in Kook Sul Won from Yehoshua Sofer about 8 years ago.

He never mentioned anything about this Abir business.

But he most definitely can kick the whole J-blogosphere's asses, mine included.

Anonymous said...

I have also been to master sofer for kuk sul wun. I was very close to him and he had told us about Abir many times. he told us that he was not allowed to teach it yet.

to BS"D, thank you for your post. You had many good points.Any person that knows him,knows that he is an exception out there.

Ehav Ever said...

Looks like the Aluf Abir Yehoshua Sofer is Yemenite after all and there is a history for Abir.

Interview with Mori Awadh bin Sleiman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbetKyU64LU

Friar Yid said...

And it only took you three years to find a single source. That's... clearly not questionable at all.

On the plus side, I'm glad my post had such an impact that you're still arguing with me. Thanks for keeping the flame alive.

Ehav Ever said...

Actually, I have never argued with you before and I am not argueing with you now. I don't even know you. A single source who is Habbani Teimani saying that someone is a family member of his and that he knows his father personally is more than reliable. Besides there were more than one person in the video talking about these issues. No arguement there.

Joy said...

What an insane story!

Anonymous said...

i have only just found your post on Aloof, but it is spot on. i have squashed this fool in debate after debate, both on Torah (which he is devoid of knowledge of), and on his fabricated style.

Anonymous said...

http://www.hashlamah.org/aloof.jpg

Aloof caught in another lie...

zma said...

I will share this to my friend. I’m sure he will have a good read as much as I do.