Q&A Abir Qesheth - Question #4
Question: I have noticed a lot of conflict in regards to Abir-Qesheth being accepted as an authentic martial art, why is that?
Answer: There are several reasons that Abir-Qesheth has faced many challenges from both those in and outside of the martial arts world. One challenge is the use of the statement, "martial art" which was, unfortunately, used to describe Abir by most of the "English" articles and videos about Abir.
There are those who define this statement in varying ways and anything that deviates from their "self-defined" and "self-established" status quo of ideas is not a martial art. We have no problem with that and we actually prefer Abir to not be defined by the English statement "martial art" - we even insist that Abir Qesheth not be termed as such. We instead define Abir-Qesheth under the guidelines our ancestors used for it and thus the terms "Fighting Techniques" or "Self-Defense" in English are more accetable terms. For the further details on why, see our article HERE.
Another reason that Abir-Qesheth faced challenges concerning its authenticity is because there are people, who lack scholastic credentials, who make up their own standards of what is considered "historical." For example, some of the people who criticize Abir only accept Jewish history as one of the oppressed European Jew, the flavorful Sephardic Jew, or the exotic Mizrahi Jew (if they even know what a Sephardic or Mizrahi Jew is.) Some of them have criticized warm ups shown in videos of Abir classes and claimed them to be similar to numerous other systems fighting techiniques. These same critics cannot declare such by examining Middle Eastern Jewish dances which preserved elements of Jewish culture.
When talking about Yemenite Jews (Teimanim), most people's contact with Yemenite Jewish history is often limited to songs, dancing, food, or stereotypes about the community; again if they even know what a Yemenite Jew is. Few Westerners think first of the scholarship that existed among Yemenite Jews or the historical content found in Yemenite Jewish writings. So when someone presents a picture of a community of Yemenite Jews different from the so called norm, this causes conflict from those who have styled themselves experts on all things Jewish. Some of the ignorance about Abir also stems from the fact many of the sources for it, and its history, are primarily found in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic texts. To the English based westerner these languages are distant and obscure which is why we are proud to present them on our Hebrew site HERE.
There are also people who claimed that the Aluf Abir, Mori Yehoshua Sofer, who established the modern system of Abir in the early 2000's was not Yemenite, or not Habbani, because of his skin color. Others tried to use his past personal interests in music and performing as a way to de-legitimize Abir-Qesheth. Concerning the first issue, the following link from PubMed concerning skin color variations amongst Habbani Jews may prove interesting, See article HERE. Concerning a person's musical interests determining whether their family has a mesorah, we will leave the silliness of that attack to settle itself. See our page HERE for family and Rabbinical letters attesting to the Aluf Abir's ancestry and the history of Abir Qesheth.
Further, if you talk to older Yemenite Jews, especially those born in Yemen, it is widely known that the Jews of Southern Yemen had a history of being strong and proud warriors to where many Yemenite Jews call Habbani Jews "Indiyanim" i.e. "Indians" making reference to the image of the Native American warrior image. Some of the younger generation know that the Habbani were known this way but not from a historical context.
Thus, for them, the younger generation, these are only legends while lacking a clear reason "why" they were known as such. Also, there are many traditions found in so called "Exotic" Jewish communities that were never committed to writing, but were a natural part of the everyday practice of oral traditions and songs. Some of these stories went to the grave of the elders who were the last to practice them, or know them from oral accounts, after the mass migration of the entire community to modern state of Israel. Some elders preferred to keep silent on these kinds of topics, sometimes not even transmitting this information to their own children and grandchildren.
It is our hope that this web-site provides more information than our previous sites in answering these questions and we are continuing our effort to record the traditions of Abir-Qesheth for future generations. Please note that much more information/sources are provided on our Hebrew site and have not been translated from Hebrew into English since our ancestral language is the best medium to express the information.
At the same time, it is of little importance to the Abir-Qesheth school that the non-Torah based world think little of us and our abilities. In reality, our hope is to offer Abir-Qesheth only to potential Jewish students in Israel. We are also more than open to sharing our knowledge base, in Hebrew, with anyone in Israel who is skeptical of the system and its history.