Farooq Al-Farooq (right) and Musa Williams demonstrate "sticky hands" drills in Wing Chun. Photos by Muslim Link.
Since 1989 Muslim martial artists and students in the North East met and coordinated, passing their skills and experience to one another. In 2000 they formed the United Muslims Martial Arts Association, inc. (U.M.M.A.A.) “We have numerous backgrounds and disciplines, but come together under the banner of La illa illah” says Abdul-Muhsi Abdul-Rahman, president of the association and the organizer of the event..
Pencak Silat, Okinawan Karate, Shaolin Kung Fu, Japanese Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Aji Jujitsu, and Tai-Chi were some of the martial arts demonstrated at the Ummah Association Martial Arts Expo on December 28, 2013 held at Dar-us-Salaam in College Park, MD. UMMAA holds a combination of expos and tournaments that rotate on a yearly basis, mostly held at Maryland-area Islamic centers.
Cries of ‘osu’ were heard as students and experts exhibited forms, sparring and self defense techniques. Practitioners with several decades of martial arts training under their belts described how to channel the body's “chi” or “energy” into fast, flowing movements to defend against and incapacitate attackers.
"The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the perfection of the character of its participants," is a famous Gichin Funakoshi quote. He was the father of modern day karate. This is the reason why many Muslims feel that martial arts integrates well with their Islamic lifestyle, as an aid in the path of perfection of their bodies and characters. Martial Arts improves reflexes and coordination, increases strength and stamina, and also teaches self-respect and respect for others, focus and discipline.
Brother Abdul-Muhsiy Abdul-Rahman from Baltimore, Maryland founded UMMAA in 1989.
"For the time being we are in the North East, but [we] are turning every stone to connect to Muslims in Martial Arts country-wide,” says Abdul Muhsi, who practices Japanese Karate. This year 15 dojangs from the Northeast participated from Washington D.C, Delaware, East Orange, New Jersey, Herndon, VA, Baltimore City, Baltimore, and Laurel in Maryland and other areas.
Around 100 spectators watched a 46 year old, black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, mother from Laurel, MD demonstrate along with her three children. Wanda Jones started training with Sensei Melody from Rockville, MD and completed at Master Hyun Suk Lee at the World Champions Martial Arts Center, a WTF Taekwondo dojo. Her son Booker, 8, is about to test for his black belt dahn. Zain 5, is a super-blue belt, and little Ariana is a purple belt; she started right before she turned 3.
Abdul-Muhsiy Abdul-Rahman waits with a martial arts team getting ready for their demonstration.
Start at a young age, she advised parents in the audience, when the bodies are very flexible. Jones is a sparring grand champion. “We love our teacher, parents trust him and the children trust him; he is very respectful of our beliefs,” she says. Her do jang practices a shallow torso bow (less than 45 degrees) as a cultural greeting; “it has no religious significance.”
For Muslims who have issues with bowing there are options for schools who do not include bows as part of their training. “Aqabah Karate is [a] full time martial arts program that operates with Islamic principles in mind. Styles taught are Korean Tang Soo Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is no bowing and there are separate classes for boys and girls. I love it when at competitions my students don’t bow and later [get] a chance to explain to judges and fellow competitors that we only bow to God. Awesome Dawah in action,” say Muhib Rahman; Aqabah did not participate in the program this year.
With a cindai wrapped around his hips, Abdul-Malik Ahmad demonstrated silat techniques, a fighting style from Indonesia. Training since he was 16, the 38 year old is an instructor at the Al-Azhar School of Pencak Silat in Herndon,VA. He told the audience that practitioners do not hit on the face because of the hadith about respect for a human’s face. Al-Azhar recently opened a new branch in Rockville at 12083 Nebel Street.
Sensei Ali Shabazz demonstrates the lethal power of Aiki-Jujitsu as he puts a joint lock on his partner while striking his neck at the same time.
A team from Elizabeth, New Jersey trained under Sensei Zaid Muhammad from Masjid Darul Islam showed self-defense techniques. Starting with six students the center now has 67 students. “We are very competitive,” says Muhammad. His well-trained students win tournaments ”wherever we go.”
Musheerah Muhammad, a 10th grader who placed first in sparring contests and Nusaybah Abdul-Nafi, a student since she was 4, sparred in front of the crowd. In black uniforms and hijabs they strike a powerful combination. “When we walk in contestants gives us looks, but when they see us compete we hear whispers of compliments,” says Abdul-Nafi.
Practice is punctuated with stories of the Prophets and other Islamic lessons, and starts with Surah Fatiha and ends with Surah.”Even the non-Muslims [students] have it memorized by now!” exclaims Abdul-Nafi. Sensei Muhammad is firm when the students are not trying but soft when he sees hard effort, say his students.
“Parents see a lot of change in the children,” says Muhammad.
There was no charge for admissions and brothers and sisters of all ages were welcomed. The event started at 10 a.m. and ended after Maghrib prayers.
Vendors had stalls of toys, herbal medicine, Muslim bean pies, baked goods by Jamilah's Sweets and Saifuddin Muhammad’s food stall selling hotdogs, egg rolls and Chinese rice to the audience.
A day of worship, demonstrations of physical agility and focused on unity- it was a day in the spirit of o negai shimasu- the exchanging of good will of all the meeting parties.
To learn more about UMMAA, email call (410) 448-1611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.