Presently, Yehoshua Sofer holds a 7th Dan black belt in Kuk sool won, but Abir is nothing like the Korean style of Kuksoolwon or Hwarang do. Abir as been proven archaeologically to be thousands of years old versus those that are mid 20th Century inventions, such as the aforementioned. It would be considered an Asian martial art.
While Kuksoolwon is perceptibly identical to Hwarangdo (and Koongjoong Musool) they are both outgrowths of Hapkido and/or traditional Korean martial arts systems from the rebuilding eras of Korean martial arts. All Korean arts were banned and then disappeared with Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. Hwarangdo, Kuksoolwon are in essence traditional–modern constructions of elements from diverse groups of fighting systems.
Thus the Hwarangdo, Kuksoolwon fighting systems are based loosely on what was part of the lost Korean fighting methods whose origins can be traced back, historically to Abir, not the other way round. It is sometimes said that these Korean systems are a fusion of Japanese Aikijujutsu and some Chinese kung fu styles reworked and overhauled to fit Korean needs. Korean martial art masters were rounded up and executed by the Japanese occupational forces beginning as early as 1904 and Korea was declared an Imperial Japanese protectorate in the 1905 Eulsa Treaty, and then officially annexed, in 1910. The Empire of Japan’s involvement in eradicating its martial art community arguably began with the 1876 Treaty of Ganghwa, during the reign of the Joseon Dynasty. The 1905 and 1910 treaties that oppressed Korean martial arts was not declared “null and void” by both the State of Japan and the Republic of Korea until 1965.
The historical reality is that in annexing the Korean people they had been forced to practice Japanese martial arts. Koreans under Japanese rule were discriminated to the extent they were not allowed to speak Korean Hangul (their national language) in school. Only after the Japanese are defeated in World War II, two generations later, did Koreans have the opportunity to remove the yoke and burden of that painful period and rebuild what was once a great Korean military culture. Some opted to immigrate to Japan in order to continue to pursue their martial arts training. Some returned to Korea. Some changed their names and found their own systems, as is the case of Choi Young-Eui AKA Mas Oyama, the inventor of Kyokushinkai karate-do.
As aforementioned, Kuksool and Hwarangdo were both born out of the rebuilding period in that country’s modern fighting systems development. Some Koreans had been working in China and trained in Chinese systems. After the Japanese were defeated and the occupation/annexation of Korea was over, people with fighting skills in Karate, Judo, Kendo, aikido, Taichi, kung fu etc., often continued training in those systems, building local organizations to continue these disciplines, without alliances to foreign associations.
Some Korean practitioners claim that the Japanese were originally under Korean rule or that they originally were Koreans who moved out of their homeland due to internal conflicts and developed what was to become the nation island of Japan. Some Koreans claim that all Japanese martial arts are originally Korean. Jujitsu was therefore originally Yukwansool, and Judo was YU DO or Yu Sool. Aikido is Hapkido in Korean and Aiki jujitsu was YuKwan Hap E Sool. Eventually, Koreans began to see a need to heal from Japanese occupation and this meant putting a stop to the practice of Japanese arts. The need to express themselves as Korean nationals meant practicing their own martial system. Sometimes they took an easier route, which was to take a system like ”Shao Lin” martial arts or ”Samurai” martial arts and simply translate them into Korean i.e, Su Rim Musool or Samurang Musool.
So, how does it all compare to Abir? It can’t be compared in terms of ”how does x system stand up to ”y”. They are only made similar by the fact that all martial art systems must function according to the vulnerabilities and constraints of the human body.
Abir is an ancient martial art system that is diverse in its topical approach while holistic at the same time, because it is a system comprised by one set of principles developed by one culture transmitted over thousands of years. Abir by its sheer complexity could not be developed by a single person, like Yeshohua Sofer. He could not have taken x number of diverse unrelated disciplines from several unrelated sources and combined them together like what occurred with Korean martial arts. If this occurred the same body biomechanics used in those systems would be visible.
For instance, at first glance the centerline kicks in Abir differ entirely from Muay Thai, Hwarangdo, karate-do, in the same manner the three differ from each other. As previously mentioned, Abir differs in that it makes use of the Hebrew alphabet to teach a wide range of techniques that are all broken down in seven categories. This also applies to the use of weapons in the Abir system where, unlike the Korean, Chinese, Japanese styles of movement, Abir does not vary whether the practitioner is armed or unarmed. They do not employ “flashy” awe inspiring high kicks in Abir nor do they train to do breath taking “acrobatics,” like the Korean, Chinese and Japanese (Ninja) martial arts, although a high kick and cartwheel is incorporated into Abir Qesheth Binyomini Tribal Dance Mountain Wolf, one of the ritual ‘’Tavnit’’ תבנית forms of transmission (kata).
In Abir, there is no room for change or combining new techniques as they are religiously focused on serving Hashem (G-d) as a Hebrew/Israelite/Judaite, all in one. This is very significant, because today in Israel people are designated as either Jews or Israelis. The Jew is not always in touch with the Israeli or Hebrew aspect of his/her being. The Israeli is often far from the Judaic aspect of his/her self-image and the Hebrew aspect is something that exceeds someone being capable of speaking modern Hebrew.
Sofer explains: We are focused on serving Hashem and caring for our spiritual and physical well being by developing the skills to survive a violent physical attack in a spiritual manner. In the serving of Hashem (The Creator of the universe) part of Abir Qesheth, we are building our spirit and souls on both an individual and national level. Health is improved through the physical training and we have a holistic natural healing and diet mindset that mirrors our ancestors so we do not attempt to achieve artistry in combat, but instead seek to be effective and survive. This may require being destructive and vicious. We do not fight in stances. We have no illusions about rank reflecting one’s actual ability to fight and survive a violent physical conflict. Thus, when an opponent starts a violent conflict we seek to terminate the conflict by neutralizing the threat as fast and as effectively as possible. No consideration for ‘art’ or ‘good sportsmanship. Abir Qesheth is a system that operates within contact range. Not long range at all. We have two ranges within reach or beyond reach. Period. Our grappling is Abir grappling. Our striking is Abir striking. Our system is ancient and we do not want to change it to be more popular or commercial. We have many educational tools that incorporate tribal imagery like the animal fighting styles that are half of the Tribal system. The other half of the 12 tribes being the source of a biomechanic scheme that employs a natural looping or circular motion. It is 6 directional based on reality.”
Another defining factor of Abir is that the art does not award belt ranks or break boards and bricks and due to his spiritual convictions, Grandmaster Sofer does not market the Abir system competitively to the world.It compares to what a Shaolin Monk mentor of mine once explained to me, that Buddhist monks focus their studies of martial arts as a means to assist them in being one with the spiritual universe, not for the purpose of self defense or sport. Essentially, what makes the monks unique also makes Abir unique, and yet they are different in that they are a different people with their own unique ethics and spirituality.
“We don’t want to share our system with everybody, because there are a lot of wicked people in the world, and many have a special hatred for our people. So sorry. We don’t have to teach our enemies how to fight us. We are a small branch and not so popular or well known. I accept that fact along with the cartoon caricatures of me accompanied by the words JEW JITSU being marketed without my consent or permission, obviously. We don’t have an expansion program and we have removed a few people for not honoring our rules, where I think the spirit of Hwarangdo and Kuksoolwon are very different than ours.”
Abir is an Asian martial art, archeologically speaking, older than Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu, is it plausible that Abir may have directly or indirectly influenced the study of Kung Fu?
Far fetched you say? Well according to the Yi Jin Jing, the Shaolin warrior monks came into possession of a chest where they found two books: the “Marrow Cleansing Classic,” and the “Muscle Tendon Change Classic”, or Yi Jin Jing. The first book was reputedly taken by Bodhidharma’s disciple Huike, and it disappeared; as for the second book, this manuscript is what the Shaolin monks attribute their fighting skills to. This manuscript’s origins are a mystery to even the monks, and if we look at the legendary account of when the ancient Jewish People’s Book of War was last seen, it was in the Far East (India).
While it certainly sounds like an intriguing and far reaching theory, the significance should not be lost on any of us. If proven true, it would turn martial art history, and possibly the interpretation of ancient martial art technique, on its head. It would affect all Asian martial arts with a lineage flowing from the Shaolin.
I see Abir’s training goals as being very different. They teach techniques in sets to convey concepts and principles, but in a way that is flexible, and can be applied in a bazillion ways, once the concept is grasped. Abir students are not as concerned with the amount of techniques to be memorized, like in Korean systems like Hwarangdo, or Chinese Systems, like those that are Shaolin based. These arts are both very nationalistic and geared to achieving pride for their people. Abir Qesheth is similarly geared to do the same, but that does not mean the nation of Israeli is all that interested. Israel has a unique reality regarding combat because losing means the annihilation of an entire people. This reality is reflected in all the modern day inventions of Israeli Combat systems such as Kapap, Krav Maga, Hisardut as well as in its ancient rooted martial art, the Abir Qesheth system.
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