Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reality Checkmate: The BlackTaoist Sets The Record Straight

Unless you've been underneath a rock these past few days you'd know that something is a brewin' in New York. In the world of martial arts there is never a dull moment and nothing says that more then a two hour exclusive interview with Novell G. Bell aka "The BlackTaoist."

From the moment I answered the phone I could tell one thing was going to be certain about this phone conversation, it was going to be entertaining! We started by shooting the breeze then we dove right into it. What prompted the interview is the recent cancellation of the much anticipated exhibition match between Bell and a New York Muay Thai boxer that goes by the name Nakmeezy.

editor's note: If you're new to this blog and/or aren't familiar with the backstory involving Bell and Nakmeezy (you may want to start here 'The 52 Blocks vs Baguazhang Saga' and work your way back to this blog entry) it reads like pages out of a martial arts novel where martial art teachers are at odds and the score gets settled to see which style is superior -- except it seems that in this story the score may never get settled. 

The match was scheduled to take place November 10th at the Man Up Stand Up (MUSU) martial arts competition. The brainchild of Bell's, MUSU's inspiration came from an unlikely source; a video game. A little know fact Bell shared about his competition is that Def Jam Fight For NY played a part in inspiring Bell to develop a fighting competition that was a break from the norm in regards to how traditional martial arts approached fighting competitions.

In the past Bell has said he was tired of seeing martial art competitions where fighters (despite the various styles involved) looked like kickboxing, karate or street brawlers when engaged in combat. MUSU can be described by breaking it down into three identifying points:
  1. Provide a platform where all the theoretical talk about techniques takes a back seat to actual fighting. Anyone can sit around and talk theory, but how many can apply what they're discussing in real time unrehearsed combat? This statement has become synonymous with Bell's perspective on the martial arts. 
  2. Wake up traditional artists out of their long slumber. MUSU was made to show people that traditional stylists can bang just as good as their MMA counterparts; but in order for that to happen they have to add more reality based training including but not limited to sparring.
  3. Serves as a testing grounds for practitioners to test their skills no matter their level of expertise. The idea is to step into the ring, do your best and leave with your respect and no hard feelings. 
While he touched on MUSU a bit, I knew that was merely the appetizer, the meat and potatoes of our lengthy phone conversation dealt with the ongoing cold war involving Bell, Nakmeezy and Lyte Burly. The fuel for this may be a recent video where Nakmeezy and Burly give their opinion on Bell's expression of Urban Bagua:

Staying true to his character, Bell spoke candidly about dealing with Nakmeezy and why the fight was cancelled. As cliche as it may sound, he didn't pull any punches. To the dismay of many the fight was called off. According to Bell, "Nak[meezy] backed out of the fight after agreeing to the match." When I inquired about Nakmeezy's change of heart I was met with a list of issues he had; from wanting Bell to use boxing gloves, to not allowing submissions, to using Sanda rules, and weight; some of which Bell explains in the video below. The problem with some of these changes Nakmeezy wanted was they seemed to be more in his favor. Bell points out that part of the reason the fight was taking place was to show Nakmeezy an accurate demonstration of Baguazhang used in a fighting situation since in the video above he said he hadn't seen any thus far. Bell explained that the bout was set up to be a comparison of Baguazhang and Muay Thai, where both competitors use their art. He goes on to say that while he couldn't use his version of bagua's hand weapon he was planning on using Dragon Palm strikes which would be impossible to use with boxing gloves so he wouldn't have been able to truly use his art. 

editor's note: Yin style Baguazhang's primary hand weapon is the piercing palm where the fingertips are the striking surface. Obviously this weapon can't be used in competition without inflicting severe injury. Other styles of Baguazhang use the open hand as the weapon with the palm as the striking surface. 

He gave some thought as to why Nakmeezy was "whining" about weight and offered up this one-liner "...he ain't lightweight he's just afraid to bang with the big boys."
Bell claims Nakmeezy had a problem with the the venue, but was the one who initially suggested fighting in MUSU which led Bell to diagnose him as being bipolar. 

Surprisingly Bell didn't seem upset or surprised that the fight wouldn't be happening. It's possible it's because he's been down this road with Nakmeezy before, and this is just another case of deja vu for him. Bell shifts gears and puts on his Bagua Dr. Phil hat as he begins to psycho-analyze the pair's motivation for overdosing on hater-ade on him. He believes the reason for the subliminal shots and 'hate' aimed at him stems from envy as he summed it up by saying, "cats are jealous." As he rattled off some of his accomplishments and current projects he referred back to Burly and Nakmeezy pointing out they haven't accomplished anything and that they're still in the same place they were years ago doing the same ol' stuff. He feels that they see him making moves and hate on him because they don't have anything going for themselves. He offered these words of advice to the fellas, "If you're a banger, act like a banger.

The problem seems to be that Burly and Nakmeezy claim to be fighters but their actions show otherwise. Bell points out that the pair are quick to make videos talking like fighters but when it's time to show and prove they're nowhere to be found. One situation he discussed with me was how if he or his students want to spar in a friendly sparring match they are met with excuses from Burly and Nakmeezy. He gave me an example of this dealing with one of his top students that goes by the name Hispanic Palm. Hispanic Palm was willing to spar Burly but was told the terms were boxing rules only and to it would cost $2000. Bell then points out that others have sparred Burly without excuses or a fee to spar. Students from a rival 52 Blocks teacher named Mr52 were recorded sparring Burly's students for free as Bell points out. He posed the question why he or his students have to pay to spar but others don't? To which I had no answer. Bell sums things up by saying they're avoiding his student Hispanic Palm because as he put it, "Lyte wouldn't last one round.

In order of importance Burly is lower on the totem pole because Bell doesn't view him as a fighter, he said "he doesn't even fight so he shouldn't really be talking". He goes on to say, "guys who fought Lyte were disrespect to Mr52, but his students need a lot of work."  I notice one reoccurring theme. He repeatedly mentioned that he had no animosity towards Nakmeezy or Burly and stated that they could have "been making money" because as he moves up he believes in helping the next man move up. He was adamant about having no hard feelings towards Burly or Nakmeezy but thinks they should stop claiming to be fighters especially if they keep up the pattern of talking like fighters yet fleeing from fights.  Bell explains things like this, "at the end of the day it's about brotherhood." He informed me that he's on another level and doesn't have time to go tit for tat with the pair. "Out of sight, out of mind" seems to be his mantra to express his feelings towards what the pair do. 

As we came towards the end of the interview I asked one last question about his thoughts on the statement that Nakmeezy made that Bell needs to stop calling what he does Urban Bagua and call it Mixed Martial Arts, because he takes from various arts and mixes them in his art. Bell promptly responds, "he don't know what the f*ck he talking about!" He went on to explain, "bagua has no restrictions. Bagua is based on a principle -- the principle of change. How can change have restrictions?" That plus the fact that he informed me that bagua is comprised of 17 different styles, showed me that Nakmeezy's Gumbo analogy wasn't holding weight with Bell. In the end, Bell believes a lack of self confidence is at the heart of the problem with Nakmeezy and Burly. "Dudes don't believe in themselves" is how he describes the the issue, and offers up a last word of advice for the two, the need to stop making reality check videos "because they've been checkmated too many times."

18 Chambers 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

UPDATE: Nakmeezy & Lyte Burly Give NY Kung Fu Fighters A Reality Check

The initial posting of the Nakmeezy & Lyte Burly Give NY Kung Fu Fighters A Reality Check blog entry rubbed some folks the wrong way. I was contacted by a few of Novell G. Bell's students who told me my facts weren't in order in regards to the statement I made about his students losing. The statement they're refering to is "If what Lyte Burly is doing is fake, why are his students winning in competitions, and if what Bell is doing is correct then why are his students losing?"

I can definitely see how that statement can be misconstrued to be a misrepresentation of his students as a whole. For the sake of clarification I'll address the comments I made. The comments were actually referring to only the ones who competed in MUSU based off of a video I was sent that was made by Bell entitled, 'BT 411 Develop the spirit and learn how to control yourself' where Novell tells his teacher Sifu Rudy Curry Jr., "...I know I'm a good coach and these motherf*ckers just keep embarassing me man! I'm like [what] the f*ck, I train 'em, I do my best -- my all -- and these cats just don't...when they get out there they just don't you... know, they just don't come through...."

In the same video Bell goes on to describe his old squad who in his words "terrorized motherf*ckers" in martial arts competitions. About his current squad he said in the video, "...not now, if I come in there with this posse, they probably say oh they compet[ing] ya'll competing...they probably have a big smile on they face right now....."

Bell contacted me and let me know that he indeed made said video where he was letting off some steam, but that he did have students who did win MUSU whether the most recent MUSU or past events.
I wrote "...even Novell proposed the question to his own teacher asking him why are his students continuously losing? He knows he's a good coach so what's the problem?" The error is in my paraphrasing of the video, he doesn't say they're continuously losing, a thousand pardons and thanks for the feedback. 

2nd Update - Sept 25, 2012:
Novell G. Bell provided some stats on his students wins in the MUSU competition:
Yahuda Carter won versus Yigit Dogan
Steve Marshall won versus Kelly Johnson
Owen Thomas won versus Wendell Smith
Marc Mastraandrea won versus Renzon Rivers

18 Chambers

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nakmeezy & Lyte Burly Give NY Kung Fu Fighters A Reality Check

I receive requests for 52 Blocks videos daily; the Lyte Burly branch of the art in particular. This blog has a global viewing and many of the requests are coming from other parts of the world, which means love it or hate it 52 Blocks is in high demand on a global scale. Since the first sharing of the 52 Blocks videos, the intrigue and requests have been flying in and I believe in giving the people what they want.

Of course this popularity doesn't come without critism. Most of the critism stems from people who have stated that they've seen the real 52 Blocks in its heyday and what Burly is doing is nothing more than a modern hodgepodge of boxing and techniques from other arts. If what the critics are saying is true and Burly's version of the 52 Blocks is a new creation there seems to be an anomaly of sorts -- Burly's art seems to be working.

Young Burly Winning A Golden Gloves Match

As many have seen on this blog, Lyte Burly has been taking his art from the park to the ring successfully coaching at least one of his growing number of students to successful wins. One such student that goes by the name "Young Burly" has experienced success in the ring using 52 Blocks as well as outside of the ring as we've also seen challengers from other 52 Block branches test the waters sort of speak and fail.

So what about the naysayers? Nakmeezy and Burly recently made a video discussing one naysayer whom they have both fought and won against with relative ease -- teacher and author Sifu Ben Hill Bey aka Maoshan. In the video the two discuss a recent bout between Maoshan and a Hung gar teacher which has become a sort of black eye for the art of Kung Fu on the internet with sites like slamming the fight saying 'there was no kung fu demonstrated' and that it was 'nothing more then a hugging match'. Nakmeezy and Burly come into agreeance that Maoshan who is said to have over 30 years of experience practicing martial arts should stop stepping into the ring.

Nakmeezy vs Sifu Ben Hill Bey

They go on to poke a little fun at footage of the Baguazhang teacher's training for the bout where they say his student "respectfully handled him" and another in which he is seen skipping rope which can only be defined as laughable at best. I couldn't locate the rope jumping footage, but was told it resembled what's seen in this clip starting at the 1:10 mark:

The tone of the video has changed a bit from past videos the two have made about Maoshan this time giving him credit as a teacher having knowledge of his art of Baguazhang but not as one who can utilize what he knows in a fight, to which they advise him to never step foot in the ring again.

Some have perceived the two to have also taken a subliminal shot at another naysayer who has been quite vocal in the past about the illegitimacy of today's 52 Blocks Novell G. Bell a Kung Fu teacher who goes by the moniker "The BlackTaoist." Bell is an author of baguazhang books and videos, been in an amateur short film, recently has had his likeness included in a MMA video game, and the founder of Man Up Stand Up (MUSU) a small martial art tournament where participants can gauge their skills against each other; all in an effort to bring exposure to his art of Baguazhang.

Bell is best known for his loud outspoken antics which seem to overshadow valid points he tries to make in many of his videos. Points like the need for more reality based training, the inclusion of training techniques in real time and not only in a prearranged format are all overshadowed by his larger than life persona where he is seen more as a 'hood' then professonal which in the long run can limit his success and prevent him from reaching the level of success he desires.

The subliminal shot was at the 5:34 mark in the video below where Nakmeezy points out, " have some that mix boxing, jiujitsu, everything into it and then call it bagua and they change the name to some sort of other bagua..." Then he goes on to illustrate exactly what he's talking about, " got boxing in there, sloppy jiujitsu, horrible kicks...." with Burly co-signing with, "horrible punches."  All of these references are more than likely believed to be directly aimed at what Bell refers to as his Urban Bagua. 

After seeing the video Nakmeezy and Burly made Bell made a response video which seemed to be a departure from his typical insolently proud persona as he addressed the comments made towards him. In his response video we're told that there will be a Muay Thai vs Baguazhang exhibition bout between Nakmeezy and Bell. Bell being the more outspoken of the two certainly has more weight on his shoulders going into this bout then Nakmeezy. Which brings us to the another anomaly...

If what Lyte Burly is doing is fake, why are his students winning in competitions, and if what Bell is doing is correct then why are his students losing? We understand everyone is not going to win all the time, but even Novell proposed the question to his own teacher asking him why are his students continuously losing? He knows he's a good coach so what's the problem? This is the question that I'm sure many have who have watched MUSU from the beginning or any of Bell's videos are asking as well. 

William H. Cavali MUSU Undefeated Champion

Behind the scenes of MUSU there was yet another anomaly. When Bell began to down Kung Fu styles with what he felt were questionable lineages or made up Kung Fu styles. One group took offence and a sort of war of words began where Bell produced videos demonstrating the intricacies of traditional Kung Fu arts where the basics should be easily identified when people perform their forms. References were made to the performance of such practitioners where there was no evidence of them being rooted to the ground and executing forms that were said to be made up. Here's where things become sticky. This group produced a pupil who went undefeated and retired from competiting in the MUSU tournament. So once again we're back to the drawing board, if what they were doing was made up and all wrong, then how could they continuously win and Bell's students continuously lose? 

So considering all those things, we see that Bell has his work cut out for him. The bout between him and Nakmeezy is much more than merely an exhibition match, it is the chance for Bell & Nakmeezy to finally settle the score sort of speak. Bell in particular has a lot riding on it as he's positioned himself as the sole representative of true bagua; should he win, it will be looked upon as 'this is what I've been saying all along' -- an example of the benefits of training, using one's art in battle, the benefits of non-prearranged techniques, and finally the benefits of traditional training methods he discusses frequently, like standing post, palm strikes, rooting, etc. 

However, if he loses his whole philosophy will be in question because we all know that those who talk the most look the worse when then lose. He literally has years riding on this -- years of frowning upon teachers who don't spar or compete despite their age, years of frowning upon the training methods of teachers who use prearranged routines, years of saying how he easily handled individuals, etc., because it will look like everything he's been saying for years was nothing more than talk despite how logical some things he's been saying may be. 

We are going to see one of two things from Bell -- the effectiveness of traditional Chinese Internal Martial Arts or the end of years of incessant babble. 
In regards to Nakmeezy, since he's not as outspoken as Bell, his loss wouldn't be of the same magnitude as if Bell were to lose, but for Bell supporters a Nakmeezy loss would be looked upon as an expected result. If he wins, it will be looked upon as a nail in the coffin of what he and Burly have defined as "Kung Fu Fantasy."

The date for the exhibition match has been slated for November 10, 2012 and one thing is for sure it will be a defining moment in Bell's life as probably the most outspoken Kung Fu practitioners around.  Stay tuned for more about this match.