Posted On:9/20/2007 3:37am
Posted On:9/20/2007 9:37am
Gilgamesh could be good example of grappler.:XXknight:
Posted On:9/20/2007 10:58am
Style: JKDC (FMA/Silat focus)
Okay, is everyone ready for this?!? I just happened upon this thread while looking at PoiDog's post history and I actually have something to contribute.
I was in Cairo for most of 1989 and 1990.
During my term of residence there, I studied with a group in a combat system (sport? pasttime?) termed Sebbekkha. I apologize for not having time to waste researching this fella Ramses Seleem, but I assure you that the teacher that I studied with was not this guy; not in any of his incarnations. In fact, the man I studied with is called Muhammed Ali and last I heard (15 years ago) he is still alive. Anyhow, my experience with the group was limited to a few nights a week when I was actually in the city, but I will try to give you my impressions of Mr. Ali's art.
I was told that the name Sebbekkha could be interpreted as Crocodile Wrestling and that is basically what I recall it being--wrestling. Indeed, much of what we did was very similar to what I learned on the wrestling team in high school. I remember mentioning this at least once and receiving a vague reference to Greek cultural influence. In short, we spent a lot of time on the floor of Ali's small apartment stretching, rolling with each other and conditioning (more yoga type stuff than burpees.) The striking was remarkable only by virtue of its simplicity and intention. There were no kicks that I saw in the limited time I had with them (much to my chagrin, being a kickboxer at the time.) The strikes were very linear and meant to be executed as closing strikes in the context of a crash. The objective was to get inside and clinch with your opponent for throws. And that brings me to the one unique (and dubious?) aspect of the art--the throws. Bear in mind that I have not trained in any Judo or had any intensive training in throws. I don't recall, however, coming across anyone who favored muscular force over skeletal mechanics the way these men (yes, strict gender policy, by the way) seemed to. Again, my knowledge of the art adds up to roughly 160 hours of actual training time, but I'm pretty sure I remember Ali emphasizing that the throws are generated by the waist. No, not hips; not foot position, WAIST! This, along with the "speed" of technique, I was told, was the reason it is termed Sebbekkha. The waist muscles were employed almost exclusively in every throw we performed. Someone let me know if this is common in any other throwing arts, because I am woefully ignorant in this area. All I know is my obliques were ripped and reformed repeatedly with all the twisting that we did.
As for my overall impressions...
It was a decent workout for a couple of hours every other night.
Some of Ali's students were formidible fighters in their own right and they seemed to respect Ali.
I saw nothing to suggest any hint of a weapons system in the art.
Ali and his senior students (read: blind followers...all teachers have them) were disconcertingly interested in learning what they could of my striking game. I suspect it was in hopes of adding it to this "most ancient" of systems. Note: This doesn't bother me much...I am happy to share; always have been. Just don't claim later on that whatever flavor I brought to your table has been in the system since its inception.
Was this the real Sebbekkha? Who knows...who cares! I kept in shape and absorbed some culture for a while. By that time in my journey, I took everything I was learning with a grain of salt, even blatant scepticism, so I don't count the experience as a waste of time.
I thought it was interesting that a seemingly obscure "martial art" like this would pop up in my path again...sometimes, I think the universe is as crazy as I am.
Posted On:9/21/2007 1:02am
Thanks very much for the contribution. I'm honestly surprized that anyone other than Gamal Selim/Ramses Seleem is/was teaching Sebbekha.
I'll try to locate my copy of the old Black Belt magazine article, which (IIRC) included some Sebbekha technique demos. If I can find it, I'll scan it and get it online. It would be interesting to compare these to your practical experience of "crocodile wrestling" in Cairo.
Posted On:9/21/2007 9:54pm
OK, after searching through God knows how many cardboard boxes full of moldy old MA magazines dug out from the basement, the Sebekkha article was in the second-to-last magazine in the last box. I **** you not.
Text follows (OCR'd, so there may be some typos here that were not present in the original)
THE MARTIAL ART OF THE PHAROAHS
Is Egypt's Sebekkha the World's Oldest Martial Style?
by Jane Hallander
(from July 1988 issue of Black Belt Magazine)
It’s called Sebekkha (crocodile spirit), and with roots in ancient Egypt, it may be the world’s oldest organized martial art.
Five years ago, Sebekkha came to the United States. Nestled between tree-lined residences and small businesses in quiet Pasadena, California, is a unique martial art school called the Egyptian Temple of Fitness, the North American headquarters of this little- known martial system.
The Temple of Fitness proprietor is an Egyptian scholar and martial artist named Gamal Selim, who teaches Egyptian history, language, martial arts, and health exercises at his school.
Selim grew up in a suburb of Cairo, where he learned Egypt’s oldest martial art from his grandfather, a descendant of ancient Egypt’s high priesthood. Selim was chosen to learn sebekkha the same way Egypt’s ancient high priests chose successors from younger generations. Instead of the eldest son carrying on the family tradition, the chosen Individual could be anyone in the family, even a woman. Egyptians had no prejudices against women priests and warriors; they had almost equal rights with men.
Astrological signs were studied to find the individual who best fit the priestly role. The person who was born at the right time, on the right date, and under the right sign, was taught the mysteries of Egyptian priesthood and martial arts.
According to Selim, high priests came from diverse walks of life—they were farmers, doctors, engineers and warriors. Even the pharaoh was a high priest.
Since priests were experts in different things, they taught the public by their own example. For instance, priest farmers knew how to grow the best crops, warrior priests showed people the best ways of martial arts training, etc.
Warrior priests didn’t encourage their students to fight. Instead, students were first required to understand that fighting is a serious situation. Selim’s Sebekkha teacher told him “If someone tries to pick a fight, don’t give him the other cheek, give him your back—walk away. If he follows, keep walking. If he follows you home, close the door in his face. If he breaks the door down, kill him.”
According to Selim, Egypt’s ancient priests considered their martial art more important for achieving perfect physical balance than for fighting. The priests considered the human body a temple, a ter-anx, which means “house of life,” The condition of the body dictated the person’s mental state and way of life, Sebekkha means crocodile spirit, and the crocodile was an important symbol in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh’s symbol was a crocodile when he was living, and a falcon when he died. The crocodile was the symbol of earthly or
physical balance and power, the falcon a symbol of spiritual balance. Much the same as yin and yang (complementary opposites), crocodiles represented natural balance. The crocodile’s head symbolized light, heat and energy, while the tail represented darkness. cold and quiet. Like the Chinese yin-and-yang theory, Egypt’s crocodile illustrated the principle that opposites blend together into balance.
Crocodiles had further significance; they were symbols of an earthly connection with the cosmos. Crocodiles have 60 teeth, lay approximately 60 eggs, incubate the eggs 6 days, have 60 vertebrae, and live about 60 years. The number 60 was a basic number in Egyptian astronomy, leading Egyptians to see crocodiles as an expression of cosmic conscience.
The crocodile, a symbol of natural balance, was the perfect name for an Egyptian martial art based on physical and mental balance. Selim explains that there are 434 individual muscles in the human body, all working in opposite groups—like the biceps and triceps in the arms. If you flex your biceps, you will stretch the triceps. When you stretch the biceps, you flex the triceps. The Egyptians felt martial arts practice balanced the physical being because it uses all muscles in all directions, balancing opposite muscle groups.
Selim claims tennis or running aren’t as complete as Sebekkha practice because the latter expresses three different kinds of power. The first type is “pushing power.” If you hit a hanging board with your fist at slow speed, it will move with the “pushing” power of your punch. The second type is “breaking power.’ When you hit the same hanging board with more speed, it will break. The third kind is “penetrating power.” This is when you hit the board with even more speed, putting a hole through it without shattering it. In Egypt, high-level Sebekkha warriors specialized in penetrating power, which is accessible only through full muscle flexion and extension.
Selim says ancient Egyptians were more concerned with preparing their bodies to fight than with actual battle techniques. The belief was that fighting techniques were ineffective if students were not prepared to use them. Egyptians believed the least important part of true martial arts was the punch or kick; the muscles first had to be prepared for the technique.
Sebekkha has special stretching exercises designed to promote total muscle balance. This Egyptian stretching is unlike either yoga or aerobic exercises. It consists of four different types of stretches.
Selim calls the first kind of exercise “ballet” stretches, after the type done by ballet dancers. These stretches emphasize repeated fast motions. A typical sebekkha ballet stretch consists of deep knee bends, done repeatedly at a rapid rate.
The second type is a “static” stretch, where the muscle is flexed and remains in the stretched position for a period of time. Static stretches are similar to yoga exercises.
Next is the “flex-and-relax” stretch. Biceps stretched in this manner are pushed to the maximum extension for ten-to-WO counts, released, and then stretched again. The fourth type is the “passive” stretch. In this case, a joint is stretched beyond its normal range of extension by using weights. The four types of stretching exercises will eventually create muscle balance because they each develop one of the body’s three kinds of muscles— striated, smooth, and cardiac. Static stretching affects smooth muscles, and ballet stretches develop striated muscle groups, like those of the legs and arms. All four types have an effect on cardiac muscles.
Besides Sebekkha’s four types of stretching exercises, the system contains 60 martial art postures—slow, precise movements designed to improve the nervous system. Stretching is only for the muscles. After the body’s muscles are toned and developed, Sebekkha’s postures restore balance to the nervous system. There are also special exercises that use natural body weight to develop muscle power, and breathing exercises that improve the circulatory system.
Selim says the ancients considered Sebekkha both an external (muscle development) and internal (internal energy) martial art. However, he is quick to mention that, unlike the Oriental martial arts, sebekkha does not have any form of meditation. Instead, practitioners do what he calls “mediation.”
“Meditation requires an empty mind. The ancient high priests of Egypt did not believe man can have an empty mind,” Selim states. “Also, since they believed there is nothing empty in life, you cannot unite yourself with nothingness. They practiced iu-dua, which in Egyptian means the ‘art of contemplation.’ It is also called the ‘sun journey,’ because it fills the entire body with sunshine.”
Iu-dua, or mediation, as Selim calls it (mediation means making a relationship between one thing and another), requires the martial artist to sit In one position contemplating a single thought.
The object of this contemplation is to draw attention to different internal systems. A Sebekkha practitioner takes one system at a time, often starting with the intestines, then moving the awareness to other abdominal organs, the heart, and finally the forehead and brain. Internal physical health and mental awareness are a natural result of the Sebekkha sun journey.
Like the pyramids, which possess circular, square and triangular shapes within one structure, Sebekkha is portrayed as having movements of all directions and shapes. Because it strives for perfect balance, Sebekkha cannot be restricted to single-direction movements and techniques.
Sebekkha stylists consider self-defense techniques secondary to body balance and conditioning. Self-defense is treated strictly as knowledge. According to Sebekkha theory, you don’t have to be a martial artist to defend yourself. You just need the solution to the problem stored in your brain. Your chances of success in a self-defense situation are better, however, if your body and mind are properly prepared through martial arts training.
Like other martial arts, Sebekkha contains forms practice. Forms are used primarily to make movements flow and to help develop muscle groups. Forms practice aids total body connection and balance through a mind-to- muscle interaction. Selim says Sebekkha forms were conceived from the movements of animals, reptiles, and birds.
Sebekkha also includes weapons training. The most common weapon is the staff, which comes in long, short, and middle sizes. According to Selim, staffs in ancient Egypt came from a chum tree. It took six years to grow onelarge enough for a long staff. These trees provided very hard wood, yet it was also flexible. Egyptians rubbed their chum staffs with olive oil, making them even tougher.
* * *
Is Sebekkha older than even ancient China’s martial arts?
Considering that Egyptian culture far outdates China’s, it is certainly possible. Egyptian traders and explorers are known to have traveled far in their papyrus boats. Perhaps there will one day be irrefutable evidence that Egyptian culture contributed to early Chinese culture and martial arts.
(The article then offers a contact address and telephone number for the Egyptian Temple Of Fitness in Pasadena, CA)
Posted On:9/21/2007 10:26pm
First Sebekkha image:
Posted On:9/21/2007 10:30pm
Posted On:9/21/2007 10:43pm
Posted On:9/24/2007 8:01am
That's great! The photos aren't demonstrating too much similarity to what I learned...save for the stretching, which looks identical to what we did. As I stated, I wouldn't know the "real" Sebekkha if it slapped me in the face, but Mr. Ali claimed his stuff to be the real deal. That article is classic though.
Posted On:9/24/2007 8:43am
Alright, I just read the text of the article. Wow, they make Sebekkha sound sorta legit. I recall Mr. Ali lecturing occasionally on the history and basic tenants of the art, but I was young and knew it all, so I didn't listen to most of it. There was some talk about Egyptian numerology and such, but I dismissed it as foolishness back then. We practiced some "ready" postures (5, maybe 6) but there certainly weren't 60 of them. Again, I never saw so much as a staff in Mr. Ali's home or in the possession of any of the students, so I suspect that there was no weapon curriculum. Also, we never covered any specifics (penetrating power?) when it came to striking, except when I would demonstrate some of my stuff. As I said before, I enjoyed the workout and the energy for what it was, but I didn't attend the group for much more than that. Perhaps Mr. Ali, a former Egyptian soldier, had distilled the real stuff down to what he believed worked. I am starting to regret not being more present at the time.
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