Thursday, June 30, 2011



Animal societies predate the colonial period and were gathered to fight the encroachment of European colonialism.

By Kilindi Iyi

The leopard and lion societies of Africa (as well as other animal societies) are steeped in mystery and are jealously guarded by the secret society systems. The secret societies are the custodians of the martial sciences. They hold the power within the culture to protect the greater society and to train the young boy in the art of responsibility.

Human leopards are those men who through initiations are brought into the realm of animal powers. The sacred stories, dances, ritual exercises and spiritual medicines blend together to bring the human into the realm of animal consciousness.

These animal societies predate the colonial period butt were gathered to fight the encroachment of European colonialism. This was a time of persecution and unfounded accusations by various European governors of cannibalism and murder. It is not uncommon for freedom fighters throughout the world to be smeared by governmental powers, and so it was with the animal societies.

Becoming The Animal

These men of power actually became the animal. They lived in the body of a leopard, lion or baboon. They abided by a strict code of secrecy and under penalty of death, would not reveal the secrets of the brotherhood which involved secret signs and passwords, ritual symbology and special languages.. One could speak to another leopard brother and convey messages and still have another meaning to the ears of those who were not a part of the secret society.

This language that was inside the greater society-yet seperate-involved animal calls, ritual urination and a host of other physical standards which served to bind the group.

Sacred clothing was sometimes used along with traditional weapons, such as claws and special knives. These items would be used to eliminate certain people who were opposed to the society as a whole. The human leopard would be so animal –like that it was very hard to distinguish its work from that of an actual leopard. When someone of the leopard society was sent on a mission, they would leave tracks and wounds appearing to be the result of leopard claws and teeth. Animal attributes were used in every day life to help bind the greater society to its subunits.

Sacred Space

In the bush, sacred space was designed for ritual communalism and meetings for the society’s business. Training consisted of dances passed down from generation to generation, which came from the first ancestors of the clans. Conversations and communions of the actual leopards and herbal preparations.

The animal societies of Africa played a great role in its history. The power of these societies is most often overlooked but their power is immense, existing to this very day. These societies continue to secure the traditions of the animal clan ancestors.

The lion societies are identified with solar and kingly power. The mane of the male lion is symbolic of the sun’s corona, an outgrowth of its inner fire. The lion is revered for its way of life because lions live in a society.. Lions live in large family groups in which the female is the principle hunter and the male is the ever-present guardian of the group. All members are responsible for the protection of the young.

The lion skin can only be worn by the most powerful warriors who have proven themselves in battle. Lions and leopards represented as fully zoomorphic and anthropomorphic deities such as Mahes, Apedmak and Sekmet, who were all warriors.

Societies Evolve

Reverence to the ancient warrior gods by the priesthood eventually developed into the lion societies of East and West Africa. The knowledge of the animal systems came from the deities themselves through the spiritual systems. Warriors of extraordinary martial skill empowered by the deity would perform miraculous feats of strength and endurance.

Dramas of an initiatory nature were performed only in the proper season to harmonize with the universal forces. The main emphasis is not on developing techniques, but the principles upon which those techniques are founded. Also developed was a fighting conscious within the nature of man through divine principles. Man’s nature is departmentalized into constituent parts:Ara (physical body); Ojiji (shadow); lye (mental body,mind)); Oka (heart, heart soul); and Emi (spirit, spiritual body, spiritual soul).

These aspects of the nature of man blend together and merge with the animal souls to develop the lion and leopard fighting systems.. Warriors at a very young age were blessed and sanctified to the clan animal. The warrior was taught the sacred dances , music and songs to evoke the sate of consciousness of the great elder (the first lion or leopard from which the group identifies).

Animal Systems

The body’s organs are the divine receptors for the animal souls. The Emi. Activated by the will, enabled the warrior to transform or shapeshift into the clan animal. These principles are part of the ancient and contemporary African animal fighting societies. The Ta-merrian Institute seeks the preservation of these societies for their divine knowledge.

Animal systems practiced at the Ta-merrian Institute that reflect many of the principles held sacred in the warrior societies are;




. Ape




The Lion-its regal appearance and ferocious style is the solar fighting system. The lion’s mane unites the symbols of sun fire (solar head and heart) and of air through the strong respiratory chest of the lion that fires the fighting emotions.

The Snake-Consisting of a vertebral column coated with skin, it is a column so supple that it can take almost any position of the risen body of the cobra.

The Phoenix-The solar bird is reborn from its own ashes; symbolic of rebirth. It is sometimes identified with various types of animals in ancient times, mostly the cranes.

The Ape-A large monkey with elongated muzzle. Ferocious fighter noted for its mane. Its cries at dawn and dusk have given it an important symbolic role.

The Crocodile-Low threshing movements, the terror in water transmuting the elements of water and air, adjusting different levels of evolution.

The Panther-Symbolic of strength and power. Many tribes in Africa still wear the ritual panther skin to bring strength to the wearer.

The Bull- The animal type for generating force to completely dominate an opponent.

The human leopards and the lions who walk like man reveal the ancient powers of man. Those powers can still be called upon by the African warriors of today to oppose injustice.They can also be called upon to preserve more complete way of like and the principles modern man has forsaken. Inclusion of ancient principles into today’s society may recapture an elusive manhood and bring us back to a former greatness which is needed, sadly missed and hopefully can be recaptured.

The Martial Arts Of Africa

Shrouded in mystery for centuries, the most ancient arts in the world are finally surfacing.

The martial arts of Africa presented to the world one of the earliest forms of systematic combat. The use of weapons such as the spear, mace, sword, and the bow and arrow all have their origins in Africa. The unarmed forms of combat exemplified the movements of certain animals held sacred by the ancient Africans. They found early in their history that these animal principles could be isolated within the consciousness of man and manifested into an unconquerable fighting force.

Of course, this was thousands of years before there was civilization in those areas commonly thought to be the “birthplace” of martial arts. It was the ancient Africans who first gave to the world military science. The martial beginnings started with mankind’s desire to preserve and organize combative principles in system that could be readily taught to subsequent generations.

On the African continent, the oldest remains, tools, and weapons of man are found. The oldest martial arts records in existence are in the form of hieroglyphics in what is today called Egypt. The ancient Egyptian priesthood taught systems of combat based upon history, legend, amd myths about the goods and goddesses. As ;aid down by the religion, every great temple maintenance an armed force to protect its interests..

The weapons of the pre-dynastic Egyptian soldier were:

.a stout cudgel made of wood

.a mace or club

.a spear made of wood with a slice of flint fastened to one end

.a bow and arrows

.a flint knife or dagger

.a battle ax formed by tying a slab of stone or flint to the short, stout wooden handle

.a curved stick.

These weapons were pre-dynastic (prior to the year c.4100 BCE, when King Narmer of upper Egypt, through warfare, united upper and lower Egypt, making the two countries one. Under the Middle Kingdom, the soldier defended himself with a shield of wood or wickerwork covered with hide and sometimes strengthened with a metal rim. The standard under which he fought had for its head the figure of the hawk of “the god Horus”.

The ancestors tell us that there were nine powers that enlivened man’s soul. They were as follows; Ka, Ba, Ab, Khat, Khaibit, Ku, Sahu, Sekhem, and Ren.

The Ka was defined as the double or energy body.

The Ba is the heart-soul; the receiver of feelings.

Ab is the mental, seat of highest intelligence.

Khat is the physical body, vehicle of expression on the physical plane.

Khaibit is the shadow, the essential essence of reflection.

Ku is the spiritual body, where rest man’s morality.

Sahu is the spiritual body, where the Ku soul lives.

Sekhem is the power, the spiritual personification of the physical forces.

Finally Ren, “the name”, is the attribute that brings all things into manifestation.

These nine powers stem from an inseperable unity where, if one element were missing, the other half would cease to exist. In the ancient African arts, the name of the warrior was of special importance. Most warriors were named after the deities or elemental powers. This would cause the warrior to take upon the attributes of that particular deity through sympathetic magic.

The following procedures occurred in a succession of initiations over a period of years. The warrior’s head and body were washed with certain herbal medicines to give strength and protection from physical as well as spiritual assaults. Next, each extremity was empowered and was sanctified to a particular animal force.

The practitioner was then taught the sacred dances, music and songs to physchologically attune the body to the specific state of consciousness that corresponded to a particular animal nature or being possessed by the animal nature.

The organs of the body were considered divine receptors for the animal doubles or the Kha’s . Each organ held a an animal soul or the cutoff point in the evolution dormant within the physical body. The human soul, activated by will, enabled the warrior to transform or “shape” himself into any animal form he wished.

These secrets, known only to the initiated, sstemmed from the custodians of knowledge, or the nine powers of the soul. Part of the divine worship consisted of fasting, prayer, meditation, offering, sacrifice, aabstinnnence, sacred languagee, and the following seven liberal arts:








Certain formulae were memorized, such as the transformation into the Crocodile god Sebak, which is as follows;

“The Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, saith; ‘I am the Crocodile-god Sebak, who dwelleth amid his terrors. I am the Crocodile-god, and I seize my prey like a ravening beast. I am the great Fish which is Kamu. I am the Lord to whom bowings and prostrations are made in Sekhem (Letopolis). And the OsirisAni is the Lord to whom the bowings and prsstarations are made in Sekhem.”

This is just one of the prayers of transformation which, when approached in the proper manner, would bring about the desired results in combat. The ancient Africans laid down the fundamental basis for self-mastery, with the warrior arts as one of the vehicles.

The masters stated that man is the guardian of the earth, a warrior of the earth, and that it is from the earth that he draws his strength. It is on earth that man dies and is reborn as a divine warrior drawing understanding from the gods, for it was they who had to receive the blood of the warrior to let him do battle upon earth.

Man may then be accepted into the African mysteries of warfare, to hold the keys to the elemental and universal forces, and to acquire the attributes and lineage of all who came before him ion a hierarchical structure extending to the beginning of time.

It is this culmination of power from the ancestral warrior that lives in each initiated warrior. This is the force of the African martial arts on a spiritual level. With each punch or kick, the complete structure lends its support to each individual motion through will, intent, and purpose.

Any ancient martial art form leads us to weaponry. The p[eople with the best-eqipped army could utilize their weapons in combat and, therefore had the most proficient artmy. Practitioners of this art are taught the use of different types of weapons, including the classical weapons; the bow and arrow, the spear, sword, mace. and ax. We also utilize stick-fighting along with throwing weapons such as the boomerang and certain knives.

In this day and age, we use the weapons primarily to help build strength and awareness. This also teaches the student to be able to transfer strength not only to the end of the extremities, but beyond them. This makes the empty-hand art that much more effective because one learns to channel force passed the confines of the body.

Ta-merrian is expressed metaphysically on three levels. The first is the celestial battle of the sun as it descends into the netherworld. The sun battles the demons and fiends as they try to halt its progress into the land of darkness. The next level is man’s battle after death, where he encounters the demons of hell in order to pass into the next life which is eternal. The third level is man’s day-to-day battle for existence on the earth.

The ancients saw a correlation between man, nature, and the universe as being one, only on different levels. The system is, on its highest level, seeing the balance between the negative and the positive forces.

Ta-Merrian comprises armed and unarmed techniques, utilizing the movements of the seven sacred animals/ These particular animals manifest certain principles in nature lying dormant in man, and through the imitation of a particular animal. We seek to understand the essence within ourselves.

These animals are: 1) the lion, 2) the snake. 3) the phoenix, 4) the ape, 5) the crocodile, 6) the panther and 7) the bull.

Through imitating the movements of these animals, we seek to awaken their attributes within ourselves. Additionally these seven animals help the practitioner of Ta-Merrian understand his/her relationship to the earth and all things.

The Baura Wrist Knife of Africa

Decorative, Yet Deadly

By Kilindi Iyi

Watching the young boys play, surrounded by their elders, one notices a mysterious array of body adornments. The unsuspecting would never see the deadly weapon shrouded within the ornate beauty of this wrist bracelet known as a baura. Passed down through the ages, this bracelet is an efficient combat companion of the African warrior.

“Baura play”is a highly developed martial art form that can be found throughout the African continent. Still worn and practiced in many countries, the baura is often displayed as jewelry.

The baura is a thin iron disc. The inside is covered with leather to protect the wrist; the outside is stone-ground to razor sharpness. When used in combat, the bracelet is pushed onto the lower part of the hand to apply strikes. Some baura also have one or more projections designed to tear into the opponent.

Traditionally, baura matches are held in Africa during the dry season, following the annual harvest. In the contest, two opponents try to strike one another with the wrist knife. Any blow is legal, but the most common target is the head. The combatants close the distance between each other by using deceptive, rhythmic hand movements. Once at close range, fighters use trapping, grappling, low-line kicking, leg-immobilization, and throwing maneuvers.

Music accompanies traditional baura play. The basic instrument is the drum, upon which the traditional fighting rhythms are played. Accompanying the music are individual songs played for each fighter, telling of his history and the names of his ancestors. The baura is also part of the curriculum for young boys, preparing them for war and personal combat.

Although baura matches are certainly dangerous, deaths are rare due to the highly developed training and skill of the contestants.

The baura, also known as the Shensi by the Maguzawa people of Nigeria, is referred to by many other names throughout the African continent. Parts of West Africa refer to it as a kwaraya. In Egypt, the Nubians call it an auau, and it is called zuar by the Nubaa tribes of Sudan. In some areas, the baura is used in conjunction with a small shield held by the left hand for parrying and striking.

When a young boy begins to show promise as a dedicated baura student, he is tutored by “his uncles” (older men). Practice involves training with pseudo knives of plaited grass around their wrists. When the young boys reach puberty, a more formalized training process begins which is part of their initiation to manhood.

The initiates are taken away from the village and taught by the “fighting deities.” Performing meticulous fighting patterns, followed by a series of tests by the combat masters, the young boys are given the first level of the fighting secrets of their family. Their juniors, who focus on copying the most popular fighter’s style, look upon the combat masters as heroes.

Baura are primarily used to cut an opponent at close range. Following tradition, the rear hand plays the defensive role, while the knife hand is used during stick fighting to cut, trap, block and/or disarm the opponent’s stick. When wielding a bow, the baura acts as a sight and acts as a protector against the recoiling bowstring.

A Baura technique consists of circular and linear figure-eight strikes. The hand is held high, waving in circular patterns to confuse and break the opponent’s rhythm. Timing and elusiveness are developed to a high level since one cut can stop a match. At close range, the fighter’s sensitivity, guts, and skill are severely tested.

Kicks are often combined with baura techniques and are generally directed to the lower half of the leg. They are used to unbalance the opponent so he can be thrown to the ground. The opponent rarely uses high kicks because of the opportunity they present for leg cuts.

In competition, when one fighter admits defeat, has blood flowing too profusely, or obviously cannot continue, the match is stopped. A draw is often declared when two opponents are evenly matched. Referees are ex-fighters with a great deal f experience on matters of baura play.

In the event of an overly heated match, the master fighters will separate the two combatants immediately and the fighter with the highest number of match wins is declared the champion. This increases his prestige and station in life, and also insures that he will marry into a good family. Praise songs will be sung about his deeds, and he will be compared to a bull, leopard, or lion. Young boys will also imitate his personal fighting style.


The baura can be worn as a bracelet –like accessory for men and women, or, should the occasion arise when trouble is near, it can be pushed to the lower part of the hand where it is ready for practical action. It is a welcome challenge to any martial artists with an interest in classical weaponry.


cybershamans (karmapolice) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0


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