Globalization and crisis and what lies beyond

Since the 1990s, globalization has been heralded as a means whereby humans would achieve a higher quality of life and greater prosperity. Of course we know that such claims were greatly exaggerated as globalization, as a process, has produced profoundly uneven benefits–allowing vast accumulations of wealth for the global elite while simultaneously producing desolation and dispossession for others. Culturally, it has produced manifold complexities and contradictions in the lives of people the world over.

One consequence of globalization, one which we have had to face increasingly since the 2000s, is that an interconnected world is not necessarily a more resilient world when such connections have been built upon the bedrock of avarice and plunder. This process has accelerated the transmission of financial instability, pathogens, invasive species, resource shortages, and other challenges–leaving in its wake global and domestic communities whose post-crisis responses have often failed to either eradicate the core causes of crisis (global capitalism itself) nor put into place a foundation for greater security in the future (a human-centered economy). In short, globalization has also augmented our collective vulnerability, especially when the aftermath of these crises has been even baser forms of accumulation–disaster capitalism.
As we shelter-in-place, catching restless sleep as our minds swirl with fears of infection, with our heads resting on packs of toilet paper, stumbling in the night on pallets dry goods, we should remember that crises’ greatest potential is their capacity to spur us to act with determination to bring about their ultimate resolution. That is, we should create a world where the threat of global pandemics is mitigated by robust health care systems and abundant resources to ensure the well-being of workers, families, and others; a world where, rather than rushing to “save the oligarchs”, we hasten ourselves to save the citizenry who are the true foundation for society; a world where political leaders are chosen for their integrity and their commitment to what Dr. Anderson Thompson termed the African Principle, that is the greatest good for the greatest number; a world where the twins of alienation–want and avarice–are banished in favor of care and generosity. What I am describing is not the world as it is, but it is the world that must be if we are to eradicate the bases of the crises which continue to ensnare us.

How to study the African combat arts?

There are a few paths into the world of the African combat arts.

First, identify what resources that you have access to now. There are traditional African combat arts within many of our communities–some of these are, in fact, endangered. This is true both on the continent and in the Diaspora. These forms of combat may be boxing arts, wrestling arts, weapons arts, and so on. Often they can be found among older men, so inquiring among one’s familial and communal elders is a great starting point. However, they may not think of what they know as “martial art”. The term itself evokes images of Asian combat arts like Karate or Kung Fu. However, they may be more responsive to queries pertaining to “ways of fighting”, “ways of punching or wrestling”, et cetera. Also, in some traditions, secrecy remains a key protocol, and this may also be something which may impact your exploration.

Second, learn Capoeira. It is by far the most accessible African combat tradition. Of course, if you are like me you have two concerns–learning the art from an African/Black instructor and learning it as a combat art. Both of these are challenges as many Capoeira groups are dominated by non-African teachers and students. Also, many schools focus on the jogo–the game, but not the luta–the fight. Sadly, many teachers are not qualified to transmit the art in this manner.

Fortunately there are some good learning resources and teachers out there. My teacher, Mestre Preto Velho is knowledgeable of the combat dimension of Capoeira in addition to other African and African Diasporan combat arts. He was recently featured in the San Diego Union Tribune ( and his school’s website is

Additionally, Bro. Da’Mon Stith has become one of the leading exponents of these arts. You can visit his website here: Also, his YouTube channel ( is a wealth of information. He’s also extremely approachable and would love to field questions from folks interested in understanding the combat science of the art.

Third, read books and articles on the subject. There are a few relevant texts.

Desch-Obi, T. J. 2008. Fighting for Honor: The History of African Martial Art Traditions in the Atlantic World. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press.

This book is a very good exploration of the interconnections between Africa and the Americas as it relates to the combat arts.

Powe, Edward L. 2011. Black Martial Arts VIII: The ABC & “Bay-ah-Bah” of Capoeira de Angola. Madison, WI: Dan Aiki Publications.

This is an excellent historical and technical overview of Capoeira Angola (the traditional Capoeira of Bahia, Brazil). In addition to this book, Edward Powe has published several very important books on the African combat arts. Visit his site to see more

The Blac Foundation has an archive of articles on this subject. You can access them here:

Fourth, explore 52 Blocks. This art has grown in prominence and various folks have posted information about online including Professor Mo ( and, Lyte Burley ( and, and so on.

Fifth, visit teachers abroad. There are teachers of machete arts in Columbia and Haiti, stick-fighting in Trinidad, South Africa, and Egypt, wrestling in Senegal, Sudan, and Nigeria, empty-hand striking in South Africa, Martinique, Cuba, and Nigeria, and so on.

Sixth, study African methods of warfare. Below are some relevant texts.

Barcia Paz, Manuel. 2016. West African warfare in Bahia and Cuba: soldier slaves in the Atlantic world, 1807-1844. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Carruthers, Jacob H. 1985. The Irritated Genie: An Essay on the Haitian Revolution. Chicago: The Kemetic Institute.

Price, Richard. 1996. Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas. 3rd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Seventh, stay focused. Studying our combat traditions is considerably more difficult than studying the combat traditions of Asia, but it is a rewarding sacrifice, for in studying the African arts, you are both helping to preserve our culture, while also demonstrating its relevance to our people in the present.