In Part 1 of this article we said that there is a preponderance of similarities between two separate cultures that indicates their ancient connection is not coincidence. There exists a strong possibility that the origins of what we call traditional Asian martial arts are not only rooted in the Far East, China, Korea, Japan, but may be influence by, or an adaptation of, the ancient Hebrew martial art called Abir Qesheth.
The ancient middle-eastern belt wrestling game of Sumer called “Sumerian” (שומרוני) is performed without more than a diaper (referred to as a belt) grasped by both players who tied their long hair above their heads in a bun. With Sumo wrestling in Japan doing likewise, is Sumo a Japanese adaptation/translation of Sumer?
Japan is over 6,800 miles (11,000 km) away from Israel, and yet there exist subtle similarities between them. The usage of the Japanese word for foreigner, gaijin (外人) is not limited to just those who are foreigners in Japan, but also includes anyone who is not Japanese. Even when a person is in their home country they are considered gaijin by Japanese foreigners in the country, which is identical to the same world view ancient Israelites had, that everyone who was not an Israelite was considered a foreigner, (goyim גוים plural), even if technically the Israelite was the foreigner in another country.
Rediscovering Japan, Reintroducing Christendom by Samuel Lee explains how it is possible Israelites made it to Japan via the Silk Road, with their being exiled from their land by the Assyrian Empire in 722BC. Lee also provides compelling evidence that Christianity entered Japan in four stages over the past 2000 years and not just within the past 500 years.
According to the Japanese genealogy, Shinsen Shoji-roku (815 C.E.) a group of people, approximately, 190,000 immigrated to Japan, crossing the ocean, in 4th century C.E. They are called the Hata Clan.
Were the Hata one of the ten lost tribes of Israel?
When I asked Yehoshua Sofer if he had any possibly idea or tradition to support my line of thought he said, “Hata may be Japanese for Hittites who many scholars believe, now, to be an alternative name for the Israelite people.”
The Hata’s legendary shrines, the discovery of ancient Japanese Folk songs, like Ya-ren So-ran being sung in Hebrew, the fact many Japanese words are identical to Hebrew ones in meaning and sound, like “essa” (to carry) Ata/anata (you) barer/bareru (clarify), etc. as well as ancient Japanese and Hebrew characters being identical, suggest this is not coincidence but a connection does exist. Approximately 300 words in Japanese and Hebrew/Aramaic are similar if not identical. The evidence is submerged into the Japanese culture, so much so, the Ambassador to Japan from Israel, Eli Cohen, announces (based on his own observations and the findings of academic and religious experts) he believes the Ark of the Covenant is hidden away in Japan.
Ambassador Cohen’s interview broadcast on Japanese national television describes the similarities of the language and, particularly interesting, the The Gion Festival (祇園祭 Gion Matsuri) one of the most famous festivals in Japan (as seen: video end of this article):
Notwithstanding the implications, the reality we must agree upon is that the truth of history is a grand mystery. To intelligently discuss the roots of traditional Asian martial arts we cannot find the truth by being obstinate or deny historical evidence and the possibilities it suggests, that include not overlooking the significance of Abir Qesheth, the martial art of the ancient Hebrew.
We know the Hebrew people, for thousands of years lived by “The Oral Torah” that comprises the legal and interpretative traditions, were transmitted orally from Mount Sinai, and were not written in the Torah (Old Testament). According to traditionalist Rabbinic Judaism the Oral Torah, oral law, or oral tradition (Hebrew: תורה שבעל פה, Torah she-be-`al peh) was given by God orally to Moses in conjunction with the written Torah (Hebrew:ת ורה שבכתב, Torah she-bi-khtav), after which it was passed down orally through the ages. Rabbis of the Talmudic era taught the Oral Torah in a traditional way that is very relevant to our discussion as an unbroken chain of transmission. The distinctive feature of this Rabbinic tradition was that the Oral Torah was “conveyed by word of mouth and memorized” as is the ancient Israelite fighting style, Abir Qesheth (“Abir”), passed orally from one generation to the next. This is a tradition that began with the formulation of the fighting system of the Bnei Shem, sons of Shem (Shem being the son of Noah), of Shinar (also known as Sumer, Babel or Mesopotamia).
Terakh, the father of the Hebrew Patriarch Avraham (AKA Abraham) was the warlord of King Nimrod, who ruled the entire known world. His foremost exponent of the Abir system was his most tent dwelling, peace loving, kind son, Avraham. He was to leave with 318 loyal members of his house, whom Avraham sent to war against four vicious kings and their massive armies. In waging war Avraham and his followers make use of a powerful fighting method Abir Qesheth that is later perfected and fine-tuned by YitzHhaq (Isaac) and later by his son Yaaqov (Jacob), who created separate systems for each of his 12 sons who comprise the founding fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Yaaqov had a holy spirit that enabled him to give each of his 12 individual sons a unique fighting system that fit their spiritual and physical attributes as well as the terrain in the portion of Canaan that they would inherit later when it became Israel.
With the Diaspora, Abir, for the most part, migrates along the Silk Road where its ends up being integrated and reinvented in the various lands of the Far East, believed as far as Japan. However, this would not be the case in Yemen where the Hebrew people were allowed and encouraged to maintain their identity, and explains why traditional customs and practices thought lost forever to history are discovered well intact, amongst Yemenite Jews.
The Bani Abir or Bnei Abir clan of Habban (also Hhabban) in the Shabwa governate of today’s Yemen was a fierce community of Judean warriors. Habbani Jewish feats of battle were told among many Yemeni Jews and Muslims alike in the region for centuries. It stood to reason that this would be the case, as Habbani Jews were the bodyguards of the region’s emirates, kings, sheikhs, and high ranking British officers and diplomats until the demise of the British rule in southern Arabia. Yemen was divided into two states, with a communist regime in the south, but it was eventually unified. However, Jews of Habban skilled in Abir parlayed the demand for their services by which to have left the region well before the British. Awareness of the Habbani Jewish community did not make itself known to the world, until the mid 1940’s.
As a community that survived in an enclave at the mouth of the Hadramaut desert, far to the south and east of the rest of Yemenite Jewry for ages with some of the most ancient customs known today among the greater Yemenite Jewish community. Given the Habbanis long flowing hair, shaving their mustache, fierce fighting style, horsemanship and dagger work the Habbanis are hailed as “Indianim” (Indians). The tall fortress style homes they built were strategic prizes built before the British came into the region. Nobody dared challenge them over the real estate. The fierce tribe of Bani Abir, the “DoHh” people who are the ancestors to Aluph Abir, Sofer, whom he so proudly represents, had been warriors since antiquity, whose entrance into the region being elite Israelite military unit sent by their brother, King Solomon. They are according to Oral history, the remnants of King David’s own house, including the most skillful Judean warriors, from that which was originally an augmented mixture of Danites, Judites and Binyamini warriors.
Reciting from memory the tale passed from father to son, Aluph Abir, Sofer whispers:
“We were ordered by King Shaul, to bring Aghag, the ‘Amalekite King, to King Saul, alive. But Hashem had ordered that every last ‘Amalekite be smote. Our warriors then witnessed the wrath of Samuel the prophet who killed Aghag at once and declared that Saul was no longer the King of Israel in the eyes of heaven. In shame, many of our fighting ancestors cut off half of their beards (the mustache), grew long hair like those of the Nazirite vow and exiled ourselves into Yathrib, (now known as Medina, Saudi Arabia) and later moved south to Najran, just north of the Yemeni border, and later joined my family to comprise the bulk of Habban’s Jewish warrior community. It is told that 100 years after the death of MoHammad, 100 Habbani warriors vanquished 10,000 JawaHiris, a tribe of hooligans who had raped and pillaged a wide range of victims in the region. The Jews of Habban were now recognized as brave and noble heroes worthy of the highest praise by Jew and non-Jew alike. In fact, Hadramauwt had a Habbani Jewish king 400 years ago. I’d sure say that was a long before the British mandate in Yemen. This reputation has remained with us. We are from the House of King Dawidh (David). His son King Solomon married Bilkis Queen of Sheba. The Kingdom of Sheba was an allied force, which was subservient to Jerusalem and supported a giant autonomous Judean Kingdom in the Hadhramauwt or HaSsermaweth as it is in I’vrith of the Tana’kh. Our royal Judean roots explain the Per’a or crown of hair worn by the ancient Nazirim (Nazarites) who cut away their mustaches as witnessed by the Book of Samuel’s mention of Mepiboshath ben Yehonathan ben Shaul who did not remove his mustache. This look mirrors the symbol of the Judean tribe, the lion”
History and folklore acknowledges “The Royals” and their “subjects” of ancient times had this hairstyle for the most part, evidenced by the mention of Mepiboshath’s odd stand out facial hair-style. The Judeans kept this style to depict their tribal symbol-the lion. The Benyaminites shared this style to depict their tribe whose symbol is the wolf. A battle was waged by the Al WahHidhi emirate against the Judeans and King Solomon sent reinforcements in the form of two battalions to help fight off the local revolt. The battalions consisted of my forefathers, royals who were the brothers of, and guards to the king, one Kohen, sent to perform ritual tasks (Kohen =Priest from the tribe of Lewi) and one consisting of Lewiim (Levites who were not Kohanim and who were known as vicious guards of the great Temple in Jerusalem). These two battalions, The Lewiim and the King’s personal Abirim, Maatufim (Protective shielding Knights, his own brothers and close family) were sent to help wherever they should find the most need. The Units arrived at the port of Qannah and spread in a “V” formation from the port up to Sanaa to the north and Saba (Sheba) to the south in the Hadhramauwt. The Kohen was killed at the outset and there was a shortage of Kohanim in Teiman until the Talmudic Scholars from Bavel who supervised the Gemarah studies in Yemen brought Kohanim from their area called “A’ragim” (Iraqis).
The Kohen was killed from afar by what we call in modern times, a sniper. The commander of the Lewiim sent the Maatuf /Abir unit to bring reinforcements, but by the time they returned to battle, the Lewite unit had perished. The Abirim would soon take control of the meeting point of the five provinces of Yemen, the major sources of water and the view over the ports leading to Africa and Arabia, the sea of Aden and the Red Sea. This was where Hhabban is in modern Yemen in Wadi Hhadhramauwt and bordering on Wadi Shabwa.
In ancient times this region went all the way through to the end of Oman to the east. Without the Kohanim or the Maatuf Abirim, The Lewi fighters’ condition deteriorated and they were killed off and scattered. The Judean Kingdom of Hadhramauwt was now left without Kohanim or Lewiim. Presently, there are no Kohanim or Lewiim among the Hhabbani community. After thousands of years, isolated within a violent pack of savage local tribes, the Hhabbani arrived as a unique ethnic sub-category of Patriarch Yemenite immigrants with just about 450 who lived almost exactly as their ancient ancestors did in a timeless bubble for a few thousand years. What kept the Hhabbani community safe and intact is their reputed Biblical ancestry well known in the region. The natives posses the deepest respect for a warrior culture of the ancient Israelites, ABIR, who kept the tribes and leaders safe for thousands, not hundreds of years. The keepers of the
Patriarch Avraham’s, thought to be lost Book of War
Many scholars hold that there was no Jewish community that retained the so-called Paleo Hebrew script whose preservation is credited to the Samaritan community. This is not the case and if we look to the Yemenite community it has kept many of ancient Israel’s traditions, customs and arts alive. This refers to the Abir Qesheth Hebrew Warrior Arts as it does to the processes of preparing the Jyawil parchments as preserved by the Ssarum family. The Nahari family preserved the processing of ink used to write on the Jyawil that is never known to break off the Jyawil after drying, no matter how many years go by. The Yemenite communities preserved the most ancient cantorial melodies, dance steps and the most accurate pronunciation of classical ancient Hebrew. While many may like to say that it is the Bavli Hebrew of the ancient Iraqi community would be “the most accurate”, all of Iraq being wiped out and the community was replaced with Jews from Persia. It is Aluph Abir, Sofer’s position that the Yemenite Hebrew is the Bavli and Tiberian Hebrew in their most original forms. Yemen’s communities have several distinct pronunciations.
The previous Aluph Abir, Yehoshua’s grandfather Brihim Bin Hassan Maatuf Doh’ AKA Nah’man Sofer, as Bani Abir were also called Shevet (tribe of) Sofer. The clan was able to hide the fact that many who are in the employ of Arab Kingdoms were in constant contact with, who the King (Imam) of Yemen (Hadramauwt) tried to assassinate through poison Hassan Maatuf Doh’ AKA Nah’man Sofer.
In a brilliant move Yehoshua’s grandfather Briheem Bin Hassan Maatuf Doh’ AKA Nah’man Sofer caused the King to believe he was in fact dead. The megalomaniac King reputed for having already poisoned his brother Awadh to death out of petty jealousy that no other man would have a sword of equal beauty. Brihim Bin Hassan Maatuf Doh’ AKA Nah’man Sofer and his brother were unluckily commissioned for their master silversmith sword making and filigree.
Many Hhabbani relatives were misled into believing Briheem Bin Hassan Maatuf Doh’ AKA Nah’man Sofer died due to his having been poisoned, having disappeared. In secret, along with his surviving brother Sleiman they provided divorce papers for Brihim’s wives and he made his way to Israel, what was then called British Mandate Palestine.
The Abir sword dances can still be seen on various joyous occasions and Aluph Abir, Sofer and his cousin YisHaq retained more dances than other family members seem to know or remember. To this day at Hhabbani weddings and celebrations their youth dress up with long hair wigs and traditional clothes, e’mammah, Hhizmi, Mahhbeh, Siwar, Misbat, etc., and dance perfect Abir moves. The majority of young Habbani dancers remain clueless as to what the significance of their moves are unless they meet a certain criteria, then the meanings are made known to them.
Some Israeli born Hhabbani youth display their rebellious ignorance and began to argue that I’m wrong about Abir when I have brought this up for discussion, arguing against it that no such fighting techniques exist. Only to see them shaken, taken off guard, by the epiphany they are kept in the dark since they reject the old ways, impressed upon by them by intervening elders who know better, scolding them.
By far the authority on the matter is the Sofer clan, particularly, when it comes to the theories and techniques of actual combat in accordance with the forms of the Hebrew alphabets and tribal styles, beyond the simple dance moves. The most knowledgeable being Aluph Abir, Yehoshua Sofer.
I must say, however, his brother Yonathan Dawidh steps into their father’s title as counsel to Yehoshua. He also oversees all aspects of the Abir tradition with wisdom and humility, traits he instilled in him by his wonderful father, who was training up until his body, well over a hundred years old no longer obeyed his wishes. His expertise in health, diet, medicine, strategic and tactical warfare and intelligence analysis, animal husbandry, breeding lines, herbal remedies, agriculture and knowledge of saddle making, general leather work and his skill as a silversmith, taught in Abir, are combined with his great Torah knowledge, unshakable faith in Hashem (God). His virtues make him the perfect man for the job, not because of his father’s role in Abir.
The study of archeology arguably teaches us that we share more in common than we might initially assume. Perhaps, not in terms of our cultural identity or genetic makeup, but how societies rise and fall, become transplanted. By looking to Abir Qesheth to solve the mysteries of the past may we find the common ground to view new revelations not as martial artists but as human beings by which to accept that each of us interconnected, in spirit, mind and body; we are each of us woven into the fabric of a celestial quilt, each patch with its own story.
Yehoshua Sofer is presently holding classes in Jerusalem.
Tel: 972-52-672-0333; Facebook community: Abir-Qesheth Hebrew Warrior Arts; Aluph Abir, Mori Yehoshua Sofer email: firstname.lastname@example.org The Israel Abir/Qesheth Warrior Arts Association e-mail: email@example.com