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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 bums...no 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."